Sleep, Stress & Your Skin

Sleep, Stress and Your Skin

A Vital Link to Skin Health

Stress, depression, anxiety, and looking after family or sick family members, all lead to a lack of sleep, which in turn affects our skin health.

Stress generates free radical damage leading to oxidative stress (click here for more information on antioxidants) which causes our cells to be deprived of essential nutrients like Oxygen. Without oxygen, our cells can’t rebuild, regenerate or heal leading to cellular damage, and early cell death, causing skin complaints and premature ageing on the skin.

In a stressed state our bodies produce steroid hormones and adrenalin which make the skin’s capillaries dilate (Vasodilation) which can lead to broken capillaries (otherwise known as Telangiectasia) with constant dilation and constriction, oedema or puffiness in the tissues and extreme sensitisation. This is called the inflammation cascade.

This same cascade mechanism causes androgenic hormones to be produced which cause spots and breakouts. As the androgen hormones have a link with our sebaceous glands in the skin and start to produce too much sebum. In women, this will often show as breakouts around the lower jawline.

Adrenalin production causes our bodies to be in a state of fight or flight and when the adrenalin “on” button is permanently switched on, this is exhausting and adds to the fatigue and sluggishness we see in stressed skin. Adrenalin puts us on a high state of alert and our sensory nerve endings become over stimulated leading to the over reactive, sensitized and possible inflamed skins we see when clients are experiencing stress and lack of sleep.

The classic dark circles, which can have other causes, but in stress/sleep deprivation case, it is because the skin’s blood circulation has become sluggish so the blood flow in the particularly immobile area under the eye comes to a virtual standstill and the dark pigment in the deoxygenated blood, called Bilirubin, leaks from the capillaries and into the surrounding tissue space. Plus, the under-eye skin is much thinner, so this condition is very visible.

The characteristics of stressed skin are:

  • Tired looking, lifeless
  • Slow to heal
  • Inflamed
  • Potential Acne Rosacea
  • Puffiness
  • Acne Vulgaris
  • Under eye circles

When we lack sleep, we have been unable to regenerate our mind, body and emotions and in turn can further increase anxiety or frustration levels and becomes a vicious cycle.

To heal the skin in this situation we need to identify what can be done to manage the situation (i.e. if you have a young baby then normal sleep patterns are not possible to restore), improve the situation (i.e. can we change our mental approach to a problem that will allow us to sleep during the night), recognise the need to make some lifestyle changes (i.e. diet, drinking patterns, social habits).

On top of this, there are some mechanical and topical skin-specific actions we can take:

  • Start to use a good quality eye serum designed specifically for this delicate area with active ingredients to increase circulation e.g. Vitamin A in its Retinol forms

  • Manual or mechanical facial massage which stimulates lymphatic drainage around the eye

  • Use cooling eye masks to soothe and stimulate after a long day at work

  • Adapt your night skincare routine to include products designed to increase cellular renewal e.g. Alpha Hydroxy Acids


  • Have a warm bath with aromatic oils and scents
  • Avoid using computers 90 minutes before sleep
  • Vaporise your favourite relaxing essential oils in your bedroom
  • Spritz your pillow with sleep formula flower waters and essential oils
  • Don’t drink or eat stimulating foods or liquids after 6-7 pm
  • Book a massage or reflexology treatment
  • Listen to relaxation audios, specifically designed to help you sleep

If you’re stressed and you’re not sleeping, ‘you deprive your brain, body, and skin of nourishment. Sleep is food for your brain, body, and skin, and if you don’t get enough, you deprive each of its nourishment. “During a good night’s rest, your body works to remove dead blood cells and dead brain cells, and clears the pathways for new synapses to take place so that new blood and brain cells can replace old ones,” says sleep expert Rebecca S. Robbins, M.D., Ph.D., researcher at Cornell University, and author of Sleep for Success!. Your brain also gets rid of 60 percent more toxins when you get the proper amount of sleep, she adds. Overall, this helps you feel more refreshed when you get up, able to think more clearly, and gives your skin that I-woke-up-like-this glowing look.’ (a quote from an article in Cosmopolitan magazine)

Make sure you look after yourself and get all the sleep you need, if you have any stress related skin problems, please give me a call on 01748 889350 or send me an email at I have lots of treatments to help.

Thank You,

Kathy x

Skip to content