Breaking the vicious cycle of stress-induced skin-ageing

Why balancing cortisol is key

Modern stress has many different causes, from environmental, to personal, to lifestyle. And in our busy, "hyper-connected" and "always-on" world, stress has become an ongoing challenge for many people, no matter their age, location or background.

Sustained stress affects both mind and body in various ways and can be particularly detrimental to the skin. In the UK, 66% of women feel lifestyle, including stress level, is the most important factor in skin appearance and a recent study confirmed that psychological stress does indeed cause skin barrier function to deteriorate.

The risks of spiralling cortisol levels

Cortisol, known as the "stress hormone", needs no introduction. The body produces it as a natural response to stress. In small amounts, and in the short term, it is a healthy coping mechanism, but persistently high levels of cortisol can be very damaging to the skin.

Negative effects can include unwanted visible signs of ageing such as lines and wrinkles, thinning skin, reduced elasticity and lower skin barrier functionality. The more stressed we feel, the more our cortisol levels rise. Aged and UV-exposed skin is also more likely to produce cortisol, and so the downward spiral begins.

Wanted: simple, stress-free beauty solutions

The environmental causes of stress may be impossible to control, but there are ways to mitigate the effects. Many young consumers in Asia are actively looking for ways to deal with social stress, and 73% of Chinese agree they can improve their skin condition by leading a healthier lifestyle. As part of a wider trend for self-care, people are beginning to incorporate anti-stress strategies into their beauty routines.

Relaxing spa treatments and time out from the daily grind are all very well, but what many consumers want are efficient and effective solutions to combat the physical effects of stress on the skin when they are on the go. Simplicity is key, and this is where DSM comes in!

It's all about equilibrium

When cortisol levels are balanced and in check, the skin reflects this and looks better. So, DSM has designed and patented a new cosmetic ingredient that does just this. BEL-EVEN is a synthetic small molecule that has been specifically developed for skin care applications.

Ex vivo studies have shown that its unique and innovative mode of action rebalances cortisol levels by selectively inhibiting the enzyme 11β-HSD1, particularly in keratinocytes, but also in fibroblasts. This action has been found to prevent UV-induced Collagen III damage.

Moreover, a human study found that after applying 1% BEL-EVEN for 12 weeks, skin density significantly increased, elasticity and skin barrier functionality were boosted and the appearance of skin wrinkles visibly improved.

By helping skin to manage the undesirable, long-term effects of hectic lifestyles, BEL-EVEN helps to counter the signs of stress-induced accelerated skin ageing, leaving the skin fuller and more supple looking. And as well as being scientifically proven, this new-to-the-world molecule is produced using sustainable methods, in line with DSM's environmental commitments.

Click here for more information on BEL-EVEN


  1. Jindal S. 2017 Trend: Damsels in De-Stress. Mintel, 2017
  2. Chae S, Kim D, Kim E, Choi E. Psychological stress deteriorates skin barrier function by activation of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 as well as endogenous glucocorticoids. Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Wonju, Kangwon-do, Republic of Korea.
  3. Mintel – Shielding against the impact of pollution, stress and UV, November 2014