Well aging

Does stress get under your skin?

It’s very clear: skin, psychology and the brain are closely connected.

Do you get a cold sore on your lip just by spotting mold on your bread? Do you get major acne breakouts before exams or interviews? Stress is usually no fun. And the skin doesn’t handle it very well.

One thing is for sure, our skin reacts to feelings. Some emotions can be interpreted immediately: If we get embarrassed, we may turn red. Being scared or shocked may have the opposite effect- the color will drain from their face. 

These examples are spontaneous and short-term types of reactions. However, there is also enough evidence showing that persistent psychological conflicts have a negative impact on the skin. Various studies over the years have shown that psychological stress can disrupt the skin barrier function and change the skin's immune system.

Skin and psyche are connected

Skin diseases such as contact dermatitis, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis and other types of eczema are also influenced by stress. Studies show that eczema patients who have received dermatological treatment and also undergone psychotherapy will get rid of their symptoms quicker and future relapses will be fewer. They rate the effect of psychotherapy as positively as getting cortisone treatments.


In most cases, psychological issues are not the only cause of skin problems. Yet to a certain degree, our state of mind  influences how serious the disease may get, and can exacerbate or alleviate symptoms.

Even "normal" stress is suspected of having negative effects on the skin and its appearance. This happens especially when it comes to persistent stress, for example, if you are overwhelmed at work, have family conflicts or are heartbroken. Does stress actually cause wrinkles? Do we look older when we are out of balance, annoyed or overwhelmed?

There are many indications that say yes. The proverbial "worry lines" have the right name. When we feel grief, we tend to frown, wrinkling our brows. If these worries are constant companions every day, then our wrinkles become deeper and stay around.

Our reactions to stress are triggered in the brain. Among other things, it causes the adrenal glands to release various hormones, including the well-known stress hormone cortisol. Stress hormones have a direct impact on the skin - especially if there are already skin problems or the skin is damaged. A stressful situation can exacerbate atopic dermatitis, eczema and other inflammatory diseases. In other cases, stress hormones can block the processes that normally help skin inflammation subside.

The interactions between skin, psyche and brain are the subject of a relatively new and separate medical discipline, psychodermatology. It tries to find out what effects the interaction of hormones and messenger substances in the skin.

Despite these relationships and interactions, don’t suspect a mental problem every time your skin gets irritated. Even with lots of stress, a person with healthy skin won’t immediately suffer from serious skin problems. Even though stress can trigger and worsen skin problems in the short term, our genetics or environmental factors such as UV radiation or pollution are often the main cause.

Taking care of your skin should be fun. So, take care of yourself, get rid of stress and you’ll feel better right away. And people will see it in your face!