Skin rash due to stress: symptoms, causes and treatment

(Last Updated On: February 19, 2021)

Stress can affect your entire body, including your hair, nails, and skin. Because stress is a part of life and a certain amount of stress is just part of it, it’s how you deal with it and how you ensure that you avoid too much stress over a more extended period.

Stress causes a chemical reaction in your body that makes the skin more sensitive and vulnerable. It can also aggravate existing skin problems or skin conditions. For example, stress can exacerbate psoriasis, rosacea and eczema. It can also cause hives and other forms of skin rashes and cause a fever blistering.

Stress causes your body to produce hormones such as cortisol, which tells the glands in your skin to make more fat. Oily skin is more prone to acne and other skin problems.

Skin rash due to stress

Everyone experiences stress to a greater or lesser extent. Persistent stress can affect more than just your emotional health. Stress can also cause physical symptoms, such as skin rashes and this symptom can strengthen your stress again. 

Many people will have a period of at least once in their life that they are exposed to too much stress. Fortunately, a skin rash caused by stress is generally not a cause for concern. In fact, you can often treat it well with home remedies or freely available ointments.

In pre-existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic eczema or rosacea, you can also notice that stress worsens symptoms and complaints. When this happens, stress is considered a ‘trigger’, a provoking factor.

Symptoms and causes of skin irritation due to stress


Skin rashes due to stress often take the form of hives (urticaria). Hives can occur anywhere on the body. Nettle rash is an itchy skin rash with pale pink slightly swollen spots. This itchy skin rash disappears automatically within hours to days. Areas affected by hives can be itchy. You can also experience a tingling or burning sensation when you touch the affected areas.

Hives are often the result of the fact that your immune system responds to an allergen. Hives can also be caused by other factors, such as a viral infection, illness or emotional stress.

Slower healing

A little stress can be useful for your body, keeping you spiritually sharp and focused. But too much stress can affect your immune system, making you more sensitive to skin infections, such as cold sores. 

Excessive stress can cause it to take longer to heal. Stress slows the healing process of the skin by affecting the barrier function or protective outer layer of the skin.

Dry, red and flaky skin

Persistent anxiety depletes the natural moisture reserves of your skin. It can suppress the production of hyaluronic acid, which causes dry and dull skin. Moreover, stress and anxiety can also aggravate conditions such as eczema. 

If you already have sensitive skin, this increased moisture loss can make your skin more susceptible to a red and scaly aspect and scaly skin over time. Applying soothing creams with hyaluronic acid and ceramides can help compensate for the effects.

Stress leaves traces in the DNA

In addition to affecting the skin, stress can also have an impact at the cellular level. It all has to do with telomeres. At the end of each chromosome is a telomere that protects the DNA. Over time, these telomeres naturally shorten, which can cause cellular damage and the signs of ageing (such as wrinkles ). Anxiety can speed up this process.

Your face shape can change

Cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress, is the natural enemy of collagen, a part of the skin that gives elasticity and firmness. But apart from damaging collagen, anxiety can also cause certain facial expressions, such as the frowning of the forehead. Ultimately this can cause permanent ripples on the forehead and around the eyes. And often tightening your jaw muscles can make the muscle mass stronger, making your face look square.


In times of stress, you can suffer more from acne. Cortisol can stimulate sebaceous gland production and induce inflammatory acne. Stress can even make existing acne worse. Too much sebum can cause blockages, resulting in the formation or worsening of acne.

Treatment of skin rashes due to stress

Hives often disappear without treatment. You can also cover the skin with a solution of water and a dash of vinegar or you can reduce the itchiness by smearing the skin with menthol powder. 

With severe itching, you can use freely available antihistamines against the itch. If the symptoms get worse or last longer than six weeks, you should consult your doctor. Contact a doctor immediately if the rash gets worse, your lips and eyelids swell or if you get stuffy.

If an existing skin condition worsens under the influence of stress, such as psoriasis or rosacea, contact your doctor. This can adjust the current treatment if necessary.

Relieve the effects of stress on your skin

You can never completely avoid stress and tension, and you don’t have to, but you can try ways to tackle it better. Try these approaches:

  • Don’t neglect your skin. Take good care of your skin, even if you are tired or stressed.
  • Regular exercise. It is suitable for your skin and the rest of your body.
  • Take the time for yourself to do something that you enjoy, even if you only have 10 minutes. Take a bath or read a book.
  • Take a walk during the break.
  • Learn techniques for dealing with stress and relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises.
  • Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours a night is ideal.
  • Say no. It is okay to set limits to reduce your stress.
  • Drink plenty of water daily.
  • Healthy and varied food.
  • Talk to someone. Seek support from a friend or a professional social worker.

Deal with stress

There are also ways to deal better with stress, which will also reduce skin complaints.

Exercise daily

Sufficient exercise daily is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. Physical exertion of your body through movement relieves mental stress. The benefits are most significant when you exercise or exercise regularly. 

Movement reduces the long-term stress hormones of your body, such as cortisol. It also helps release endorphins, chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural pain killers. Exercising during the day also improves sleep quality.

Keep a diary

One way to deal with stress is to write down your adventures, especially those events that stress you out. You then literally write it off. Gratitude can also help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what is positive in your life. Write down something you are grateful for every day. Keeping a journal can help relieve stress and anxiety, mainly if you focus on the positive.

Nutritional supplements

Various dietary supplements combat stress and anxiety, such as:

  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has a relaxing effect on the nerves. Lemon balm, therefore, has a calming effect and can provide relief from anxiety and stress.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 is seen as a natural antidepressant.
  • Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha (Withania or winter cherry, a plant from the Solanaceae family) is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety. Various studies suggest that it is effective.
  • Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants that offer health benefits. It can reduce stress and anxiety by increasing the serotonin level.
  • Valerian: Valerian root is used for nervousness, stress and tension and for insomnia.

Some supplements may interact with medication or have side effects. Always consult your pharmacist or doctor first.

Spend time with friends and family

Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful periods. Being part of a network of friends gives you a sense of belonging and self-esteem, which can help you in difficult times. By having strong social ties, you can endure stressful times and reduce anxiety.

Spend time with your pet

Having a pet can reduce stress and improve your mood. Interaction with pets can help release oxytocin, a chemical in the brain that promotes a positive mood. Having a pet can also help relieve stress by giving you a goal, keeping you active and offering company; all qualities that help to reduce anxiety.


Hugging, kissing and making love can all help relieve stress. Positive physical contact can help release oxytocin and help lower cortisol levels. This can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, both physical symptoms of stress.

Learn to say “no.”

Not all stressors are under control, but some are. Take control of the parts of your life that you can change and that cause you stress. One way to do this can be to say ‘no’ more often. This is especially the case if you notice that you take on more than you can handle. Be selective about what you say ‘yes’ to. Try not to accept more than you can handle. Saying no is a way to control your stressors.

Breathe from the belly

Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system and brings your body into a ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. During this reaction, stress hormones are released, and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, faster breathing and narrowed blood vessels. 

Deep breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response. The purpose of deep breathing is to focus your consciousness on your breathing, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs expand ultimately, and your stomach rises. This helps to slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful and relaxed.


As soon as the stress diminishes and you learn to cope better with stress, the skin complaints will improve.

Sources and references

Editor in Chief

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