Stress and Your Skin: What to Look For

Woman stressed rubbing her skin Stress and Your Skin: What to Look For

Stress is a true challenge for millions of Americans—our lives and jobs can be hectic, and that is a strain on far more than just our minds. Stress can impact your skin in a number of surprising ways, so knowing what to look for is a good way to measure your stress and reduce its effects on your skin.

How Stress Affects Your Skin

Stress and Sweating

Stress and anxiety are both higher than ever in these uncertain times, with COVID-19. But even without the pandemic, many Americans face stressful situations each day. One condition we often associate with stress is sweating. Sweating and hyperhidrosis, a chronic sweating disease, can both be triggered by stress and anxiety. Your body undergoes an automatic response to threatening or stressful situations. Two reasons that sweating occurs is as a result of higher levels of hormones and a rise in body temperature. Both of these changes can be caused by stress. Stress sweat can be triggered by general anxiety or a specific worry. A difficult presentation, a first date or even bad news can make you sweat. Treating hyperhidrosis is different from controlling other kinds of sweat, but it’s important to manage your stress in either scenario.

Stress and Acne

Acne is a condition that has many causes and one of them is of course, stress. Hormonal shifts are one of the biggest causes of acne. Puberty (hence acne’s strong association to teenagers), pregnancy, and other turbulent times for hormones all can trigger acne breakouts. Stress can trigger a rush of hormones as well. Certain hormones created by these changes can trigger oil production in the skin. This oil, or sebum, is an important and necessary feature of our skin, but in excess it can clog pores. Acne is a particularly difficult condition because the condition itself can further your anxiety. Acne is an unsightly condition that contributes to anxiety, social withdrawal and low self-esteem. With acne, treating the underlying cause is critical. Whether or not you can rule out other causes, controlling and reducing stress in your life is a big step.

Stress and Eczema

Eczema is a chronic form of dermatitis, and its causes aren’t fully understood. One thing dermatologists do know is that one of eczema’s triggers is stress. Eczema is characterized by dry, swollen skin that is often red and feels irritated. Eczema can vary in severity and appear in many places, including the torso, face, hands, arms and legs. Eczema is linked to the immune system’s ability or inability to respond to threats. Stress can inhibit the body’s immune response further, causing flare-ups or worsening one.

Stress and Hair Loss

In some cases, high stress for sustained periods of time can actually contribute to hair loss. The particular type of hair loss that scientists say stress can cause is known as telogen effluvium. The hair follicles on the body are either in growth or resting phases, depending on the body’s need, in a perfect scenario. Telogen refers to the resting phase of hair follicles. When high stress becomes a factor, all or most of the follicles on your body can enter this resting phase practically at once. Worrying about a dental appointment or a bill for your oil change aren’t enough to make your hair fall out, but extreme emotional distress can contribute to hair loss. Loss of a loved one or a divorce are two scenarios when stress could, in theory, lead to hair loss. If you’re undergoing high stress and notice hair loss, it could be related to your stress.

Managing Stress

Stress is not always the primary cause for any of the conditions outlined above, but if stress seems to be the culprit, there is something you can do. Managing your mental health is important at all times, and in high stress situations that’s especially true. Like any other underlying condition, treating your stress can greatly reduce the appearance of the skin conditions it causes. Reach out to a therapist or practice meditation to balance high stress. Remove yourself from situations that can contribute to stress, if at all possible. Seek help from others in managing your anxiety and stress, or the factors in your life that contribute to them.

Stress can be hard on us for a number of reasons, and their effects can often extend into the skin. If you’re struggling with stress-related skin conditions, contact the pros at Northeast Dermatology Associates.

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