How Can Stress Affect Your Skin?

Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2021

The brain and skin connection

Your skin has a direct connection to your brain. Recent research has shown that your skin can perceive stress and respond to it.
Your skin has a direct connection to your brain. Recent research has shown that your skin can perceive stress and respond to it.

Recent research has shown that your skin can perceive stress and respond to it. Stressful days may impact your psychological health and skin, which is the largest organ of your body. Your skin helps to maintain homeostasis between your internal tissues and the outside world. This includes regulation of body temperature, protection, sensory reception, and water balance. Anxiety, worry, sorrow, and pain are some of the hormonal changes that have an effect on your skin. Stress will show itself in the appearance of the skin, nails, and hair.

Your skin has a direct connection to your brain. The sense of touch, which is very important for life, is a reserve of the skin. So, in order to experience life in its fullness, you need your skin and brain to stay healthy.

When you go through a stressful event, your immune system releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in reaction to perceived or real threats. Your body's response to stressors induces brain inflammation in a bid to cope with the change. When your body is constantly under stress, this internal inflammatory response can lead to external skin conditions.

Effects of stress on your skin

There’s overwhelming evidence that stress can have a negative effect on your skin’s health. Some of the ways stress can affect your skin include: 

Stress aggravates skin conditions and diseases. Eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and acne are among the skin diseases that can worsen due to stress. When you're stressed, the underlying internal inflammations resurface, and they show up on the outside. Higher stress levels can worsen the condition, and your skin's appearance and feel.

Nail thinning. Periods of stress have an effect on the nails. They become brittle, thin, ridging, peel, break, and grow slowly.

External breakouts. When cortisol is released in response to stress, the skin produces more oils, which can clog pores and cause acne. Changes in hormone levels cause rashes and hives, resulting in red and inflamed sores.

Drying of skin. When you are under stress, your adrenaline and cortisol levels rise, and you begin to sweat. Cortisol interferes with hyaluronic acid's ability to store water and keep the skin from drying up. It activates the sweat glands, and the body quickly loses water through the skin.

However, if you don't drink enough water, the body gets dehydrated, and your skin will become dry.

Hair loss. Stress can cause hair thinning and loss or a condition called telogen effluvium. Although it is temporary, your hair can become brittle and fall out, resulting in a scaly scalp.

Premature aging. Unmanaged stress can cause your skin to age prematurely. Your skin may lose its elasticity, and you may look tired, have a pale complexion, or develop lines and wrinkles.

Stress can inhibit wound healing. You may experience post-traumatic stress if you are anxious about the healing of a wound. Stress causes the release of excess cortisol and catecholamine, which slow the healing of wounds. This process can alter the immune system and results in slow cell growth required for rapid healing.

Keeping your skin stress free

Stress is a common reaction to anxiety, and you may require assistance in taking care of yourself and your skin. To give your skin a fresh start, you must adopt positive tactics that will help you improve your general skin health:

Moisturize. When you go outdoors, use a moisturizer frequently.

Hydrate. Keep your body hydrated and your skin supple by drinking plenty of water. You will have fewer creases, wrinkles, and symptoms of premature aging if you stay hydrated. Water helps your skin stay healthy by removing toxins from your body.

Find skin care. If your skin is oily and acne-prone, consult a dermatologist. The specialist may prescribe medications to unclog pores and reduce oil production in the skin.

Learn ways to reduce stress. Be sure to unwind each day, and make an effort to maintain a social life with friends. Routinely exercise, go for a walk, or buy something that will distract you from your worry. Follow a sleep routine, sleep without lights, and wake up at the same time every day.

Protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid exposing your skin to too much sunlight. Also, avoid exercising when it’s too hot outside.

Mind your diet. Consult your doctor on any diet changes you are considering before actually going ahead with them.

Take care with skincare products. Avoid using skin products that are not approved by a dermatologist. If you’re unsure about a product for your skin, consult your doctor first.

It's necessary to learn what's stressing you and causing your skin issues. Stress is harmful to your health, and you may need to seek help from a confidant or a therapist.


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Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2021

Advances in Skin and Wound Care: "Exploring the Effects of Pain and Stress on Wound Healing."

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM HAIR LOSS."

Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers: "How Stress Affects Your Skin."

Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets: "Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging."

Insider Inc: "Does stress cause wrinkles? Yes, it can speed up skin aging."

Mayo Clinic: "Does drinking water cause hydrated skin?"

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ScienceDaily: "Feeling Stressed? How Your Skin, Hair And Nails Can Show It."