What are some skin conditions that can worsen from stress?
By Anna H. Chacon, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology Aug 11, 2023 • 3 min
Stress affects more than just your mind and emotions. Chronic stress can also negatively impact the physical body, worsening many conditions, including some that affect the skin.
People who suffer from acne may experience an increase in breakouts during periods of stress. Acne is a common skin disorder that occurs when clogs form in the openings on the surface of skin, known as the pores.
An inflammatory chronic skin condition, eczema causes patches of dry, irritated skin to form on the body. Hormones released during the body’s natural stress response may trigger an outbreak of eczema.
There are two main types of hair loss associated with stress: alopecia areata and telogen effluvium. With alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing widespread hair loss. Research shows that stress can worsen this autoimmune response.
Telogen effluvium is another type of hair loss. Stress is actually a direct cause of the condition. This form of hair loss happens after a period of physical or mental stress, such as a major illness, accident or loss of a loved one. Telogen effluvium causes hairs to enter the resting phase of growth at a faster than average rate, leading to increased shedding that can result in thinning.
An autoimmune disorder, psoriasis occurs when the immune system is overactive, which results in a rapid increase in skin cell production, causing new skin to be produced at a faster than average rate. Stress has been shown to both trigger outbreaks of psoriasis and make existing outbreaks worse.
A common skin condition, rosacea causes redness that most often develops on the face. The rash typically comes and goes, returning in response to certain triggers. Stress is a common trigger for many people.
Talk to your healthcare provider
Skin conditions can negatively impact your self-esteem and self-confidence, becoming a source of stress in their own right. During periods of stress, your healthcare provider may be able to adjust your treatment plan to help manage stress and ease symptoms with a variety of medications or therapies.
Updated August 2023.