Can Stress Cause Skin Problems?

a woman is scratching her face

What is stress?

Stress is basically a physical response to certain situations or events. It’s caused by your body releasing fight hormones. These are the chemicals produced by your body, such as adrenaline which contribute to this hormone response.

Stress also affects how you feel when you find it difficult to cope with something under pressure. Everyone's reaction to stress is different. The way you respond may depend on your personality and how you respond to a challenging environment.

Stress may also lead to inflammatory conditions like rosacea, a common skin condition that can cause redness and visible blood vessels on your face. If you’ve got a skin condition like acne, stress can make them worse.

Stress effects on skin

When you’re stressed, the body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. They affect different functions of the body, like the flow of blood to your skin. A common symptom of stress is skin irritation or a rash. There are various other stress-related skin problems to look out for.

  • You might have temporary hair loss after a stressful event like the loss of someone or a major operation.
  • Extreme stress may also lead to vitiligo if it is hereditary. This is a condition where pale white marks develop on the skin. 
  • There’s a type of hive called ‘adrenergic urticaria’ that is caused by stress. Hives are itchy, red, and raised bumps that appear on the skin.

    Ongoing stress can also weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to infection and skin diseases like vitiligo and urticaria. These are autoimmune diseases. This means your body thinks it’s fighting an infection and in turn, produces chemicals that attack various normal cells.

    Skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety

    Following are the skin conditions that are caused by stress and anxiety:

    • Acne and skin rashes
      • Burning or itching skin
      • Eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea flare-ups
      • Hair loss or oilier hair
      • Hives and red bumps
      • Dandruff, redness, and flaking of the scalp
        • Dermatitis
        • Dry skin, hair, and nails
          • Fine lines and wrinkles
          • Under-eye bags and dark circles

            How to treat stress rashes?

            1. Stick to your regular skincare routine, even if you’re stressed. Keep it simple. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser morning and night, apply a moisturizer with sunscreen, and avoid skipping prescription and non-prescription topical treatments.
            2. Schedule regular exercise. Find something you enjoy doing, whether that’s jogging, running, cycling, or hiking. Add in some gentle yoga that will surely help combat stress. It’s good for your skin and your overall well-being and elevates your feel-good hormones.
            3. Practice regular stress management activities, including deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, daily affirmations, and journaling, and get youthful spotless skin.
            4. Be cautious of your diet. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, sweets and refined complex carbs, highly processed foods, and food allergens. Focus on eating a ‘rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables, good fats, lean protein, and antioxidant-rich foods such as avocado and berries.
            5. Take time for yourself to relax and unwind. Take a regular nightly walk around. Read a book or listen to music, or do whatever makes you feel relaxed.
            6. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Stress can make you look tired and unwell, but so can lack of sleep. Proper sleep helps elevate mood, cognition and will help you cope with daily stress. Have a proper uninterrupted sleep every night. 

            Skin conditions that stress can make worse

            Following are the skin conditions that can make your stress worse:

            • Acne
            • Psoriasis
            • Eczema
            • Rosacea
            • Hives
            • Dermatitis
            • Cold sores

            Take Away

            Always stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins from the body and keeps your skin hydrated. Speak to your doctor, who can suggest healthy lifestyle advice. These may help you feel better to be able to cope with both stress and your skin problem. You may not be able to avoid stress altogether but stress management is necessary. But there are ways to reduce stress levels and their impact on your skin.


            Can emotional stress affect your skin?

            Yes, emotional stress can affect your skin, not only the skin but overall health too.

            Can anxiety cause skin inflammation?

            Yes, when you are stressed, your body tends to release some chemicals that are directly or indirectly associated with increased inflammation.

            What is stress eczema?

            Stress eczema, also known as stress-induced eczema or psycho-dermatitis, refers to a type of eczema that is triggered or exacerbated by psychological or emotional stress.


            Effects of stress on your skin. By Healthline, Jun 25, 2020.

            Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin. By Mayo Clinic.

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