3 Ways Stress Can Destroy Your Skin

Ever noticed that you always break out on the day of a job interview or a big event? It's not just an unlucky coincidence—doctors have discovered there are many ways that stress can negatively impact your skin.

The Impact of Stress

  • Hyper-Reactions. A recent study conducted by dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried, MD, showed that people under stress experienced more severe acne, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis than subjects under normal conditions. Additionally, stress increases redness in rosacea sufferers and causes a higher incidence of fever blister flare-ups.
  • Impaired Skin-Barrier Functions. Another study demonstrated that women subjected to psychological stressors and sleep deprivation experienced a decrease in their skin barrier's ability to function properly. The skin barrier helps skin retain moisture and prevents harmful bacteria from creating infections in your skin. Since moisture helps keep skin looking young and healthy, these subjects not only had a greater number of inflammations, but looked visibly older.
  • Psychological Issues and Bad Habits. Fried noted that "...patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin, lacking the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin care regimens." Additionally, he states that stress-related habits like scratching, pulling, or rubbing your skin are habits that often afflict people with high levels of anxiety; these habits make existing problems worse. Since looking and feeling good boosts our confidence level (making it easier to handle stress), we can end up in a vicious circle where not caring for our skin aggravates inflammations. This then goes on to add to our anxiety levels, which hurts our skin, and so on.

Stressed-Skin Solutions

  • Treat your skin AND your stress-levels. First of all, stick to a healthy skin-care regime with regular cleansing and moisturizing. Use the time you're tending to your skin to try a relaxation technique like slow, steady breathing and clearing your thoughts. Exercise is also a well-know stress-reliever that also helps your skin by flushing toxins out of your body. When you reduce the pro-inflammatory stress hormones released to your skin, you'll see overall improvement. If you have a skin or stress condition that has gone too far, be sure to seek medical advice and possibly even therapy. It's not just your skin that will improve.
  • Consider a Cosmetic Procedure. A 2008 study showed that 29 percent of patients who tried BOTOX Cosmetic felt less anxious and 36% felt more relaxed. Of course, BOTOX is not necessary or right for everyone, but the link between feeling self-confident and less stressed is clear. A minor procedure, facial, or even a new moisturizer can have dual benefits: improved skin and a happier, more relaxed you. 


American Academy of Dermatology

Journal of Investigative Dermatology Abstract: "Stress-Induced Changes in Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Women"