Science & Tech

What is 'cortisol face' and why is everyone on TikTok talking about it?

What is 'cortisol face' and why is everyone on TikTok talking about it?
Dr. Taz's tips to balance high cortisol
Fox - 5 Atlanta / VideoElephant

Everything going wrong in your life right now is seemingly a result of cortisol levels – well, if we're going off TikTok where cortisol levels are the hot topic.

One creator perfectly epitomised the onslaught of cortisol content making waves across the platform, saying: "One thing I can't wait to never hear about again, cortisol levels."

"Every other friggin video on my For You Page is insulting me about my cortisol levels," the content creator, called Vee, said. "Does anyone even know what that means?"

"Don't have a husband? Lower your cortisol levels. You need to buy a house? Lower your cortisol levels. You can't swim? Lower your cortisol levels," she joked.


What even is cortisol levels???? #cortisollevels #cortisol

Jokes aside, cortisol is far more complex than brief TikTok clips.

It is the body's main stress hormone which works with certain parts of the brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. It manages how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, regulates blood pressure, controls your sleep patterns and boosts energy so that you can handle stress and restore balance.

However, there's a certain area of cortisol that social media has turned its attention to: Cortisol face.

Indy100 spoke with Dr Sophie Shotter, leading aesthetic doctor, hormone specialist and founder of Illuminate, to break down exactly what that means and how to combat it.

What is cortisol face, medically known as 'moon face'?

Dr Shotter explained that traditionally cortisol face is associated with people who have high cortisol levels "due to a medical disorder or long-term medication use, and refers to the fact that the body starts to store more fat at the sides of the face."

In some cases, this means the ears can't be seen from the front of the face.

Cortisol can also cause other issues in the face, including making it "more breakout prone, causing accelerated breakdown of collagen and elastin and causing hair loss."

How do you know if you have high cortisol levels?

Dr Shotter told Indy100 that cortisol can be measured from blood, urine or salivary tests.

"It's important to note that cortisol changes throughout the day," she said, explaining that it's generally higher in the morning and lower at night.

"A more accurate picture can be gleaned from taking tests throughout the day so you can observe your levels over a period of time to see if your adrenal glands are behaving normally," she advised.

So, when does it become a cause for concern?

"It is a concern when your cortisol levels rise above the expected range when there isn’t a clear-cut reason for why - remember that cortisol will increase in response to stress, both physical and psychological," Dr Shotter said.

"If your levels are persistently elevated it can be cause for concern. Equally low levels of cortisol can have huge implications for body functioning, and can be associated with extreme burnout."

How can people combat high cortisol levels?

"Ultimately the important thing to do is to identify the cause and if there is a medical reason for your high cortisol, this needs to be addressed," Dr Shotter said.

In terms of treatments, she went on: "If your medical condition is under control, but you still have unwanted fat deposits then you could consider trialling the Emerald Laser which is a cold laser and a non-invasive way of reducing fat deposits in various areas of the face. There are no easy ways to do this through topical or lifestyle measures."

Additionally, Dr Judy Todd, aesthetic doctor and NHS consultant at Synergy, recommended to wait until the skin has had time to recover and heal before trying any energy-based treatments.

"After three to six months, once the skin has healed, a course of one of my go-to treatments EndyMed by Cure Medical would work well," she suggested.

"EndyMed integrates four advanced radio frequency and microneedling technologies and uses controlled thermal energy to penetrate the skin and stimulate collagen production, which will work to support the structure of the skin from within resulting in a long-lasting effect of firmer, tighter, lifted skin- a great way to tackle any residual skin laxity associated with cortisol face."

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