Let’s look into what causes stressed skin  

Experiencing stress and skin rashes? From locking in a decent skincare regime to drinking enough water, there are plenty of things you can do every day to help keep your skin healthy and happy.

But you may notice that, regardless of how good your skincare regime is, when life gets a bit hectic your skin experiences some changes. We’ll explore how feeling stressed out may, well, stress out your skin.

What is stress?

Most people feel stressed from time to time. Everyday stress is perfectly normal. In fact, some people may find a small amount of stress motivating.

Certain events such as a house move, relationship problems, death of a loved one or upcoming exams can make everyday life feel more stressful than usual.

People respond to stressful life events in different ways, but if you feel like stress is affecting your life or you’re finding it hard to cope, you should speak to your GP for support.   

Is there a link between everyday stress & skin rashes?

We all know the drill. We’re feeling a little more stressed or anxious than usual, and suddenly our skin wants in on the action. So, what’s really going on with our skin when everyday stress kicks in?

Some people may experience an itchy, raised rash with bumps and patches, known as hives, during stressful times. Luckily, hives isn’t usually a cause for concern, and can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines if necessary and if suitable for you. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on how to help treat hives.

Hives usually get better within a few minutes to a matter of days, but speak to your GP if symptoms don’t start to improve after two days and if you experience any of the following:

• The rash is spreading

• The rash is accompanied by other symptoms like a high temperature or swelling under the skin

• You’re worried about the rash

It’s worth noting that hives can also be triggered by other things, such as an allergic reaction to certain foods, materials, plants or insect bites. If you think hives may be caused by something other than everyday stress, try to work out what your trigger is so you can avoid future episodes.

If you have skin-picking disorder you may be more inclined to pick when you feel anxious or stressed. Read our article on skin picking disorder to find out more about triggers, how to help care for your skin, and how to help break the skin picking cycle.

You may also notice a flare-up of existing skin conditions such as psoriasis and rosacea during stressful periods. Find out more about psoriasis and rosacea, including symptoms, other potential causes and how to help manage the conditions.

Does cortisol cause spots?

Cortisol levels rise as part of your body’s response to threat or danger. Research indicates that cortisol levels in some people may rise by up to nine times during stressful periods compared to relaxed periods.

Increased levels of cortisol may affect your skin, causing it to feel dry or itchy. Some studies suggest that higher levels of cortisol may lead to worsening of acne breakouts, although more research is needed into this.

If acne is having an effect on your self-esteem, speak to your pharmacist about over-the-counter spot treatments that might be right for you. Alternatively, speak to your GP, take a look at the Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment service* or pop into our Boots Beauty store in Battersea to speak to one of our trained dermatologists.

How can I ease the effects of stress on my skin?

While more research is needed into the effects of everyday stress on our skin health, there are lots of things you can do to help keep your skin healthy and happy, and these things are good for your health in general too, so it’s a double win.

Here are some things you can do to help keep your skin (and yourself) feeling good:

• Get enough sleep – take a look at our article on how to get into a good sleep routine

• Enjoying a healthy, balanced diet – check out our top tips on how to hit your five a day

• Staying hydrated – read our article on how to make drinking water less of a chore if you’re struggling

• Getting enough exercise – guidelines recommend adults should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing or riding a bike, each week

You might also want to try mindfulness or relaxation exercises to help create a sense of daily clarity. These may also help keep you feeling calm and in control when the hustle and bustle of everyday life becomes a bit much.

If you’re struggling to cope with feelings of stress, it’s important that you speak to your GP for support.

If you’re still trying to suss out your skin type, look after stressed skin or find a skincare regime to suit you, take a look at our article on the different skin types and products that work for each one.

*Access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.