The Mood-Beauty Connection

Science reveals the ways our emotions directly influence how we look.

| February 22nd, 2013
The Mood-Beauty Connection

Pimples. Limp hair. Bloating. Not looking your best can definitely put a damper on your mood. But, there’s a twist. Science indicates our attitudes could be the cause of these annoying flaws in the first place.

“Stress causes inflammation, which can both break down collagen to cause wrinkles or inflame acne,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and YouBeauty Skin Advisor. On the flipside, “happiness helps skin to heal and glow.”

QUIZ: Get in the Mood for Beauty 

In a funk? Pleased as punch? Science explains how your feelings might be written all over your face. And body. And hair.

The Blues: Proven Beauty Bummer
No matter the situation it arises from—something serious like unemployment or something mild like a busy day at work—stress and depression can have major impacts on your beauty.

One of the biggest drivers in the bad mood-beauty connection are feelings of anxiety and depression triggering the release of cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal gland atop the kidneys. Cortisol has many functions in the body and unfortunately, almost all of them are bad. For example, cortisol is known to cause the hormone changes that result in temporary hair loss, which can cause your hair to appear thinner and flatter. Having high levels of the hormone in your body has also been shown to increase appetite, boost cravings for sugar and cause fat to accumulate, especially around your midsection.

MORE: The Effects of Stress on Beauty

Stress has a huge effect on your skin. Dermatologists at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that 22 college students’ acne became significantly more severe while studying for exams than during the rest of the semester. Some scientists believe this tension-induced acne is caused by an increase in sebum, an oily matter that is supposed to help protect skin but easily mixes with dead cells and bacteria to clog hair follicles and create pimples. The cells that make sebum are known to have receptors for stress hormones, possibly meaning they ramp up production during taxing situations. This mechanism, however, is still being debated among researchers. It is a nasty cycle: Stress brings on a pimple that won’t go away because you’re stressed—and that stresses you out.

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