Stress Related Skin Conditions: How Does Stress Affect Your Skin?

Are Skin Conditions Caused by Stress and Anxiety?

Unfortunately, anyone can suffer from stress related skin conditions. This is because the skin and the mind are intimately intertwined. Therefore, when we feel stressed, our body produces stress hormones, such as cortisol.

Have you never noticed your skin breaks out more than usual when you’re stressed or anxious? This is because cortisol, (which is triggered by stress) increases the skin’s oil production. Ultimately, this leads to clogged pores and breakouts.

What’s more, excess cortisol does not only create skin conditions but can irritate pre-existing ones too. Skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema can worsen due to an excess of cortisol. As well as this, too much cortisol can accelerate skin aging. Since cortisol is a catabolic hormone (responsible for breaking down tissue), if too much is released, it can break down collagen. As a result, the skin ages quicker.

How Does Stress Cause Skin Problems?

Stress stimulates both the skin and brain to signal the release of hormones that can trigger inflammation, accelerate aging, impair wound healing, and generally worsen skin conditions.

Typically, stress arises when we are under physical, emotional, or mental pressure. However, it is an inevitable part of life.

Our brain plays a vital role in the stress response. Furthermore, when this response activates, the brain releases stress hormones such as corticotropin-releasing hormone, epinephrine, and glucocorticoids. Consequently, this results in a wide range of immune reactions that can exacerbate or trigger skin conditions, such as rashes, and acne.

the mind and skin are connected on many different levels. A lot of nerve endings are connected to the skin, which wraps around the organs, so as emotions are played out neurologically, they can be expressed through the skin just as stress can be expressed through gastrointestinal symptoms, increased anxiety, or hypertension.”¹

PsyD, Karen Mallin

Therefore, it is significant to find ways to effectively manage stress. This is because it can easily manifest into skin conditions just as it can gastrointestinal disorders and other bodily responses.

Is Dry Skin Caused By Stress?

Yes, stress and dry skin are inextricably linked. This is because stress weakens the skin barrier. When the skin barrier is compromised, your skin will not be able to retain as much water. This results in dry, dehydrated skin, and can make fine lines and wrinkles more prominent. When you’re feeling stressed, try your best to stay hydrated. This will not only make you feel better, but it will keep your skin plump and firm.

How Can Mental Health and Wellbeing Affect Your Skin?

Multiple studies have found that people with certain skin conditions are significantly more prone to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Negative emotions directly affect the immune system and cause changes in the response via inflammatory cytokines. This in turn affects the mechanism of inflammatory skin diseases, often making them worse.

During times of stress or anxiety, our skin is prone to flare-ups in existing skin conditions. Whether these are breakouts, full-blown acne, super sensitivity, redness, or dry, tight, itchy skin, they all show how our skin’s functionality has been compromised.

It’s hard to feel good about ourselves if all we can see is unhealthy skin when we look in the mirror. To keep our skin looking well, we need to start feeling good too!

How Do You Reduce Stress-Induced Inflammation?

Stress can cause skin inflammation through the gut-skin connection. This is because stress can affect the balance of bacteria in the gut, which in turn leads to inflammation. Unfortunately, internal inflammation can cause skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne to worsen.

Thankfully, we can reduce inflammation from stress by increasing the amount of good bacteria in our gut. Probiotics are an effective way to do this, as well as gut-friendly foods such as kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut.

Furthermore, anti-inflammatory foods also help to calm inflammation, such as greens, nuts, and fatty fish.

When your gut is in check, so is your skin health!

Combatting Stress Related Skin Conditions

Unfortunately, you may not be able to completely avoid stress. However, there are small steps you can take to reduce it. Because stress and skin problems come hand-in-hand, it can be a vicious cycle. This is because seeing problematic skin can result in more stress, which in turn can worsen the skin condition.

However, thankfully there are at-home methods that can help you feel more relaxed, and overcome your stress related skin conditions. Even just making sure you complete a few of these can make a huge difference to your mood and skin.

How to De-stress Your Skin and Improve Your Mindset:

Overall, it is incredibly important to listen to the subtler conversation our skin is trying to have with us. The skin is part of our first line of defence from the outside world. Therefore, healthy skin is important for a healthy body and mind, as well as reflecting our overall wellbeing and health.

Authors: Katarina Kupcikova & Georgie Falcone


  1. Mallin, K. The Mind-Skin Connection [Internet]. Radiance by WEBMD. 2003 Available from: