Skin Conditions that Can be Caused by Chronic Stress

Skin Conditions that Can be Caused by Chronic StressStress is something that people deal with on a daily basis. It is an unfortunate side effect of engaging in essential human endeavors such as raising a family and pursuing a career. Still, when stress gets to be too much, a person can suffer the consequences. The most obvious of these issues will be mental and emotional, but there are physical problems that can arise as well.

One particular area that can be negatively affected by consistently high levels of stress, also known as chronic stress, is the skin. Dr. Ilya Reyter, a dermatologist based in Los Angeles, sees the affects of stress manifest as common skin conditions in many patients.

The part of the body most commonly referred to as the skin is more properly termed the epidermis. It is made up of dead skin cells which are constantly flaking off and being replaced by new layers. If an overwhelming amount of stress is present, there can be hormonal changes that occur within the body that create or exacerbate existing skin conditions.


The most common skin condition people encounter is acne. The pimples and breakouts associated with acne are facilitated, in part, by oily skin. When a person is experiencing high levels of stress, their body begins to produce more of a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol prompts glands located just beneath the skin to increase their production of oils and subsequently the stressed person begins experiencing higher levels of acne.


Psoriasis is typified by thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales, and although the mechanism is not yet known, scientists have made a connection between stress and the condition. The strongest theory is that the two phenomena are linked through the immune system since psoriasis shares many similarities with autoimmune diseases. Many doctors believe that inflammation is the body’s way to cope with stress, and just as the immune system responds to injury and infection by sending out chemicals that cause inflammation, the immune system responds the same way to mental stress. This effect is exacerbated in someone with psoriasis who already has immune system issues.


Preliminary studies on mice have shown that stress may be a contributing factor to eczema, a disorder which produces red and itchy skin. When mice were exposed to consistently stressful conditions, those who were exposed to a therapy that blocked a hormone called glucocorticoid, which increases in stressful times, ended up with much higher levels of skin health at the end of the study period.


According to the National Rosacea Society, no one knows exactly what causes rosacea, the disease that causing the flushing of the skin on the face, because there are many reasons why the blood vessels in the face might dilate and subsequently cause redness. Among the theories is one that ties the condition to stress. Dr. Richard Granstein, a Cornell University professor, proposes that stress produces neuropeptides. These neuropeptides then disrupt the body causing blood vessels to dilate and the skin to flush.

The tragedy of each of these conditions is that once they manifest themselves, it is likely that the host will experience stress from the condition itself. This can create a cycle of further skin problems and further stress. Conversely, working on relaxation techniques that reduce stress may not only improve a person’s mental health. There is a chance that they will find themselves with clearer skin as well.

The American Skin Institute has several locations in California: Sherman OaksBeverly Hills, and Westlake Village. They specialize in medical and cosmetic dermatology, as well as Mohs skin cancer surgery. Learn more by visiting their Facebook page.

Editorial Team
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