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How Do Stress and Anxiety Affect Our Skin?

Posted May 2020 by Biodermis
Stress and anxiety are two physiological and psychological responses to events in our lives and how we perceive them. These responses afflict many people around the world, ranging from mild to severe cases. In the Western world, because our lives are so busy, there often isn’t enough time in the day to take a deep breath and meditate. Because of the hustle of everyday life, we can often become overwhelmed and experience bouts of stress or anxiety. A wide range of symptoms are associated with these feelings, but what they do to our skin can often go unnoticed or become neglected.

In this article, we will explore what exactly stress and anxiety are and what kind of impact they can have on our skin.

How stress and anxiety affect skin health

Understanding stress and anxiety

Before understanding how stress and anxiety affect the skin, it can help to know the difference between the two because it’s easy to confuse them as the same thing. To put it simply, stress is a response to an external cause whereas anxiety is an internal struggle. You may become stressed out at work due to strict deadlines, or you may become stressed when your partner isn’t cooperating in the relationship. Anxiety, on the other hand, may have no external causes and is characterized by persistent worry or apprehension about some future event that hasn’t happened yet (or may never happen). Anxiety can occur even when there are no threatening situations in your life. Stress and anxiety can have similar symptoms, which is why people often confuse them as being the same feeling. Such symptoms include nervousness, headaches, high blood pressure, loss of sleep and appetite, and shallow or rapid breathing.

Stress in relation to skin health

In relation to skin health, anxiety and stress can have a number of negative effects that aren’t conducive to vibrant, healthy skin. One of the most common skin problems associated with stress and anxiety has to do with flare-ups. Flare-ups are an inflammatory response that can exacerbate conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis, and hives. When our bodies become tense, a stress hormone called cortisol is released by the adrenal glands. This can lead to the excessive production of oil (sebum) in the skin, thereby clogging the pores and causing acne breakouts. Similarly, stress and anxiety can trigger an outbreak of hives (also known as urticaria). Hives appear as itchy, swollen, red bumps or blotches that form on the skin’s surface. Hives usually go away without treatment but antihistamines can help reduce symptoms.

Stress and anxiety don’t only influence biological responses in the body that lead to poor skin health, they can also lead to unhealthy behaviors and habits that deteriorate our skin over time. Many people cope with the toil of stress in unhealthy ways, such as smoking, drinking, or eating junk food. None of these habits are good for the body in general but they can have obvious deleterious effects on the skin. Another habit that may seem a little more extreme and obsessive compulsive is called excoriation, or skin picking. Similar to nail biting and hair pulling, skin picking is an mental disorder characterized by repeated picking and scratching at one’s own skin, resulting in skin damage. Such a behavior may require medical attention, or it may be just require one to be more self-conscious of their unhealthy habit.

It is also thought that stress and anxiety can delay wound healing, although more data is needed to fully understand these observations. Some studies suggest that stress can slow the rate of healing by 25 percent or more in some cases. The reason for the delay in wound healing likely has to do with the influx of cortisol in response to stress and its impact on the immune system. This delay in healing can also lead to further complications such as wound infection and an increased risk for scarring. To help flatten and reduce the discoloration of scarring, the use of silicone gel is highly recommended.

Stress and anxiety are a burdensome reality for many people and it seems that mental health has become more of a concern now than at any other time in history. Our daily lives have become so fast paced that it’s sometimes difficult to slow down and take a deep breath. The worst thing you can do during high-stress times is to acquire unhealthy habits. The best thing you can do is slow down and relax. Exercise and a healthy diet go a long way in quelling stress and anxiety. Not only will your body and mind thank you for it, your skin will be better off too.


Biodermis is an innovative market leader with 30 years of expertise in the medical silicone industry. Visit Biodermis.com today to explore a complete range of scar management and post-operative care solutions.
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