Here’s How Stress Affects Your Skin And How To Reduce The Effects Of It

Busy lifestyles and the burden of responsibilities have made stress a constant companion in our daily routines. However, an emotional strain can affect the skin and it can start showing warnings including acne flare-ups, dullness, premature ageing and rashes. But, employing stress-relieving techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation can help.

Woman looking stressed, with her hands clasped together as she looks down leaning onto them.

Along with these, an appropriate skincare routine can help to deal with the effects of stress on your skin. But, by understanding the effects in detail, you can use the appropriate techniques to fight and treat them effectively.

What are the types of stress?

Stress helps the body to deal with many demanding situations. Its effects should ideally deteriorate by themselves once the stressful situation has been dealt with. However, mental pressures and tension experienced for longer periods of time may not be good news for your skin.

Many circumstances arise that are worrying and taxing on our mental state over many weeks. In fact, stress can be categorised into three different types, depending on this time period and the corresponding symptoms that prevail.

Acute Stress

Acute stress is when the body immediately reacts to stress-inducing situations. This type of stress is experienced by every person, probably even on a daily basis.

Acute stress is caused by the pressure from a situation in the recent past, present or one that is awaited in the near future. It can be exhilarating in many circumstances but its internal effects can cause distress.

Note: Distress can be emotional or physical.

  • Emotional symptoms include anger, anxiety, depression, and irritability.
  • Physical symptoms that are commonly associated with acute stress include the following.
    • tension headache
    • jaw pain
    • back pain
    • stomach problems
    • diarrhoea
    • constipation
    • palpitations
    • chest pain
    • increased blood pressure
    • heartburn
    • sweaty palms

Stress: woman holding a feather pen looking stressed.

Episodic Acute Stress

At times, the stress-causing situations either last for long periods of time or occur when other situations arise frequently. The repetition leads to episodic acute stress.

People who tend to worry a lot or are pessimistic, often suffer from this type. In fact, short temper, anxiety, and irritability are common traits seen among such people due to the frequent stress episodes. They tend to become hostile, angry, and impatient with everybody and everything around them.

Episodic Acute Stress can begin to affect the health, of an individual, negatively resulting in hypertension, migraines, and even heart disease.

Chronic Stress

When acute stress continues for even longer periods of time or if it increases, it can transform into chronic stress. Some examples of situations that can cause chronic stress can be poverty, a bad job, and even an unhappy marriage. In addition, traumatic childhood experiences can also cause the development of this later in life.

Stress: Woman with her hands at either side of her head.

The tension remains for an indefinite time if not treated and causes damaging effects to your health. In particular, chronically stressed people often experience heart problems, depression, gastrointestinal diseases, cancer, etc.

What can stress do to your skin and body?

It is clear now that stress not only affects your mental state but also impacts your physical health.

Interestingly, skin dullness, irritability, sleep problems, bad mood, lethargy, etc. are not the only symptoms you will experience. Mental pressures bring about changes in a plethora of body and skin functions as well as affecting your physical appearance.

Acne Flare-Ups

Stress causes a hormonal imbalance in the body which can affect important processes in the body.

Note: Cortisol is a hormone that is affected in many cases.

Tension increases cortisol levels in the body and this causes the oil glands in the skin to produce more sebum. As a result, acne flare-ups become a common side effect of stress.

closeup of a persons chin showing acne.

Suggested Article: Vitamins For Acne: The Best Vitamin and Mineral Supplements to Heal Acne.


Stress can also make your skin react to irritants and allergens easily which can cause redness, rashes, itching, and hives. Interestingly, tension triggers the release of the hormone histamine, which causes these reactions.

close up of a womans neck, showing an anxious/stress fuelled skin rash.

Anxiety rash or stress rash is triggered due to stress and is experienced by almost everybody once in their life. The rash is typically both raised, red and it can also become swollen to form welts.

The skin loses its natural glow due to stress making it appear dull. This is due to higher cortisol levels weakening the skin’s barrier, this results in dullness and even dryness, in many cases.

Premature Ageing

Stress can also cause premature ageing and this is mediated by the cortisol hormone, which breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin. These are vital components of the connective tissue in the skin that keep it firm and supple.

Your skin starts to look older because there is a loss of these connective fibres, which means that fine lines and wrinkles start to develop earlier than usual.

Thin Nails

Stress also affects the health of your nails making them thinner and brittle. Additionally, nail-biting is a bad habit that stress triggers, thus causing further damage to your nails.

close up of an individuals thin, peeling, stress, nails.

Hair Loss

Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of stress. This is due to the hair follicles being pushed into their shedding phase, resulting in an increase of the amount of hair shed by the body. Furthermore, along with this, hair can also become brittle and dry. Such hair is prone to breakage and this can affect the overall hair volume negatively.

How stress can aggravate other skin conditions

Increased sebum production can augment pore blockages in the skin and aggravate an existing acne condition. Therefore, if you do not suffer from acne, then stress can ruin the oil balance in your skin. Furthermore, unbalanced oil production can cause fresh acne breakouts.

Adult acne that is typically around the mouth and chin areas is usually down to stress. Frustratingly, stress can progress your ‘run of the mill’ pimples to later stages where such acne becomes cystic and/or nodular. This can result in painful swellings, that take over larger areas of the skin, which can very easily lead to scar formation.

Inflammatory Conditions

Inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, cirrhosis, and rosacea can also be aggravated by stress. This is because stress can increase factors within the body that are responsible for producing physical inflammation. As inflammatory cytokines increase, the symptoms of psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema become heightened. In addition, more plaques form in the case of psoriasis that can be painful. Whereas, for rosacea, more skin flushing, which is consistent, is produced.

Hives or rashes can aggravate to cover larger areas of the body. The skin can also become itchy or develop a burning sensation. In addition, it can trigger an episode of cold sores (or fever blisters) or aggravate a small blister to develop into a bigger one, which takes longer to heal.

Stress: A stressed woman lying on a bed with her hands on her head, covering her face.

How to Tell if Your Skin Problems are due to stress

Having stress has become a part of our everyday lives. In fact, it has become as normal as brushing your teeth every morning. Interestingly, we tend to not pay attention to it anymore because we are accustomed to it. However, our skin can start behaving differently because the mental pressure throws it out of balance.

When your skin does not behave as it normally does, then it is likely that stress is causing your skin problems. If you notice any sudden changes like acne or rashes, it is likely that stress has caused this too. Or perhaps your existing skin condition has become worse, this can be down to stresses in your life.


Simply use the process of elimination to be sure no other factor, such as exposure to a chemical or unhealthy diet, has caused your skin to behave differently. Apart from this, the widespread research in the field of dermatology has brought to light that stress is a trigger for many skin problems.

Here is a list of the most common skin conditions that stress can cause or aggravate:

  1. Acne
  2. Rashes or hives
  3. Eczema
  4. Psoriasis
  5. Ichthyosis
  6. Rosacea
  7. Atopic dermatitis
  8. Vitiligo
  9. Fever blisters
  10. Alopecia areata

Suggested Article: How to Tell if Your Diet is Making Your Acne Worse.

How to reduce the effects of stress on your skin

Stress management techniques to reduce stress levels and their effects on your skin are necessary to keep the skin’s health ideal. In fact, ignoring and not taking care of your skin in such a situation can lead to long-lasting effects as well.

Here are some great tips for de-stressing yourself and in turn, diminishing the effects of the stress on your skin.

Treat Yourself

Do things that you enjoy doing, such as reading a book, listening to music or taking a long relaxing bath.

Suggested Article: DIY Bath Bomb: How to Make Natural and Affordable Bath Bombs at Home.


woman at the gym, planking above a gym mat, fighting against stress.

Add some type of physical activity to your routine, preferably for 30 minutes to an hour.

very day. This can range from yoga and working out at the gym to simply walking for a couple of minutes or dancing your heart out.

Do what you feel like doing to keep the mind and body active as physical activity has been proven to reduce stress levels effectively.


Practice breathing exercises and meditation to calm the mind and they will eventually calm the body and skin as well. Both physical and mental relaxation exists by practising both of these techniques.

a woman sat crossed legged on grass, meditating, relieving stress, with her eyes closed.


Apart from physical activity, another technique that has been proven to reduce stress on the skin and body is sleeping. Which is a great note for those who simply love their bed!

Get an adequate amount of sleep every night to induce calm. Between seven to eight hours is ideal, say by experts.

Take Care of Your Skin

Stress can ruin your mood and often, this leads to you neglecting your skincare. So, try to get back into form and take care of your skin better to slowly reverse the effects of stress.

Practice Aromatherapy

Essential oils work for many people to de-stress and relax their minds.

The lavender essential oil is a popular choice because of its proven calming effects on the nervous system. Simply add a few drops to a diffuser or apply a drop or two of near your ears so that you can breathe in its aroma.

help stress symptoms: a small brown glass bottle, with lavender oil in and lavender cuttings around it.

Eat Well

Eat a healthy and balanced diet that contains antioxidants, healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory components.

Avocados, salmon, almonds, berries, citrus fruits, spinach, and kale are powerhouses of minerals, vitamins, and other beneficial elements for the skin. In addition, you should drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated from within. This is due to water washing out toxins from the body that have built up due to the stress.

Talk to Someone

Do not hesitate to seek help from family, friends or professionals. Speaking to somebody about your stress does help and can help relieve mental tension.

Apart from employing these strategies, another important thing that you need to incorporate in your daily routines is optimal skincare. Use the right skin products to reverse the effects stress has had on your skin specifically.

two women sat talking to each other on a bench.

The best products to compact the effects of stress

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of which products are the best to fight signs of stress on your skin.


You can treat skin dullness and lack of a healthy glow with regular exfoliation. This is because the exfoliation process removes the damaged skin cells from the topmost layer of your skin and also helps to increase circulation. Enhanced circulation improves the cell renewal process, thus restoring your skin’s natural radiance.

woman exfoliating her face.

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder, Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub, and Boscia Tsubaki Oil-Infused Exfoliating Powder are popular options.

Nourishment & Moisturisation

You can combat the impact of stress hormones on the skin’s barrier by using ample moisturisers. Be sure to choose those with beneficial ingredients such as fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and so on. In addition, sheet masks and face masks are excellent ways to supply the skin with extra care.

Note: Korean brands like The Face Shop and Innisfree, along with brands like Garnier, sell a colossal variety of sheet masks to tackle various skin issues.

Suggested Article: Why These Skin Masks Are Leaving People With Egg On Their Face.

Cucumber, aloe, calendula, green tea, and honey are our favourites for stressed skin. However, if a cream formula is your preference, try the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream that hydrates the skin really well and also soothes irritation.

Anti-Ageing Creams and Serums

Since the development of early ageing signs is a common effect of stress, investing a potent anti-ageing product will help you to keep those fine lines at bay. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Rescue Cream is a cult favourite that people of all ages can reap the benefits of. It will revitalise and renew your skin in a matter of a few days.

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Rescue Cream.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Rescue Cream.

For something that is going to not create a dent in your pocket, look for an anti-ageing cream at the drugstore with plenty of antioxidants, peptides and natural oils.

Suggested Article: Skin Tightening Treatments for Ageing Skin That Really Work

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