Can stress trigger skin conditions
Reviewed by our clinical team
In situations where we’re under a lot of pressure, it’s natural for our bodies to respond with a stress reaction. We might feel very overwhelmed, irritable, and worried, and have trouble focusing, sleeping or eating.
For some people, stress can cause symptoms affecting the skin. If you have a condition like acne or eczema, you might’ve noticed that in periods of high stress your symptoms get worse. The opposite may also be also true: when your skin symptoms get worse, you feel more stressed, leading to a negative spiral of symptoms.
If you’re struggling to manage your skin condition and the stress surrounding it, read on. We’ve put together a simple guide to both.
Why does stress affect the skin?
It’s widely agreed that stress affects your skin – in a recent survey quoted by Patient, 90% of healthcare professionals agreed that feeling very stressed can exacerbate skin conditions.
It’s believed that stress can impact our physical health and affect our skin in a couple of ways:
- By regularly releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol
- By disrupting our sleep and our diet (e.g. we eat too little or too much, or have an unhealthy diet)
Studies have also shown that ongoing stress can interfere with the permeability of the skin, making it more vulnerable to harmful substances.
Which skin conditions are made worse by stress?
Additionally, stress can be a trigger in certain types of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium or alopecia areata. There is small amount of evidence that stressful events can also cause the condition vitiligo, where pale patches develop on the skin.
Stress can also cause a short-term skin reaction. If you’re feeling very stressed you might get hot and bothered, and you might temporarily develop a red, raised, itchy rash known as hives.
How I can prevent stress from affecting my skin?
The short answer is: you can’t. There’s no way to prevent the physical impact of stress on your body. What you can do is get better at dealing with your stress, and managing the symptoms of your skin condition.
Coping with stress
Mind recommends tackling stress in two ways:
- By managing external pressures
- By developing emotional resilience
Wherever possible, try to identify external pressures, and find ways to manage them. If you’re struggling with work commitments, you could talk to your manager about reducing your workload. If you’re worried about money, you could schedule an appointment with a financial advisor or a debt management charity.
Developing emotional resilience involves making more time for yourself and learning to be assertive and honest about your needs. Coping with stress can also involve getting therapy or counselling, and using these stress-relieving techniques.
Managing skin symptoms
Managing a skin condition isn’t just about treating the physical symptoms, it’s about finding ways to cope emotionally. Conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and vitiligo can cause emotional stress – which, as we know, can end up making symptoms worse.
- If you haven’t been to the doctor about your skin, make an appointment to see your GP and talk to them about your symptoms, especially if they’re causing emotional distress – they may be able to offer some effective prescription treatment or refer you to a specialist.
- Be prepared to try a few different treatments – it can take time to find something that works for your skin.
- Talk to your friends and family about what you’re going through – don’t just pretend everything is OK!
- Find a community where you can talk to other people who live with skin conditions and understand what you’ve been through– the charity Changing Faces is a good resource for this.
- Cut out unhealthy habits – quit smoking, take up regular exercise, and try to stick to a healthy, balanced diet.
Get help with acne from Online Doctor
At Online Doctor we can prescribe safe, routine treatment for a number of conditions, including acne. If you have acne and you’re having trouble managing your symptoms, click here to visit our clinic and browse available treatments.
You can also visit our skincare advice hub to learn more about your condition and discover some techniques for managing it.