How Does Stress Affect Your Skin?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Have you ever paid attention to the sudden breakouts of acne or inflammation on your skin? If you have ever considered that it could be related to the stress of your job or an upcoming exam, you are right. Apart from negatively impacting your mental health, stress also has the potential to leave a mark on your skin in the form of acne and eczema, more commonly known as stress breakouts.

Stress falls under two categories – acute and chronic. The longer you are under stress, the more negatively it affects you. Chronic stress is claimed to take a toll on your skin because of the release of cortisol, a hormone responsible for stimulating oil release and clogging your pores. Eventually, this leads to breakouts on your skin.

Let us understand the various ways that stress affects your skin.

How Stress Affects The Skin

Your stress level and the condition of your skin are correlated. The following are some of the most common ways in which stress affects your skin:

1. Triggers Existing Conditions

Stress causes an increase in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which weakens the immune system. This leads to inflammation, which causes reactions like an eczema flare-up or a stress rash. People with a history of skin diseases are particularly susceptible to this response.

2. Dry Skin

A major hormone responsible for skin conditions induced by stress is adrenaline. An increase in adrenaline causes the body to produce more sweat by activating the eccrine glands. This further leads to dehydration. Your skin dries out when it is low on hydration.

3. Acne

A study published in Clinical, Cosmetic And Investigational Dermatology showed that an increase in stress severity is directly linked to an increase in acne severity. Your mind and emotions play an integral role in maintaining the hormonal balance in your body. Prolonged stress evokes a chemical response in the body that makes the skin more sensitive, resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol activates the sebaceous glands that stimulate oil release around your hair follicles, which makes your skin oily, clogs your pores, and causes breakouts. This is often referred to as stress acne.

According to a study conducted in 2011, the majority of acne is aggravated by stress, excess alcohol consumption, and menstruation. These are commonly known as stress bumps or stress breakouts.

4. Decreases Collagen Production

Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels, the fight-or-flight hormone. Cortisol weakens the collagen in the skin and the cellular matrix, leading to early signs of aging and loss of skin firmness.

Now, let’s talk about the chemistry behind the connection between stress and your skin.

The Chemistry Behind Stress And Skin Problems

The root cause of stress-related skin conditions spreads far beneath the skin’s surface – it lies in the neurotransmitters, hormones, and other elements deep within the body. For example, when your body comes across a stressful situation, the adrenal glands receive distress messages from the brain. As a response, your body releases various hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, which are responsible for the physical signs of stress.

1. Adrenaline

This hormone is also known as epinephrine, and it causes the fight-or-flight response. This response generates immediate stress-related symptoms such as increased heart rate, muscle contractions, palpitations, and recurring thoughts. It is also said to trigger inflammation, eczema, and rashes.

2. Cortisol

Unlike adrenaline, cortisol affects the body within minutes. It is a hormone that largely contributes to the majority of skin problems and reactions. A chain reaction is caused in the body – perspiration occurs, blood pressure increases, and the immune system suppresses itself. These continuous factors can cause a wide range of skin problems. The skin problems range from severe rashes to stress bumps to acne.

3. Norepinephrine

This hormone is responsible for inducing awareness and alertness in your body. It does so by directing the flow of blood where it is needed the most, such as the brain. Unfortunately, this means the blood flow is reduced towards areas such as the skin, causing it to flare up and produce undesirable bumps. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove the same.

Certain neurotransmitters help your body to calm down after a stressful situation. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for reducing your physical response to stress. It acts as a buffer against stress and gives your body a much-needed break, which helps calm down the physical components of stress, like skin problems.

Other Effects Of Stress On The Body

Aside from the problems induced by stress on your skin, it is also responsible for messing with your hair, nails, and teeth. Chronic stress can wreak havoc externally and internally. Here are a few other organs, other than skin, that get affected by stress:

  • Hair

Prolonged stress can cause a significant amount of damage and disturbance to your hair cycle. For example, it can cause telogen effluvium – a condition that causes half to three-quarters of your hair to shed.

Stress-induced hair loss can also be self-caused action, i.e., picking out your own hair. This condition is known as trichotillomania.

  • Nails

The release of cortisol has proven to be one of the common causes of the loss of biotin. When this is combined with fatigue and high stress, it is said to weaken the nails. Healthy nails require vitamins such as biotin, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Unfortunately, stress makes it harder for your body to absorb the nutrients they need.

People who are stressed also have a habit of biting their nails, which causes more damage to the nail bed.

  • Teeth

Stress can cause you to clench or grind your teeth, leading to joint and muscle pain, known as temporomandibular disorder. TMD can also give rise to other issues such as the collapse of oral tissue and the closing of the body’s airway.

Some other ways stress affects you externally include sore lips (as many people chew the inside of their lips when under stress) and face flushing, which is caused due to the change in your breathing habits.

Check out the next section to learn how to deal with the effects of stress on your skin.

Ways To Ease The Effects Of Stress On The Skin

You can probably never avoid stress, but there are some ways to handle it in a way that limits its consequences. Managing your stress in a holistic manner can help you ease the effects it has on your skin. Here are a few coping techniques to control the skin conditions caused by stress:

  • Fix Your Sleep Cycle: Get good sleep, ideally seven to eight hours per night. Sleep and food are at the forefront of a healthy and nourishing lifestyle.
  • Learn To Say ‘No’: It is alright to set your boundaries and say ‘no’ to certain tasks and commitments if you know they will affect your mental health. This can help you control your stress-related acne and eczema internally.
  • Just Breathe: Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are some of the proven stress-management techniques.
  • Talk It Out: Talking and confiding in others can help a lot. Seek help from a friend or a professional therapist. Pouring your thoughts out to someone can help you manage your stress levels.
  • Take A Break: Make sure to take out time to do things you love, even if it is ten minutes. For example, take a bath, read a book, or go for a stroll.
  • Stay Active: Get regular exercise – it is good for the mind, body, and skin. It also helps in lowering the stress hormone levels and take your mind off the cause of your stress.
  • Avoid Drugs And Alcohol: Persisted drug and alcohol use can increase your stress. Avoid consuming them to manage your stress in a healthy manner.

Now, let’s check out a skin care regimen that you can follow to prevent stress-related skin problems.

Skin Care Regimen For Stress-Related Skin Problems

A good skin care routine can counter the ill effects of stress. What you put on your skin is important and must be tested beforehand with the help of a patch test. Antioxidants, humectants, and peptides are the best for de-stressing your skin.

When crafting an anti-stress skin care regimen, you must keep in mind to add a daily sunscreen (preferable SPF 30 or higher) and nighttime retinol alongside the aforementioned ingredients.

Take Away

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but the way you tackle and limit it is up to you. Don’t let chronic stress become a part of your daily life and wreak havoc on your skin. Keep a lookout for symptoms such as acne and rashes as they are the warning signs for prolonged stress.

Mindful awareness combined with an intelligent approach to skin care can help mitigate the effects of stress on the skin. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as incorporating meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing in your daily life can go a long way in taking of your skin from within. So, here is your cue to add a bit of self-care to your everyday routine and lead an enriching life.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Psychoneuroimmunology of Psychological Stress and Atopic Dermatitis: Pathophysiologic and Therapeutic Updates
  2. Elevated Social Stress Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Primary Hyperhidrosis
  3. The Association Between Stress And Acne
  4. A Multicenter Epidemiological Study Of Acne Vulgaris
  5. Stress immunity and skin collagen integrity: evidence from animal models and clinical conditions
  6. Hair loss
  7. Trichotillomania and its treatment: a review and recommendations
  8. Biotin interference
  9. Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
  10. Antioxidants in dermatology
  11. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review
  12. Anti-Wrinkle Benefits of Peptides Complex Stimulating Skin Basement Membrane Proteins Expression

Recommended Articles

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.
Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).