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How Stress Affects Pre-Existing Skin Conditions

Stress is a common feeling among most people. Whether it comes from your job, relationships, or other commitments, it takes a toll on your body. While most people think of acne as a common skin condition related to stress, stress can also induce eczema, psoriasis, and hives as well. The dermatologists at the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute are here to provide further insight into the effects that stress has on these skin conditions.

How Stress Can Impact Your Skin


Acne is caused by a disorder of the oil glands. It typically occurs when the glands are overstimulated and produce excessive oils that result in a blockage to the gland. These oils also are the basis of the content found in blackheads. While it seems there are many factors related to acne flare ups including hormones, age, and genetics, stress can also trigger acne.

Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) is released when people feel stressed. In the oil glands, CRH can bond to the receptors and increase the oil production in skin, which in turn causes acne. Additional irritation can occur because of the increase in nerve signaling that creates an itching sensation, causing people to pick or scratch at their blemishes. This will exacerbate irritation and redness.


Eczema is a skin disorder in which an affected area is red, swollen, blistered, or scaly. This disorder is typically genetic but can be induced by psychological stress. Typically, eczema is caused by a mutation in your genes that disrupts your body’s ability to make filaggrin. A low amount of filaggrin is what causes the dry and irritated skin. When a person feels stressed, their body releases cortisol. Cortisol causes the skin to become abnormally oily. This abnormality triggers an eczema breakout. Stress can also increase the length of eczema outbreaks.


Psoriasis is a skin disorder that results in red, scaly patches that are itchy. It is most commonly found on the elbows, scalp, knees, and trunk. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that currently has no cure. People with psoriasis tend to go through cycles, however, and may experience flare ups every few months. Psoriasis tends to worsen with mental stress. Stress-induced psoriasis flare ups are caused because the body releases chemicals that increase the inflammatory response. This results in redder, itchier, and scalier skin.


Hives are an outbreak of pinkish-red bumps on the skin that appear abruptly. Swelling is also a common symptom with hives. The most common causes of short-term hives are medications, food, infections, insect bites, and diseases. The cause behind long-term hives is a bit more difficult to trace. They may be caused by hepatitis, infection, cancer, or thyroid disease. Stress may also induce hives. The hormonal and chemical changes that occur when a person feels stress has the ability to cause irritation to the skin. It can cause blood vessels to expand and even leak, which causes swollen, red patches of skin. These symptoms are worsened by consuming alcohol or caffeine, as well as exposure to high temperatures. Be sure to avoid these things in order to prevent the worsening of your hives.

Stress is almost unavoidable. However, being aware of potential side effects of stress will allow you to manage your skin disease and help any stress surrounding that topic to be reduced. It is important to take care of your body, and educating yourself will help you to live a happier and healthier lifestyle. If you have more questions or concerns regarding your skin conditions, contact the dermatologists at the Dermatology & Mohs Surgical Institute. If you are in or around Bloomington, Illinois, fill out this form to be connected to a dermatologist.

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