The Toll Stress Takes on the Skin

 The Toll Stress Takes on the Skin

We all get stressed out sometimes. And as the holidays quickly approach, your stress levels might reach a fever pitch before you know it. It’s no secret that excessive stress takes a toll on your mental well-being -- as it turns out, stress can also take a toll on your skin. Simply put, when we feel stressed, our bodies send emergency signals (think “fight or flight”) to keep us alert to any and all threats. These signals cause us to produce higher than normal levels of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, increasing blood flow and inflammation. It’s usually easy enough to feel these physical changes when we get stressed out, and before long, these changes can reflect themselves on our skin.

Let’s go over what stress can do to your skin and how to best prevent these unwanted outcomes.

More Aggressive and Frequent Flare Ups

If stress leads to bodily inflammation, it should come as no surprise that stress often induces and exacerbates inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and more. Indeed, many people experience their worst acne breakouts during periods of severe stress. And those who suffer from chronic conditions like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis might primarily deal with flare ups triggered by stress. Some people also suffer from stress related hives and rashes. To make matters worse, undergoing these inflammatory surges is stressful in its own right, contributing to a feedback loop regarding stress and skin problems.

Accelerated Aging

Aging is a natural part of development, but most of us would prefer to keep visible signs of aging to a minimum for as long as possible. Unfortunately, stressing too much about your skin’s aging can actually make it age faster. Indeed, studies show that stress can lead to deeper and more widespread wrinkles and other outward aging signs like undereye bags. Those increased cortisol levels mentioned earlier can weaken the skin’s integrity and diminish its ability to self-repair by breaking down collagen and elastin. As a result, the skin has a harder time bouncing back, and wrinkles more easily develop.

Hair Loss

Stress can also take a toll on your hairline in more ways than one. The condition alopecia areata, for instance, occurs when the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. In many cases, this immune response is initially triggered by extreme stress (though other factors are at play, too). Other stressed out individuals might lose their hair from telogen effluvium, wherein hair follicles become dormant after a severe stress response and gradually fall out. Excessive stress can also bring some people to compulsively pull out their hair, a condition known as trichotillomania.

How to De-Stress Your Skin

If the conditions and outcomes described above are stressing you out, don’t fret -- there are many ways to treat these issues as well as reduce your overall stress levels. If you and your dermatologist determine that stress is likely the main cause of your current skin issues, you might consider the following interventions:

  • Get regular exercise throughout the week

  • Consider trying mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing

  • Achieve proper sleep every night (7-9 hours for most people)

  • Find ways to enjoy more personal time, recreation, and hobbies

  • Receive emotional support from professionals and/or friends and family

  • Come up with (and adhere to) an optimal and relaxing skin care routine


If you’re looking for more information on stress-related skin problems and advice on how to keep your stress and skin in check, the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are here to help. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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