Stress and Your Skin

Do you break out in hives at the prospect of visiting your mother-in-law?

Do you sometimes find yourself in a cycle of nervous scratching and itching when you’re in a high-pressure situation?

Do you get acne on the morning of an important presentation?

Chances are, these skin conditions are all related to stress.

Why Stress Makes You Itch

In moderate doses stress – the pressures of work, family life, change drives our emotional engine. But when pressures mount and we get anxious, our body goes into high gear to cope. Stress causes the body to release powerful hormones that upset the hormone balance in the body, affecting many organs, including the skin. There is a long list of skin disorders that are at least partially related to stress. In many of them pruritus – the medical term for itching – is a primary symptom. Scratching itself can cause a mild skin disorder to persist and even get worse. And stress sufferers are especially prone to nervous scratching.

Acne – Not Just for Teenagers

Acne is another common response to stress. You may have thought you left acne behind with your teen years, only to have it reappear as your career – and your own teenage children – make increased demands on you.

Don’t TOUCH!

The most important thing to do with most of these skin conditions is to keep your hands off of them. Avoid scratching or touching the lesions. Try relaxing in a warm-not hot-bath with baking soda or oatmeal added to the water. Cortisone ointments, oral antihistamines and even antibiotics are helpful for some conditions, but see your doctor before treating yourself. A skin condition can be a sign of allergy, infection or other illness that needs special treatment.

Do Something About Stress

If you have other stress-related disorders such as upset stomach, heartburn, high blood pressure, or insomnia along with your skin condition, there’s a pretty good chance you could use some stress management training. Ask your local hospital, community mental health center or employee assistance program for help with stress management. Techniques such as meditation, relaxation, deep breathing and communication skills really do help you cope with stress.





Itching, thickened patches of skin scratch marks


Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts On face and shoulders


Dry red patches of skin covered with scales

Lichen Planus

Itchy reddish-purple patches on wrists, legs, torso, genitals, mouth and


Red, swollen extremely itchy welts on skin

Over-treatment dermatitis

Redness and sensitivity as a result of too-vigorous treatment of a skin


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