Do Optimists Have Better Skin?


A quick sentence to put things in perspective: "No matter how happy you are, you’re going to get a pimple." It's the great equalizer of skincare. Any way you see the glass—full, half-empty, as a can of PBR instead of an actual glass—you can have all the inner beauty in the world, but at some point, the only thing that's going to make it all better is a dab of concealer.

It's also the first thing Dr. Amy Wechsler, a double board-certified dermatologist and psychologist who we've talked to before, said to me when I called to inquire whether happier people suffer fewer breakouts. Not that I had any empirical data on the matter (for what it's worth, Dr. Wechsler says there hasn't been much research on the subject, perhaps for good reason), but I've been noticing a trend: Ask for anyone's best beauty advice and they'll tell you "Smile! Be happy to be yourself and it'll shine through. You'll just glow!"

Absolutely, totally, truly great advice, sure. It might even lead to fewer stress-related breakouts. "But it can be a bad thing to say that if only you were happier, your skin will clear up," Dr. Wechsler warns. "So much of it is hormonal and based on stress levels, however simply being in a better mood won't clear skin. That’s just not true and it's not that easy. "

But because the only thing worse than being stressed out is being told to "Stop being so stressed" when you're stressed, all I'll say is rest up, invest in a good spot treatment, and feel free to worry—but not about your skin.

—Emily Ferber

Photo via ITG.

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  • Haiku Jew

    I don't mind aging
    but it sucks, to still get zits
    when menopausal.

  • Luna

    I totally agree. Great article.

    • ITGFerber

      Definitely an interesting point—though there's plenty of art and fashion and media to support the idea that the moody, dark girl is beautiful—though on the sexy and mysterious end of things. That is another type of aspiration, or potentially unachievable status. We're never happy enough, we're never moody enough...the goalposts always seem to be changing on us. The only answer to it all that ever makes much sense to me is to stop listening to the outside forces and be how you are. Which isn't to say you shouldn't have personal goals (I *would* like to be less stressed for the record), but they should be internally motivated.

  • Colleen

    Do they have clear skin because they're happy, or are they happy because they have clear skin?

    • Emma Hager

      Ohhhhh snap! A real chicken-or-egg causality dilemma just happened right here!

    • Aubrey Green


  • johnna

    I think people that are happy just are all around more beautiful! With all the botox and fillers you can't even tell if people are happy....

    • bijoux

      So I believe it was Audrey Hepburn who said the prettiest girls are the happy girls.

  • Divya

    Looking your age is always in fashion!

  • kathS

    After suffering from eczema and dandruff for two + years, removing food and chemical allergens from my life, and still having eruptions, I have come to firmly believe that our thoughts effect us physically. I know it is kooky, and I know it is not the only factor, but I have experienced it both ways. Louise Hay has lots of books on this but I use her app called "Heal Your Body".

  • Sylvie

    Not to say that derms are ineffectual, but I really don't appreciate how most of them treat skin issues as some isolated problem, independent from the rest of your body. More and more we are finding that's simply not true (referring here to studies linking diet, gut flora, and hormones to acne). The body has separate functions, but ultimately functions as a whole. Not to mention that personal experience speaks otherwise from the above advice.

    • Mady

      I'm sure dermatologists are acutely aware of the role hormones play in acne. It's basically at the core of the issue, right? After some 9 years of medical training, they're also aware of how some systemic illnesses affect the skin. But they're not likely to manage patients' skin problems with non-evidence based treatments, even if that's what the patient is asking for. At least the good ones aren't.

  • Kaitlyn

    Correlation does not equal causation. In my opinion being happier and having good skin are likely influenced by similar variables - i.e. people who have healthy sleep patterns, drink enough water, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly are more likely to have good skin, and are more likely to be happier. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I'm referring to people in the middle of the bell curve.

    Of course like many biological processes, there are feedback mechanisms. So yeah even if you do all those things but stress out about a break out and ruminate on that consistently, your stress will be exacerbated which could potentially make your breakout worse. Stress can also impact your sleep patterns and eating habits, which in turn, can effect your skin.

    Moral of the story: get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. Focus on those things right now, and better skin should follow. If it doesn't, then that's an indication that you should go see a dermatologist for their input. As many of you are aware, skin issues can be a side effect of many different internal conditions.

    • ITGFerber

      Doing all those in your third paragraph might make you happier, too! It's an endless cycle!

  • Ashley

    So glad to hear that you don't have to be an optimist to have good skin. haha!

    • ITGFerber

      You're telling me...

  • Aubrey Green

    I am healthy, fit and generally happy and I get crazy acne, literally every 2-3 years, it's crazy and frustrating. My dermatologist and I are confused by it hahaha, but we always get it under control. Acne sucks and from personal experience it isn't always related to your smile.