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How Stress & Anxiety Affect Your Skin


While schools around the country are ramping back up and people are returning to work, stress can be evidently felt.We all experience stress many times throughout our lives. The human body actually has developed mechanisms to deal with stress, which can prove useful. For example, if you happen to have a big presentation at work, your body could use your stress response to motivate you to work harder and even stay up longer to get it done [1]. Understanding the stress response is important to balance between the beneficial and deleterious effects on the body.The stress response could be positive, protecting us from dangerous situations. However, the stress response becomes unhealthy when it is continuous without breaks for an extended period of time [1].   


The stress response can elicit many physiological responses [1]:

  • Aches and pains
  • Chest pain and the feeling of your heart racing 
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • Weakened immune system

Those suffering from chronic stress is when the bodily stress response becomes unhealthy.Stress can affect every part of ourselves: let’s take a look at the effect it has on our skin.   


Do you ever notice that you break out more when you are stressed? It may not just be in your head.In reaction to stress, our body produces a hormone called cortisol, which in turn signals your skin to produce more oil. Hello acne [2]!

Stress can cause multiple ailments throughout the body such as asthma and arthritis. Butwhen it comes to skin, stress can exacerbate acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis among others [3]. This may be because there is a brain-skin connection through the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. Basically this axis communicates via hormones to the body to send signals to respond to stressful stimuli [3]. 

Although we cannot control our bodily stress response and the implications for our skin, we can take steps to reduce the impact of stress. 


When you are experiencing stress in your life, there are ways to prevent and reduce the impact that stress has on us. Here are some ways. 

Ways to prevent stress [1]:

  • Prolonged and habit of maintaining health - this includes regular exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep. 
  • Practice positivity and gratitude daily. 
  • It is okay to say “no” to responsibilities that you can not handle at the moment. 
  • Maintain good connections with family and friends that encourage you and make you happy. 
  • Let go of situations that are out of your circle of control. 

Ways to reduce stress [1]:

  • Exercise increases endorphins and reduces stress hormones in the body. 
  • Set goals for the day and look back on what you accomplished at the end of the day, not what you did not get done. 
  • Go to a therapist to manage and learn to reframe your stress. 

Stress is inevitable and may wreck havoc on our skin if we do not handle it properly. However, with proper skin care coupled with stress management can give your skin a much needed boost. 


1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

2. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/the-effects-of-stress-on-your-skin

3. Chen, Y., & Lyga, J. (2014). Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.Inflammation & allergy drug targets,13(3), 177–190.https://doi.org/10.2174/1871528113666140522104422