The Stress and Beauty Connection

stress and beauty connect by the hormones stress produces causing skin issues

A curated article

As a licensed esthetician caring for and studying skin for over three decades, I knew there had to be a connection between stress and skin issues. I love that Rachael Brown shares the exciting new study proving this to be the case.

In this in-depth Beneath the Surface article, in Beauty Independent, Rachael shares the evolution of stress awareness and what the latest research has shown. 

It’s taken a long time for this awareness to come to the surface and the link between stress and hormones to become recognized and discussed by both consumers and beauty brands.

In my practice I saw women cope with breakout, dehydration, and “tired skin” all triggered by stress.  And when you can reduce the stress, the issues calm down. 

Young women tend to be more stressed. Social pressures, hormones, and now they are constantly attached to electronics and digital messaging. And we knew that hormone production is tied to stress. Skin issues are the byproduct of those two culprits.

Rachael quotes a recent study that confirmed that “63% [of women] spend less time on self-care and 61% feel less attractive when stressed. While 75% agree that feeling bad affects their sense of feeling beautiful.” 

Consumers are looking for real answers, not promises in a very expensive jar. 

It’s an incredible opportunity for businesses and manufacturers to help consumers cope with the issues that stress triggers. Topical products focused on problem management, relaxation techniques, and supplements are all getting involved.

Whether you’re a beauty business or a stressed-out consumer, I think you’ll find her article interesting. 

By Rachael Brown 

June 2, 2021 

Beauty Independent

As the co-founder and president of early beauty e-tailer during the tech-bubble heyday of the late 1990s, Sarah Kugelman’s career was on the upswing, but the tech euphoria soon soured into disillusionment and, which was scooped up by Estée Lauder in 2000, wouldn’t go on to realize the bold ambitions Kugelman had for it.

The extraordinary highs and lows of her ride put considerable pressure on Kugelman, who was wiped out physically and emotionally, and went searching for remedies to the stress that had taken hold of her initially in the fitness and diet arenas and, then, in beauty. “I became interested in how it related to beauty because that was what I was doing. At the time, skincare was dancing around stress,” she says. “There were brands like Aveda and Origins talking about natural ingredients, but not really about lifestyle and holistically what was going on in the whole body.”

Kugelman dove into researching stress to decode the relationship between stress and skin. She learned cortisol, the primary stress hormone, can break down skin structure and inhibit the skin from healing, and histamine, a chemical the stressed bodies release, can stoke rosacea. Ultimately, she identified five symptoms of stressed skin: accelerated aging, adult acne, dullness, dehydration, and irritation. She launched the brand Skyn Iceland in 2005 with a collection of six topical products packed with antioxidants and adaptogens to address the symptoms, and an oral spray with L-theanine, an amino acid known to decrease anxiety.

At the inception of the brand, consumers didn’t grasp the concept. “People were like, ‘I get that I’m stressed, and I get that my skin doesn’t look good, but I don’t know how they are connected,’” says Kugelman. “Somewhere between seven to 10 years later, people started to really get it. It became pervasive in the conservations we were having. I think that’s because of cell phones and social media. There were so many things that were stressing people out all the time, it became a bigger subject people were interested in.”

The subject has certainly caught on in the beauty and wellness industries, partially because they’re increasingly interconnected. Peace, calm, and relaxation are contending with brightening, firming, and wrinkle reduction in the pantheon of results beauty products pledge to deliver.

Whether applied or ingested, formulas are being designed to combat stress or the repercussions of it. Self-care has morphed from an indulgent escape to a therapeutic session.

“If the consumer doesn’t feel good on the inside, they aren’t going to look good on the outside.”

“Stress is the next frontier. It used to be clean,” says Jessica Assaf, co-founder and chief education officer of Prima, a CBD beauty and wellness brand with the tagline, “the science of stress relief.” She continues, “If the consumer doesn’t feel good on the inside, they aren’t going to look good on the outside. The categories are getting all blurry. Beauty brands can do food. Supplement brands can do skincare. There’s a blurriness that’s happening that gives brands more opportunity and space than ever to experiment.”

Kat Bryce, co-founder and global brand VP of Loum Beauty, a skincare brand in the portfolio of the incubator Present Life with the motto, “discover the science of calm,” and products formulated to combat the effects of stress on the skin, describes the market potential of beauty products confronting the damage wrought by stress as “enormous.” “Stress isn’t another category in skincare,” she says. “Stress and stress hormones are underpinning all of the skin problems we are concerned about.” (I added the bold – this is so important!)

In the ingestible segment, Barton Warner, CEO, and co-founder of stress management supplement brand R3set envisions enormous potential as well. He highlights data showing that, after general health, stress and sleep are the two leading motivators for why consumers under 50 years old turn to supplements. “When you look at the category of stress management products, it’s tiny,” says Warner. “There’s a big difference between what consumers are saying they are looking for and what the market is providing them. That’s why I think there will be so much growth over the next period. …”

“Stress is the next frontier. It used to be clean.”

Interest in stress-related products is prevalent because stress is incredibly prevalent. According to The American Institute of Stress, stress is defined as “physical, emotional and mental strain or tension.” In data collected by the organization in 2014, around three-quarters of Americans reported they regularly experience physical and psychological manifestations of stress, and one-quarter of Americans reported they live with extreme stress. Money, work, crime, violence, political and personal issues, and worries about the future are major causes of stress.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic exacerbated stress. Last year, the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress conducted by The Harris Poll revealed nearly 80% of Americans reported the pandemic was a significant source of stress, and nearly 70% reported heightened stress over the course of the pandemic. With the publication of the survey, the APA sounded the alarm about what prolonged elevated stress was doing to Americans’ mental health. It proclaimed, “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.” …

In concert with Columbia University neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, Loum Beauty conducted a study of women aged 18 to 55 drawing links between beauty and stress. The first-of-its-kind study found 63% spend less time on self-care and 61% feel less attractive when stressed while 75% agree that feeling bad affects their sense of feeling beautiful.

The younger women in the study were hit by stress harder. Seven in ten of them said they feel less attractive when stressed. “At every stage of their lives, calmness helps women feel more beautiful and confident,” emphasizes Loum Beauty in the paper on its study.

If there’s good news on the stress front…

…it’s that members of gen Z who range in age from 9 years old to 24 years old talk about stress openly in manners previous generations didn’t. Not only do they talk about it openly, Hana Ben-Shabat, the founder of consumer insights firm Gen Z Planet, says they seek assistance for it and welcome brands jumping into the discussion about stress with them. She points out, “They are very happy to hear about what solutions could be there for them.”

The focus on stress in the beauty industry comes as beauty trends are being dictated by consumers rather than executives in boardrooms. While the beauty industry may have historically been an instigator of stress with its rigid beauty standards that most people can’t conform to, it’s striving to move away from that rigidity to resonate with broader swaths of consumers, especially younger consumers.

“We used to be aspirational and out of touch. Now, brands want to level with consumers, and they want to be part of their conversation and not above them,” says Assaf. “Gen Z is really taking a stand to say, ‘We are not going to buy the $200 night cream from you just to make us look good. We would love you to understand where we are coming from.’

The conversation we were having 10 to 20 years ago is outdated. It’s really about brands that are positioned to create a life philosophy and way of life for consumers.”

That way of life can be fostered via products, content and practices—and brands are shaping all three to counter consumers’ stress. Product application rituals and meditation protocols are meant to enhance mindfulness along with personal maintenance.

Loum Beauty partnered with Reiki master and holistic aesthetician Julie Civello Polier to devise two-minute meditations to pair with its products. Even music hitmaker DJ Khaled dispensed a guided meditation series to go with his new CBD grooming brand Blesswell.

“Stress and stress hormones are underpinning all of the skin problems we are concerned about.”

Beauty and wellness brands are developing products filled with ingredients intended to battle stress and the impacts of stress. Loum Beauty incorporates marine microalgae it promotes as diminishing stress-induced inflammation.

Malini Amin, VP of business strategy at natural fragrance manufacturer Custom Essence, singles out tried-and-true essential oils such as chamomile and lavender as containing soothing properties suited to stress-busting products.

She says, “Brands can tap into these mood-boosting benefits by carefully choosing the right fragrance to help elevate a destress claim.” R3set’s supplements, which are wrapped in essentials oils for comforting aromatherapy purposes, feature ingredients including valerian root, GABA, and ashwagandha for stress regulation.

Since the federal Farm Bill was signed into law in the United States in 2018 and legalized the hemp trade, CBD may be the most prominent over-the-counter de-stressor on the market. Josh Kirby, chief product officer at Kin Slips, a brand selling sublingual products with the cannabinoids CBD, CBN, and THC, comments the top reasons for cannabis use are almost completely associated with stress. He says, “A cannabis product can’t stop your boss from being overbearing, but you can utilize certain products to improve certain aspects of yourself to prevent stress from being such a trigger.”

With or without CBD, supplements and beauty products vow to offer stress relief without extensive commitment, a key component of their allure. One of R3set’s core consumer groups consists of busy moms who are unable to squeeze exercise, healthy cooking, meditation, and therapy into their loaded schedules.

Warner says, “We definitely educate consumers about other things they can do beyond taking supplements, but they like the fact that there is a very simple thing they can do to care for their stress.”

Consumers also dabble in stress-fighting OTC products to steer clear of pharmaceutical treatments. As a nurse before launching the brand La Parea Wellness five years ago, Samanta Moise saw clearly that stress was sickening people, but Western medicine wasn’t always equipped with proper answers for it.

Assaf supplies an estimate that 75% to 90% of doctor visits in the U.S. are tied to stress, and Loum Beauty figures 35% of dermatology consultations are affiliated with mental health qualms, predominantly stress.

In addition to her stress-addled patients getting sick, Moise struggled with migraines that could be brought on by stress. “I tried a lot of medications, but, once I started down the holistic route, which was yoga, meditation and aromatherapy, it helped a lot,” she says. …

As consumers discuss stress and sift through information about it, they may begin to decipher the multitude of forms it takes and gravitate to specialized products. Brands are already getting more sophisticated about stress. 

Loum Beauty’s Bryce foresees a surge in haircare products that tend to the effects of stress on the hair and scalp. Kugelman imagines at-home tests that measure stress hormones, and brands tailoring products to test findings.

At Prima, Assaf is intrigued by the possibility of delineating various stressors, from social media to environmental pollution, and forging solutions for them from a product and content perspective.

“I would love the next generation of women to think, when they have a skin issue going on, where can I eliminate some of the stressors in my life as opposed to what is the most powerful skincare product I can put on my blemish?” she says, continuing, “One of the stressors that plague us every day is the constant scroll of Instagram.

So, you see wellness brands saying, ‘Yes, we have to be on social media,’ but, every once and a while, we put out a post that says, ‘Reminder, stop the scroll. Go out into nature.’ It’s about understanding that you can go outside of normal brand marketing to give consumers that out. That’s a brand acknowledging stress, and brands are doing this more and more.”

Assaf concludes, “We are trying to normalize stress. Nothing is wrong with you. We are all dealing with this, and here are products that you can get without going to the doctor.” With its products, Prima asserts “a less stressed-out you awaits.”

Judith Culp Pearson is a licensed esthetician, and published author in the field of esthetics. She is passionate about wellness and focuses on creating content and copy for businesses in the wellness sector.

Feeling Stressed?

Feeling stressed? Feeling stress can push you to the breaking point.

If you’re feeling stressed know that you’re not alone…

However, getting stressed over being stressed just makes it worse.  Since April is National Stress Awareness month, lets’ talk about how to de-stress.

Our lives have always had a lot of stress in them, but the pandemic has made it much worse.  And since women tend to juggle more—they may feel it more. The World Health Organization has called stress the epidemic of the 21st Century.  

When you feel stress it triggers cortisol. Cortisol in turn puts stress on your body.  You’ll feel the tight muscles, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, anger, and poor sleep.  All of these in turn trigger more stress.  It’s a vicious circle.  

It’s also something that every one of your clients is experiencing. 

Here are some tips you can use to reduce your own stress and share with your clients.

  1. MOVE!  Get some exercise or do some stretches. Movement helps flush stress from your system. Take a moment between clients to stretch and work out the kinks so you don’t pass stress from one client to the next.
  2. Eat well.  There are really two kinds of eaters. Those who live to eat and those who eat to live. When we choose fresh and healthy, that’s what we get. 
  3. Get plenty of sleep.  Sleep trackers can really help to understand how much quality sleep you’re getting. Electronics deplete your melatonin. Avoid them for 2 hours before bed.
  4. End your day on a positive note. Relax with an herbal tea, a book, puzzle or play a board game with the kids. 
  5. Clear your mind with a little yoga or doing some meditation. Ponder your gratitudes.
  6. Consider taking a supplement or use soothing teas to help manage stress. Ashwagandha, B-complex vitamins, Kava, Rhodiola, Melatonin, and Glycine are some ingredients to include.

And here’s 1 more…

  1. Self-care is important.

Feeling stressed? You might like this article on Stress and the Beauty Connection.

You might also enjoy Managing Coronavirus Stress the Furry Way

Stress impacting your work? You might enjoy How to Embrace Life’s Challenges to Move Forward.

Success is more than you think

Most of us think of success in terms of our careers. It’s far more than that. Our lives are not lived in a vacuum with career the only thing we need to do.  We also need to pay attention to our health and relationships.

A friend had been burning the candle at both ends focusing all his energy on his career. He ended up having a heart attack. Help arrived quickly, but he was terrified. His thoughts immediately went to his five-year-old son. He looked up the doctor, fearing for his life. “Please don’t let me die.”.

He didn’t think of his work. He thought of those most important to him.

His story was a wake-up call for me.  Time to do things differently and take care of myself. It was time to stop being a career-focused workaholic and ignoring my own health and my family.

We all need balance in our lives. If we don’t take care of all three of life’s aspects, we and our families suffer. The quality of our work suffers.

Three legs of balanced living.


Feeling good can be its own success. When we’re healthy and fit, we have more energy and engage more with life.

Health is inextricably tied to food choices, movement, and sleep.


Eat to feel your best. We all have some food types that make us feel icky afterward and others that energize us. If you put regular gas in a race car it won’t run right. The same is true for people. Discover the right foods for your body type. The whole family will benefit from healthy meals.

Eating to feel your best isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle. If weight management is a concern, there are several lifestyle diets that can support you. Everyone’s body responds differently so try to understand your own metabolism and body type to bolster success.


Movement is the body’s lubrication. Our workstyles today don’t offer a lot of movement. Try to take mini-breaks every 15 minutes. Just for one minute, stand up, stretch, flex your body.  Studies have proven taking even a one-minute break every 15 minutes keeps your brain working at peak efficiency.  

Build movement into your day. Park farther from the store, take the kids or dog for walks, dance while you’re getting ready in the morning. 

One really easy trick is when you fold clothes. Take one piece at a time and fold it while you walk to another room to create your pile. Repeat for each item and you’ll be amazed how many steps you can rack up.  Every step does count.

If you look at many elderly people, (an aged parent or grandparent), they tend to be weaker and frailer. Much of that comes from a lack of movement. The adage “if you don’t use it you lose it,” does hold true. The patterns we follow now build us an edge so we can enjoy an active life even as we age.


Most people don’t get enough sleep.  Studies show that if we aren’t routinely getting at least 7-8 hours our brain function drops. Our productivity and creativity drop. 

Stress can keep us awake. Worrying about your career, finances or personal issues pull down your ability to sleep and impair your work the next day.

One thing many people don’t realize is our electronic screens deplete the brain’s melatonin reserves. Melatonin is the chemical that helps us sleep. Turning off electronic screens an hour before bedtime helps you sleep better, longer.

You may find it’s a great time to do some relaxing stretches, Yoga moves, or meditation. Read something…a physical book or magazine, not electronic.

Have a relaxing cup of tea. Experiment to find what changes help you sleep better.

Career Success

Whether you think of it as your career, work or wealth, it’s what provides your income. For many people, 2020 brought a lot of career changes. Working remote, changing jobs or putting in a lot of overtime hours.

Hopefully, it is something you love. Spending your life doing something you hate is a bleak thought. If you don’t love what you do, make a plan to change.

What would allow you to do something you’d really love? When you love what you do, you’re more energized, productive and fulfilled.

Career change? Maybe you want to go into business for yourself. That takes time and lots of planning…and setting aside a nest egg.

If you run your own business, you want to learn, grow,  and implement. Discover what works and learn from what doesn’t. Your work benefits from making a plan and following it. 

Working remotely? Don’t let it take over your life. Schedule a start time and an end of work day time. Try an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to shut-down the office and spend time with family. 

Success in Relationships

Relationships are key to emotional and mental health. Family, friends, a partner/spouse each bring their own value. Relationships enhance your feelings of belonging and feeling loved. 

When we give and help others we get far more in emotional return. Giving without keeping score enhances every relationship. It makes you freer and happier. 

In your family work together, clean together, and play together. Not only are we raising the next generation of adults, together time makes magical memories.

Decide what your top goals are for today, this week, this month, this quarter, and this year. If it’s a big goal, break it into doable chunks. Put those steps on your calendar. In each area of your life, what is the one thing you will do today? Tiny micro-steps, make change happen.

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