top of page

9 Skin Symptoms That Show You're Stressed

We all know when we physically feel stressed. Our hearts may beat quickly, we breathe faster, we sweat, or feel anxious. It may be affecting our sleep and our mood, but did you know that stress can also come out through our skin, hair, and nails?

Here are 9 skin, hair, and nail complaints that may be caused by stress:

  1. Acne flair-ups: If you've ever broken out with a pimple before a big meeting or something stressful in your life it can be caused by stress hormones. When you’re under stress, your body pumps out more of certain hormones, such as cortisol. These hormones cause glands under your skin to produce more oil, then excess oil can get trapped inside hair follicles, along with dirt and dead skin cells, and then produce a pimple.

2. Inflamed psoriasis and rosacea: If you already have a skin condition like psoriasis or rosacea, stress can make it worse. Psoriasis is a buildup of too many skin cells that form silvery, scaly patches on the body. It’s caused by inflammation, which can be fueled by stress. That’s why people with psoriasis often get flare-ups when they’re tense. Stress is also one of the most common triggers of rosacea flare-ups. Rosacea appears as a red flush that spreads across the nose, cheeks, and chin.

3. Stressed people aren't kind to their skin: Even if you have amazing skin, you might not treat it very well when you’re under stress. Stress is a major distraction that can make you neglect your skin care routine. Your routine should include daily washing and moisturizing, as well as eating a healthy diet. People that are stressed out tend to develop bad habits when it comes to taking care of their skin, like touching or rubbing their skin, or pop pimples. These habits can lead to permanent scarring.

4. Hives or rash: Hives are red, swollen, itchy bumps on the skin. Some people get them as part of an allergic reaction to food, medicine, or an insect sting. Others notice hives popping up on their skin on a more regular basis.

Chronic hives may be due to an immune response, which is triggered by factors like heat, extreme exercise, or alcohol use. Stress can also cause hives, and can make hives you already have even worse.

5. Impaired skin barrier function and premature aging: High cortisol levels that comes with stress that last for weeks, months, or longer can affect your skin barrier function, and cause premature aging. More info about the skin barrier and why it's important can be found in our previous post here.

6. Dry, rough skin or eczema: When your skin is dry and rough, the underlying cause could be from eczema. Eczema is a condition where patches of skin become dry, raw, and cracked. Familiar places that eczema shows up are the cheeks, nose, chin, neck, inner elbow, or the inner knees. When stress causes large amounts of cortisol into the body, it causes inflammation that can trigger eczema. Rashes that occur from eczema can itch, crack, and bleed. If you're looking for immediate relief from the itching and cracking of eczema we recommend our Herbal Healing Balm. Many of our customers have provided feed back that it has helped them relieve the symptoms of eczema.

7. Brittle Nails: Stress also shows on your hands. When you’re under stress your nails can become thin and brittle. Those who are stressed are also more likely to have bad nail habits, such as biting or picking at their nails and cuticles. This can damage nails even more and possibly lead to an infection. If you have the habit of rubbing your finger over your nails, it can eventually cause a bump or ridge to form in the middle of the nails as well.

8. Hair Loss: Shiny, thick hair is more than just part of your image. it’s also a sign of good health. Your hair constantly goes through phases. It grows during the anagen, or active phase, and falls out during the telogen, or resting phase. When you’re stressed, your hair stays in the resting phase longer, causing you to lose more hair. Rarely, people who are stressed develop a condition called trichotillomania, which causes an uncontrollable urge to pull out the hair, but it can happen.

9. Outside skin stressors: We have covered all the ways that internal stress affects skin, but there are also outside stressors that can cause skin damage as well. This includes sun exposure, air pollution, medical treatments (chemotherapy or other medications), cosmetic treatments (chemical peels, laser treatments, etc.), excess exfoliation, and many more. These outside stressors can cause redness, inflammation, breakouts, rashes, eczema, and many other symptoms.

If you are struggling with skin conditions that are caused by high stress, there are things that can be done to reduce or manage your stress.

  • go for a walk—in a natural green area is best.

  • do yoga or tai chi 2-3 times a week.

  • engage in a hobby you enjoy like crafting, playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture.

  • spend time with a pet.

  • go out with your fun-loving friends.

  • listen to calming music.

  • workout—exercise is a proven stress-reliever.

  • take a hot bath with candles burning.

  • get a massage.

  • write in a journal

  • meditate

  • Practice Breathwork

Here are a few tips to ease stressed skin:

  • get at least 7-8 hours of sleep

  • move your body for 30 minutes a day

  • eat a well-balanced diet

  • avoid excess sugar

  • drink more water when skin is stressed

  • don't neglect your skincare routine and keep it simple

  • use products that don't contain chemicals or harsh preservatives (find our herbal based skincare products here)

With these tips, there is hope in getting relief from any of your stress related skin issues. Be gentle with yourself, as it can take time.


DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Check with your healthcare provider first if you have concerns about your health. In addition, you should speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before making adjustments to your diet or lifestyle and prior to introducing herbal and nutritional supplements as they may affect any treatment you may be receiving. You are advised to disclose all nutrient and herb supplements you are using to your healthcare team.