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Stress and skin ageing: This is how they’re linked

As we get older, so does our skin – it’s a normal and expected part of life. And those laughter lines and creases can become part of our ‘story’, and part of our individual character and beauty.


But some people do feel their skin ages prematurely, losing its vibrancy and elasticity and leaving them looking tired or not ‘themselves’, for instance.

Here’s a look at some of the ways in which stress and skin ageing are linked.

Stress might speed up cell ageing

Our genes and DNA can have a big influence on our health, appearance and how we age, and this includes how our DNA itself is ageing. Ready for some science? Our chromosomes have protein caps on their tips called ‘telomeres’, which protect them from deterioration (think of them as those plastic seals at the end of shoelaces to stop them from fraying!). It’s believed that as our telomeres shorten over time, our chromosomes are less able to function and cell division and renewal can be affected, resulting in ageing. Research suggests that chronic stress can speed up this telomere-shortening process, which could in theory mean your skin appears to age more quickly.


Stress can disrupt your ‘beauty sleep’

The term ‘beauty sleep’ does actually have a lot of logic behind it. It’s when we’re asleep at night that much of our skin’s natural cellular repair takes place – so not getting enough quality sleep really can take a toll on your skin. We’ve probably all had those mornings after a night of broken slumber, when we’ve looked in the mirror and sighed at the sight of the bags under our eyes! When we’re stressed, our sleep can really suffer, which in turn could contribute to a more aged appearance.  


Stress can impact our lifestyle choices

There are more indirect ways stress could be linked with skin ageing too. One of the key examples here is how stress affects our behaviours and lifestyle choices – such as smoking, drinking more alcohol, or letting healthy eating habits sleep and reaching for more sugary treats than usual. These are all things that are known to speed up the skin ageing process, especially smoking.

The good news? Like ageing, stress is a part of life and you can’t avoid it completely – but we can all help manage our stress levels, with things like regular exercise, getting outdoors in nature, making time to enjoy hobbies and have fun with loved ones, and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

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