Stress and Skin: Are Skin Conditions Caused by Stress and Anxiety?

Woman with a stressed face pokes at her skin

It’s true what you’ve heard about beauty rest: Skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety can flare up when you’re not getting enough calm and self-care in your routine. 

Mental health issues like anxiety can lead to skin problems from time to time. When left untreated, anxiety disorders and chronic stress can bubble to the surface in the form of lingering skin conditions that just won’t go away. 

Here, we’re exploring the link between stress and skin. Learn about some of the most common skin troubles you can face under stress – and what to do about them.

What’s the Link Between Stress and Your Skin?

As Harvard Medical School explains, there’s an “interconnected, bidirectional pathway that can translate psychological stress from the brain to the skin.” The experience of stress “can cause the production of local pro-inflammatory factors, such as cortisol and key hormones in the fight-or-flight stress response.” 

That connection is what you can thank for those itchy, inflamed, and irritated sensations that only make you feel even more stressed and anxious.

Over the long term, “Psychological stress can also disrupt the epidermal barrier – the top layer of the skin that locks in moisture and protects us from harmful microbes,” according to Harvard Medical School. When stress is preventing your skin barrier from operating at peak performance, “it can lead to irritated skin, as well as chronic skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, or wounds” – not to mention acne flare-ups. 

One of the fight-or-flight stress hormones you have to thank is cortisol. But other hormones, like the ones that start raging during your menstrual cycle, can also ride the brain-to-skin highway. That’s why you might experience dryness, irritation, or breakouts during that time of the month, according to Healthline.

3 Pesky Skin Conditions Caused by Stress and Anxiety (Pictures Not Necessary, Thanks!)

Whether you’re experiencing too much drama at work or you can’t seem to overcome the overwhelm, you may notice any of these symptoms of anxiety and stress on your skin:

1. You Can’t Stop Picking At Your Skin

If you notice your stress or anxiety and skin picking habit flare up at the same time, it may be a sign of dermatillomania. Often related to obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs), this mental health condition involves a compulsive skin-picking behavior that’s habitual. 

If you can’t stop picking at blemishes or dry patches, they can get worse and may become infected.

2. You’re Itchy All Over

Stress or anxiety and burning skin isn’t a great combination. It can make you worry you’re having some kind of allergic reaction. But anxiety and itchy skin can go hand in hand. And it’s not easy to peel your hands away from those irritated spots once you start scratching. 

You may notice tingling and itchy skin all over your body from anxiety. Or, the irritation could flare up in one spot. Some people also experience those sensations along with:

  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Chronic itching

3. Your Existing Skin Condition Keeps Getting Worse

When your body experiences stress, your immune system and epidermal barrier can’t fight back against bacteria and other irritants. This means existing skin conditions aren’t likely to clear up, and they may even intensify. These can include:

  • Eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne

Ways To Calm Stressed, Irritated Skin

Cucumber slices, fluffy towel, and skincare product on a counter

If your stress or anxiety are leading to skin troubles, here are some of the best ways to calm down your irritated skin:

  • If you’re prone to anxiety and itching or picking, pay attention to when your skin feels like it’s burning, hot, or uncomfortable so you can control the urge.
  • Apply a soothing topical treatment like calamine lotion or corticosteroid cream.
  • Cover up your skin with another layer of clothing or pop on a pair of gloves.
  • Keep your skin hydrated every day by applying a fragrance-free moisturizer, using a humidifier, and drinking enough water.
  • Consider seeking out professional help for psychodermatological treatment. 
  • Refocus your attention on calming activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.

Calm Your Mind, Body, and Skin at the Same Time

There’s good news: The right treatments, mixed with a dollop of self-care, can go a long way in soothing not just your skin, but your nervous system, too. Why not combine that deep breathing time with some comforting skincare rituals? 

Wind down with Patchology’s calming and nourishing skincare products, like our: 

  • Chill Mode calming Cannabis Seed Oil hydrogel face mask 
  • The Good Fight peppermint, willow bark, and tea tree sheet mask 
  • Happy Place aromatherapy rose, lotus, and hibiscus eye gels 
  • Perk Up energizing eye gels infused with green tea
Explore our skincare favorites at Patchology and transform those moments of stress into total calm and happy, healthy skin.