Stress can be present in a number of skin conditions. How can you tell it is stress?

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. External issues can be a sign that something is not right.

While bottled serums and sheet masks possess a certain level of aesthetic and soothing allure, a solid skin care routine may not be enough to provide calm for your body’s complex systems.


Stress makes your skin care routine harder.

The increased jump in cortisol can jumble up the messages your nerves decide to send, causing anything from an outbreak of hives to fine lines.

While this correlation between stress and skin has been known since ancient times, formal studies revealing the deeper connection only date back to the last two decades.

And yes, your diet or skin care products can cause skin concerns, but it’s also important to consider stress as a potential culprit — especially if a rash appears out of nowhere or persists long after you’ve tested for everything.

We have outlined eight ways that stress can change your skin. We tell you what you can do to stop it.

woman looking out a window thinking about her stress
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Even before looking internally, there’s one beaming factor that can physically stress out your skin and weaken its defenses: ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A carcinogenic (cancer-causing) component of sun exposure, it can have a negative effect on the skin.

Blood cells are stimulated by the signals of ultraviolet rays in the form of natural sunlight or tanning beds, to try and repair the exposed area. This is sunburns.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation may lead to darkened blemishes, moles, and even skin cancer. The best way to combat UV rays and sun stress is by applying sunscreen every morning.

On top of sunscreens, you can also oppose sun damage from the inside out. Research has linked certain nutrients to the ability to boost your skin’s natural sun protection.

Limonene, a chemical derived from citrus peels, has been studied for use in cancer prevention medicines. Eating citrus peel might also provide sun protection.

Fruits high in antioxidants and vitamin C (like strawberries and pomegranates) have the ability to protect your cells from the free radical damage caused by sun exposure.

Eating these foods does not replace wearing sunscreen. You should still wear sunscreen and eat foods high in limonene, vitamins C and other vitamins.

Hives, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea are often a result of inflammation, but studies also show that when your brain is on overdrive, it can actually compromise your skin’s protective abilities.

Stress makes it harder for your skin to stay balanced. It is no wonder you might have an extra break after an argument.

Inflammation can cause a problem. Some skin conditions can look like other skin conditions. It is important to note the difference between the conditions and the ones you are dealing with.

Fighting stress inflammation begins with eliminating the cause. Finding out the exact reason behind your stress might be difficult or impossible, but there are still ways to tame the fires with food, exercise, or therapy.

Stress elimination

We all have suffered at the hands of a stubborn pimple, whether it was the dread of finals week or the sudden loss of a loved one.

Stress is highly associated with acne, especially for women. It can mix up our skin’s nerve signals, causing imbalanced hormones and chemicals that increase oil production.

While it’s nearly impossible to remove stress from the equation entirely, there are ways to overcome it. Keep 5- and 10-minute stress-relief tricks handy, and try longer stress-management techniques, like exercise, to increase your body’s abilities to adapt.

And most acne reacts to topical treatments, too. The secret ingredient in our most beloved anti-acne products is often a beta-hydroxy acid known as salicylic acid.

This oil-soluble chemical is very good at cleaning and unclogging, but it still has its own set of cons. Too much or too strong of a drug can cause irritation to your skin.

So with careful application in mind, nightly spot treatments are helpful for targeting troubled areas without harming the skin in the surrounding areas.

There is no one way to experience stress. Have you ever picked at your fingernails or pulled your hair? That could be the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause a fight-or-flight response.

You should check in with a doctor and a dermatologist to rule out other issues before you assume it is stress. It could be a condition called eczema. Lack of nutrition from skipping meals could be to blame for hair loss.

In the future, avoid hot showers to prevent further damage to your skin and hair. Aim to exercise regularly and eat a diet of fruits and vegetables to bring more consistency to your day.

The skin might get thinner in cases of abnormally high cortisol levels. Cortisol results in the breakdown of dermal proteins, which can cause the skin to appear almost paper-thin, as well as bruising and tearing easily.

However, this symptom is most noticeably associated with Cushing syndrome. Also known as hypercortisolism, this hormonal disease includes additional symptoms such as glucose intolerance, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system (you may experience increased infections).

If you think you have the syndrome, you should make an appointment with a healthcare professional. Cortisol levels can be managed with medication.

“Your risk for infections and environmental pathogens can increase in the face of severe stress. This slows down your skin’s ability to heal wounds.”

To repair your skin barrier, you can use products with glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

The same remedies you use to fight the sun are used here. Consuming food rich in vitamins and minerals will strengthen internal healing.

In addition to keeping skin hydrated internally (through water consumption), focus on using products based on zinc, sal (Shorea robusta), and flaxseed oil. These ingredients are shown to your keep your skin moisturized and provide a packed healing punch for wound healing.

If you have ever been told that sleep deprivation reveals itself physically, then you know how much it hurts. That is stress as well.

Our bodies keep running on a constant cycle while in fight-or-flight mode.

If you’re already trying meditation and yoga for sleep, ramp up your bedtime routine by using essential oil diffusers, turning on white noise machines, and avoiding screens in the 2-hour time span before sleep.

For sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, CBD oil and melatonin pills may act as more reliable remedies.

From the brow to the frown, psychological stress can make permanent evidence of our emotions.

So what’s one to do about it? You can try face yoga. Arguably safer than Botox, face yoga can lead to similar results, although the commitment to doing this every day might a hard to do.

By targeting the facial muscles we subconsciously use every day, through pointed massage techniques in high-tension areas such as our foreheads, brows, and jawline, these exercises can counteract developing Wrinkles and leave skin flexible and resilient.

For additional assistance, applying facial pressure with a chilled jade roller activates the lymphatic system, which can also reduce puffiness and the appearance of stress damage on the skin.

Every person experiences stress at some point in their lives. If you want to care for yourself, choose to care for yourself instead of comparing stress levels with others.

“We can control how we respond to stress, even though we can’t control the ways it rears its head. One of the small ways we can reduce stress is to remember to care for ourselves and our skin.”