Everybody gets stressed sometimes, it’s all part of human nature. But what we often don’t realise, is the effect that stress can have on our skin.

When we become stressed, our body releases stress hormones, which can impact upon our skin’s health. Amongst others, the main stress-related skin issues are: spots, stress rashes, rosacea, dry skin, eye bags and wrinkles.

This post will explain the various ways that stress can affect your skin, allowing you to recognise the symptoms and take steps to reduce your stress levels.

busy-880800_640 Source: Mickey

Stress Spots

You may have noticed that when you’re under some stress, your skin tends to break out. This often happens when you really don’t need it too - such as before a job interview, an exam or an incredibly important meeting.

When we become stressed, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Whilst cortisol has many positive effects, when too much is produced, this increases oil production in the body, leading to clogged pores.

As we know, clogged pores generally lead to breakouts, and in this case, to stress spots.


There is sufficient evidence to suggest that stress can also help induce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

When we're stressed telomeres (formed at the end of our chromosomes) can shorten. This causes your cells to die off, and as a result your skin will appear aged.

Telomeres shorten naturally with age, but this process is exacerbated when you experience high stress levels.

Stress Rash and Hives

Another irritating symptom of stress is the tendency to break out into stress rash or hives. These are itchy, bumpy and a real annoyance to your daily life.

When your body is exposed to too much stress, your immune system begins to weaken. It then naturally starts sending histamine into the body in an attempt to fight off this attack on your immune system.

Technically, your body is forming an allergic reaction to stress! Excess production of histamine can cause hives to appear on both your face and body.

Furthermore, as your immune system is weakened, your skin may now react to irritants that it never had problems with before. Therefore causing an allergic reaction and the appearance of skin rashes, bumps and hives.

Dry Skin

You may notice that when you’re under a lot of stress, your skin becomes dehydrated and feels rough and flaky.

As already discussed, cortisol is released when we’re stressed. Cortisol reduces the skin’s ability to hold onto water, causing dehydration and dryness.

Additionally, stress damages the skin’s lipid barrier. When this is damaged, there is a greater risk of water loss in the skin, resulting in dry skin.

drought-1149686_640 Source: Unsplash

Eye Bags

When we’re stressed, we often struggle to sleep, with worry affecting our ability to relax.

Our skin shows the effects of these sleepless nights more than anywhere else. Lack of sleep causes excess fluid to form in the tissue under our eyes, leading to eye bags.


Stress is one of the main triggers of rosacea. And whilst stress may not necessarily cause the condition, for existing rosacea sufferers, stress will greatly increase the chance of a flare up.

Individuals who suffer from rosacea produce greater nerve, blood flow and sweating responses when they are exposed to stress, as opposed to individuals who don’t. These stimulants therefore result in the flare up of rosacea.

Furthermore, many types of cells in the skin are regulated by neuropeptides and neurotransmitters - chemicals that are produced by nerve cells and cause inflammation and dilated blood vessels in the skin.

When we're under stress, the nervous system releases more neuropeptides and neurotransmitters than usual. This leads to increased inflammation, which makes rosacea flare up.

So, whilst it’s inevitable that we’ll all experience some stress throughout our lives, it’s important to take steps to keep stress levels down and alleviate the negative effects on your skin!