Beauty Under Pressure

Beauty Under Pressure

Dr. Sanam Hafeez

Stress is a word we use frequently without quite understanding its true impact. Stress occurs when the demands of our environments exceed our resources. It is literally the inflammatory or taxed response to a difficult situation or loss. What we do know about stress is that it is a silent but deadly disease. When present chronically it contributes to heart disease, strokes, autoimmune, and a slew of other conditions. But what isn’t commonly discussed is the significant affect stress has on our body’s largest organ, our skin.

The skin is susceptible to so many factors such as the environment, pollutants, diet, exercise, and genetics. When you add stress to the party, which in our world is inevitable, skin is impacted to a great extent, triggering conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, acne and rosacea. However, there are less obvious conditions in the skin that arise from this stress response, such as dryness, redness and sensitivity, oiliness and breakouts, and signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles and loss of firmness that happen over time and are not as immediately obvious.

As clinicians we frequently see the negative cycle of stress. We feel bad so we look bad, we look bad so we feel worse and so it continues, becoming a black hole to our self-esteem and sense of feeling beautiful. But this large-scale study, the first of its kind, conclusively proves the power of calm. Calm restores and revives our skin and our psyche, freeing us from the pressures of stress and allowing us to look and feel our most beautiful. It is truly the inner-outer beauty paradigm brought to life. I am proud to be part of the research behind this to help every woman discover the beauty of calm.

Executive Summary

There have been many studies into the effects of stress. But this white paper is the first extensive study in the world to specifically focus on how stress affects how we feel about our beauty.

Utilizing well-established clinical metrics of stress and self-esteem, we’re exposing the true extent of the pressures we face in modern society.

Working with Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a respected neuropsychologist at Columbia University, our research reveals the real story of stress – the effect (never broadly studied before) of stress on our beauty, and the impact on wellbeing that’s holding women back from living their best, most confident lives.

Among women aged 18-55:

74% have less energy when stressed

68% say stress negatively affects the way I feel about myself

63% spend less time on self-care

61% feel less beautiful and attractive

But while stress negatively affects women’s self-esteem and sense of feeling beautiful we see calm emerging as the power that can set our beauty free:

78% of 18-55 year olds feel better about themselves when they are calm

75% of women feel more confident

70% of women find their skin problems reduce significantly when they’re calm vs. when they’re stressed

61% feel more beautiful when they are calm

67% are looking to do more to find calm in their lives

Our research shows that calm doesn’t just transform our skin and make us feel more beautiful, it significantly improves our self-esteem and the way we feel about ourselves. In an ever more anxiety-ridden world, the power of calm, and the #calmfidence it brings, is one we need now more than ever.


We’re all more stressed than we realize

Many of us live with a high level of stress on a daily basis – to the extent that living with stress has not only become normalized, what was once stress has become burnout for many. But we find many women are either unaware or, more alarmingly, downplaying how stressed they really are.

In our study, we used a clinical rated stress methodology to objectively assess our participants stress levels. We compared this to their own, self-rated experiences of stress. In the self-assessment, 9% of participants identified themselves as “very stressed” when they evaluated their own feelings. However, the number of women who exhibit high levels of stress in the clinical assessment almost doubles (17%) according to the perceived stress score – meaning on average the number of women who are clinically highly stressed is 2 x the number that think they are. 

And this becomes problematic because stress has a fundamental impact both on our skin and how we feel about ourselves and our beauty. Unnoticed and untapped, it’s a hidden beauty killer that festers.

We wear stress on our skin

Our data shows even when women may feel they’re coping under pressure, stress will reveal itself in other ways. And our largest organ, our skin, is often the one that suffers the most.

Across the board, chronic stress greatly amplifies the issues women have with their skin. Many women between 18 and 55 say they look drawn, pale or tired when under pressure (57%) compared to normal. More than half (55%) suffer with puffy eyes or have dark circles under their eyes. And 52% say their skin looks dull.

In fact, if we look across skin concerns we find that every key skin concern (from dryness, redness and sensitivity to oiliness and breakouts and signs of aging from fine lines and wrinkles to loss of firmness) get significantly worse when we’re stressed.

Stress causes us to neglect self-care, with serious implications

When we’re stressed our skin needs more help than ever. But our data shows the reverse is true, with the negative fall-out of stress causing us to neglect selfcare – in fact, almost two-thirds (63%) of women aged 18-55 spend less time on their self-care when stressed.

As a result, we see stress becomes a negative cycle. We’re stressed so we pull back from self-care, causing us to look worse, which in turn makes us feel worse. And the impact becomes devastating for both women’s self-esteem and their sense of feeling beautiful.

Stress takes away from our beauty

We call stress the ‘great beauty limiter’ because it significantly takes away from women’s sense of feeling beautiful:

75% agree that when they feel bad it impacts their sense of feeling beautiful

61% say they feel less attractive when stressed

But chronic stress harms more than feelings of positivity or attractiveness. It also undermines self-esteem. More than a third (36%) of all women between 18 and 55 say they’re unlikely to feel confident in themselves or their abilities when stressed.

But the real danger is that feelings can spiral, becoming a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, followed by burnout and even depression, that becomes ever harder to escape. And it’s no surprise that women, and particularly younger women, are hardest hit.


Generation Stress

Our study shows that stress hits Gen-Z particularly hard.

Seven in every ten (70%) young women say they feel less beautiful/attractive when stressed. Half (50%) are unlikely to feel sexually attractive or desirable. And almost half (47%) say they don’t feel like the best version of themselves.

Younger women are feeling less confident in themselves due to stress. Many (43%) feel that stress is negatively affecting their self-confidence and their abilities.

Gen-Z is also the most likely generation to report that they suffer with low self-esteem. Overall, 37% of young women (36% in the US, 38% in the UK) say they struggle with issues of their own self-esteem. Only 5% consider themselves in high regard.

Chronic stress is having a significant impact on these Gen-Z women. They are the least likely to try new things or push themselves. Chronic stress is actively holding them back from enjoying their lives.

Serenity Seekers

Compare this to the Serenity Seekers. These women actively invest in self-care and time to look after their physical and mental wellbeing.

Four in ten (43%) of these women say they feel less beautiful/ attractive when stressed. This is significantly lower than both gen-Z and Millennial Working Mums. Less than a quarter (24%) say they do not feel sexually attractive or desirable when stressed. And only 23% feel they’re not the best version of themselves.

The lack of self-confidence story experienced by Gen-Z and Working Millennial Mums is reversed for the Serenity Seekers. Just 6% of women in this group have perceived low self-confidence, while 41% report high levels of respect for themselves. Only 6% scored highly for perceived stress, and just 4% are very stressed when they self-score their own stress levels.

Our Serenity Seekers show self-care protects self- worth even in times of stress.


Our daily lives are stressful enough, but 2020 and the global spread of COVID-19 created the most extreme and unprecedented period of global stress we’ve seen in generations.

In fact, almost two thirds of women in the UK and US say that their stress levels have increased since before the pandemic.

In the greatest time of stress, a silver lining for our skin

However, despite being a time of high stress, lockdown has had a silver lining for our beauty, giving women the chance to invest more time in self- care and daily beauty rituals, with positive results:

33% of women say that the health of their skin is more important to them now.

30% of women are investing more in taking care of their skin than in makeup and cosmetics.

And what we find, most positively, is that for many self-care has become a trusted source of calm:

41% found that maintaining their beauty regime helped keep them positive

38% found that self-care helped them relax and switch off

30% found that it helped reduce their anxieties

For so many of us the experience of lockdown has underlined the importance of looking after ourselves, for our health and wellbeing as well as our beauty.

But it’s also prompted something potentially even more significant, with many women taking the opportunity to address the stress in their lives and enter a new era of calmer living.

Post-COVID-19 Resolutions

While the outside world has temporarily closed for business, our FOMO has gone into remission. Instead, women are finding time to Advocate Calm, Ease Stress (ACES) and are setting themselves new self-care intentions.

In fact, post COVID-19:

33% of women say that the health of their skin is more important to them now.

41% of women found that maintaining their beauty regime helped keep them positive

63% will take more time for self-care

It remains to be seen if the resolutions will hold when life gets back to ‘normal’, or at least a new normal. But our data shows calm is the best resolution we can make, both for our beauty and our sense of feeling beautiful.


We’ve seen how devastating the rising pressure of chronic stress can be on our lives. Now our research shows finding moments of calm is pivotal in reversing that damage, to our beauty and our psyche.

Calm is beautiful

The power of calm, not just to transform our skin but to make us feel more beautiful, is clear:

61% of women aged 18-55 feel more beautiful when they’re calm

64% of women who experience dryness when stressed say their skin feels more moisturised and nourished when they’re calm.

70% of women who experience acne and breakouts when stressed say their skin is clearer when they’re calm

63% of women who notice dryness and dullness when stressed say their skin is more radiant and glowing when they’re calm

63% of women who experience accelerated aging when stressed say their skin is more likely to look vibrant and energized when they’re calm

When we’re composed and feel in control, our bodies can relax. We need to embrace calm as an essential component of our beauty regimens to release the stress in our skin and restore our natural balance once more.

The Power of #Calmfidence

These moments of calm serve another important function. Calm takes our minds back to a neutral state where we can assess the pressure of our lives objectively and take positive action to feel good about ourselves.

As a result, the power of calm on our confidence and self- esteem is overwhelming:

79% of women say they feel good when they’re calm

80% of women say they can think more clearly

75% of women say they feel more confident

65% of women say they feel like anything is possible

62% say they feel more attractive when they’re calm

At every stage of their lives, calmness helps women feel more beautiful and confident. It helps women regain a sense of balance and pushes them to engage in activities, like self-care and socializing with friends, that create positive cycles of self-esteem and actively work against the effects of stress.

Calm may be quiet but our research shows the power of calm is indeed mighty.

Towards a calmer, more beautiful tomorrow

We’re so connected to the world now that it’s hard to find the time to switch off and breathe. The constant stream of everyday stress wears us down, affecting every aspect of our lives. But we can do something to ease the pressures of our daily lives.

It’s time that we embrace calm as our beauty power.

Calm doesn’t just take away the effects of stress – it transforms our beauty and gives us a #calmfidence (a confidence in ourselves and a sense of feeling good in our own skin) nothing can match.

Stress is never going to go away, and it’s often unannounced. But we need to reclaim calm as an essential part of our everyday routines. Because nothing transforms like the beauty of calm.



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