Does Stress Make You Age Faster? What the Latest Research Shows

Does stress make you age faster?

Based on the research, the answer seems to be a resounding ‘yes’.

But there’s no need to panic – luckily, there are ways we can manage this.


The Link Between Aging and Collagen

When we talk about aging, collagen comes up a lot.

It’s because it’s the most plentiful protein in the body.

Collagen is found in almost all of our connective tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.


The most common types of collagen are Type I, Type II and Type III.

With skin, we’re looking at Type I Collagen, which forms 90% of your body’s collagen.

Type I Collagen provides structure, firmness and strength to skin.


How Stress Causes Us to Age Faster

Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, from our adrenal glands.

While cortisol helps us manage stress better in the short-term, long-term stress has negative effects.

Decreased Collagen Production

First, increased cortisol levels can decrease collagen production, slowing skin renewal.

Stress increases pro-inflammatory molecules interleukin-1 beta (IL1-beta) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which decrease collagen synthesis.[1]

Breakdown Existing Collagen

Second, increased cortisol levels also cause breakdown of existing collagen.[2]

Also, the same inflammatory molecules, make collagen stiff and less flexible by producing advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) which bind to and damage collagen.[3] This can cause skin to feel less supple and soft.

Increased Skin Inflammation

Third, stress can increase skin inflammation, leading to redness, itching, and breakouts.

When we're stressed, our bodies release inflammatory molecules called cytokines, which can damage skin cells and cause inflammation.

In an inflamed environment, collagen is not able to contribute to skin repair optimally.[4]


Managing Stress for Maintaining Youthful Skin

Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to manage stress and maintain healthy skin:

(1) Deep Breathing & Meditation

Deep breathing and meditation can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

  • Find a quiet and comfortable space to sit or lie down
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose for 4-5 seconds
  • Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth for 5-6 seconds
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes, focusing on the sensation of the breath and letting go of any thoughts


(2) Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and can help reduce stress levels.

  • Choose an exercise that you enjoy, such as jogging, dancing, or swimming
  • Start with a low intensity workout and gradually increase intensity over time
  • Consider exercising outdoors for additional stress-relieving benefits

(3) Diet & Supplementation


Our food intake can also affect our skin and stress levels.

To better manage stress through food, try the following:

  • Avoid or limit coffee, which can worsen stress and anxiety
  • Consider taking supplements like L-theanine (found in green tea) or magnesium, which have been shown to help manage stress

(4) Taking a break from technology

Taking a break from technology, even if it’s just for a short time, can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

  • Set a designated time each day to unplug from technology, such as during meal times or before bed
  • Avoid using technology in bed, as it can disrupt sleep and increase stress levels
  • Instead of scrolling through social media, consider reading a book, practicing a hobby, or spending time with loved ones.

Collagen Intake for Youthful Skin

You may also wish to ensure sufficient collagen intake in your diet, which can improve skin elasticity and contribute to firmer skin.

According to a review of 19 studies involving 1,125 participants (95% of whom were women) aged between 20 and 70, consuming hydrolyzed collagen supplements resulted in better skin hydration, elasticity, and reduction in wrinkles compared to placebo treatments.[5]

Although the effective doses of collagen for enhancing skin health in various research studies differ, the majority of these studies have administered 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen per day for a duration of 8 weeks or more.[6]


The research is quite clear that stress can speed up aging.

Luckily for most of us, we can take steps to manage stress, and slow this down.

Focusing on stress management to improve skin health has its roots in psychodermatology.

Psychodermatology is the treatment of skin disorders by addressing the interaction between mind and skin.[7]

There has been increasing evidence that behavioral treatments may be effective in the management of chronic skin disorders.

By practicing stress management techniques, we can reduce our stress levels to promote healthy, youthful skin.


[1] Siwik DA, Chang DL, Colucci WS. Interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha decrease collagen synthesis and increase matrix metalloproteinase activity in cardiac fibroblasts in vitro. Circ Res. 2000 Jun 23;86(12):1259-65.

[2] Kucharz EJ. Hormonal control of collagen metabolism. Part II. Endocrinologie. 1988 Oct-Dec;26(4):229-37. Kucharz EJ. Hormonal control of collagen metabolism. Part II. Endocrinologie. 1988 Oct-Dec;26(4):229-37.

[3] Wang X, Shen X, Li X, Agrawal CM. Age-related changes in the collagen network and toughness of bone. Bone. 2002 Jul;31(1):1-7.

[4] Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177-190.

[5] de Miranda RB, Weimer P, Rossi RC. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Dec;60(12):1449-1461. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15518. Epub 2021 Mar 20. PMID: 33742704.

[6] Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16. PMID: 30681787.

[7] Orion, Edith; Wolf, Ronni (2013). "Psychological factors in skin diseases: Stress and skin: Facts and controversies". Clinics in Dermatology. Clinics in Dermatology, The official journal of the International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology (IACD). 31 (6): 707–11

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