The stress and anxiety effects on skin are real, frustrating and hard to ignore.
Let’s look at why your skin reacts when you’re under pressure and how to manage skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety.
The impact of stress on skin
Skin stress symptoms can show up anywhere on your body and in many ways.
- Can stress cause red dots on skin?
- Can anxiety cause itchy skin?
- Can stress make your skin break out?
The answer is YES to all of the above!
Whatever the cause - having too much at work or at home, money worries, lack of sleep or health concerns - stress and anxiety impact your skin.
So, what exactly goes on with our skin when we’re feeling stressed or anxious?
- Hormone imbalances can occur due to stress
- Stress can negatively impact the skin barrier function
- Stress can slow down the rate of cell turnover in the skin
- Increased inflammation in the body
Our brain releases hormones, including corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), glucocorticoids, and epinephrine. These hormones can cause a variety of changes in our body, including our skin. For instance, CRH slows down the process of cell renewal in the skin and can also trigger inflammation.
Another hormone, cortisol, which is a type of glucocorticoid, can also have a significant effect on our skin. High levels of cortisol can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the skin to defend against inflammation.
Prolonged periods of stress can also impact the balance of bacteria in your gut, causing more inflammation. Do you have chronic inflammatory skin conditions - like rosacea and eczema? Pressure and anxiety are likely to make them worse.
Skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety
Let’s take a look at the stress and anxiety effects on skin.
Can stress make your skin break out or make existing acne worse? Research suggests it can. A study of students with acne prone skin shows the severity of their break outs changes correlated highly with increasing levels of stress.
Even if you don't have acne-prone skin, don’t be surprised if annoying pimples appear when you're under pressure.
The cause of acne is always the same - blocked pores which become infected with acne bacteria (p acnes) and spread to other areas of the skin.
Stress raises the level of cortisol in the body. In turn, cortisol triggers an increase in sebum production. Excess sebum on the skin means pores are more likely to get blocked, in turn, increasing the chance of break outs which usually present around the chin, jawline, cheeks, face, and neck.
Breakouts can range from a mild cluster of pimples to, if you are prone to acne, more inflamed cysts that cause redness and even pain in some cases.
You can read more about managing acne with our Skin Care Guide to Acne.
For those prone to rosacea, flare ups are one of the most common skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety.
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes the skin to flare up with redness, inflammation and hot rashes.
These uncomfortable episodes can be caused by a number of different irritants; like alcohol, spicy food, or sun exposure. Not everyone with rosacea reacts the same way to irritants but there is a common flare-causing culprit on the list - stress.
As we know, stress increases inflammation in the body. This causes the blood vessels to enlarge leading to the key symptoms of rosacea; redness and heat.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rosacea and, over time if not managed, flare ups can increase in intensity and duration. This is a motivating reason to make lifestyle changes to keep stress and anxiety in check.
This survey over 700 rosacea sufferers found that more than 67 percent were able to reduce flare ups by proactively managing stress levels.
Need help understanding how to manage rosacea? Read our guide here.
If you struggle with eczema, you’ve probably noticed a common pattern: when you’re feeling stressed out, your eczema gets worse.
Like other inflammatory skin conditions, psychological stress plays a role in exacerbating the symptoms of eczema.
Stress can also make it harder for skin to heal from any irritation or damage. Plus, eczema's defining characteristic is an intense itch that can disrupt sleep and exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
So, not only can stress cause eczema, it can also prolong outbreaks and make the whole experience even more overwhelming.
Hives, rashes and red dots
Hives and rashes are sometimes thought of as the same thing but this isn't entirely accurate. Hives are a type of rash but not all rashes are hives. However both can be caused by stress!
Skin rashes from stress change the colour of the skin and may cause it to look scaly or rough. Rashes may or may not be itchy.
On the other hand, stress-related hives present as raised, itchy bumps that range from small to large welts.
While hives are generally associated with an allergic reaction, it’s not unusual for them to appear out of nowhere during periods of stress and anxiety.
Does anxiety make your skin itch? If you have a hive skin rash from stress then yes, you’ll experience a burning itchy feeling.
A stress rash on skin or hives can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, neck, chest, or arms.
How to reduce the impact of stress on your skin
Finding ways to relax and minimise stress levels can be more easily said than done - we get it! Even so, incorporating small changes, one step at a time, into your lifestyle can reduce (or prevent!) the skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety.
Aromatherapy to promote relaxation
Enjoy the relaxing and mood-balancing benefits of calming essential oils such as lavender, neroli, and frankincense.
Take a break from the news and social media
The news and scrolling through socials can often leave us feeling frazzled and anxious. Take a break from your phone. At a minimum, don’t check the news or social media the minute you wake up - ease into the day with a mindful, enjoyable activity like a stretch or journaling instead.
Gentle (or vigorous!) exercise
Choose a form of exercise you enjoy to relieve stress and then get moving. Physical activity can also encourage a more restful sleep at night.
Ease anxiety with a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets could be your answer to a better night’s sleep and help quieten a restless mind.
You don’t need to be Picasso to reap the chill-vibes that accompany a mini art session! Results of a quasi-experimental study indicate that art making resulted in statistically significant lowering of cortisol levels.
Use gentle skincare
If you’re experiencing acne or rosacea flares or skin rashes from stress, treat your skin as gently as possible. It’s already compromised and fragile, so starting a complicated routine or using strong active products will do more harm than good.
Nourish your complexion or body with a simple, calming skincare.
Choose ingredients and products to strengthen, hydrate and heal the skin barrier. If you’re dealing with a stress skin rash on your body, focus on soothing the skin and preventing it from drying out.
To help lock moisture in:
- Take a warm or mild shower - avoid hot water
- Limit your time in the bath or shower
- Use a gentle, fragrance free body wash or soap
- Moisturise your skin immediately after getting out of the shower. This helps lock water into the skin.
- Use a cool mist or warm mist humidifier to add moisture to the air which eases dryness and irritation.
Our range of hemp-based skincare products help calm skin that is acting out due to stress and anxiety without causing further irritation.
They work as a great team:
Lipid Complex Cleansing Balm cleanses the skin while delivering moisture and encouraging a supple, healthy complexion.
Active Compound Facial Serum both defends and nourishes to build a resilient skin barrier with all the nutrients and vitamins it needs.
Oil Infusion Serum moisturises the skin with hemp seed oil, helping soothe inflamed, red skin.
Focus on getting a good night’s sleep
When you’re stressed and anxious, not being able to sleep only makes things worse! Plus, a lack of sleep also negatively impacts the skin barrier
During sleep, the body and mind have the opportunity to reboot, recover and repair themselves. Quality sleep improves the health and appearance of skin by repairing cell damage and enhancing the skin's protective abilities.
On the other hand, inadequate or poor sleep can exacerbate skin conditions by increasing inflammation in the body.
Getting quality sleep consistently, may help to relieve skin rashes from stress and help settle other inflammatory skin conditions triggered by anxiety like rosacea.
- Wind down for 30 minutes before bed. No screens or stimulating activities
- Invest in quality, comfortable bedding and mattress
- Be mindful of your alcohol intake
- Wear a sleeping mask to shut out any light disruption
- Avoid heavy meals just before bed
- Keep the temperature cool and minimise noise - try ear plugs and switching off your phone.
Here’s to less stress and healthier skin! If you have any questions about Vela Days products, reach out to our team.