We all know the emotional and physical symptoms of too much stress – exhaustion, sleepless nights and falling ill more often are all sure signs that you’re running on empty and need to slow down. But are you aware the skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety?

To determine whether your body is struggling to handle your hectic lifestyle, simple take a look in the mirror.


“Stress and anger can be felt on the skin,” says Beiersdorf’s Dr Dominik Goddertz, who works on product development for Nivea. “Symptoms such as pimples and red patches signal that the inner balance is disturbed. A look is often enough to tell how someone feels.”

Stress can sometimes show on our skin
Stress can sometimes show on our skin (Thinkstock/PA)

Why does this happen? “Emotional stress resulting in cortisol release can result in premature ageing of all organs, including skin,” explains Dr Rozina Ali, anti-ageing doctor and molecular biologist.

“It often manifests as exacerbations of underlying skin conditions, so the secret is to protect yourself from such triggers where possible.”

So what should you look out for if you’re feeling frazzled? Here, three experts talk us through the main symptoms and causes of stressed-out skin.

5 ways stress affects your skin

Plus, we suggest the best products to tackle your concerns. So even if you can’t reduce the stress in your life overnight, you can make sure your skin isn’t suffering…

1. Dry skin

“For many people who are stressed at work, they are unlikely to take the time to ensure that they are drinking enough water, leading to dehydration and dry, flaky skin,” says Dr Pam Benito, facial aesthetics specialist and founder of Dr Pam Benito Aesthetics (drpambenito.com).

“In the case of stress, the lipid barrier of the skin can be attacked. The result? The skin’s water evaporates faster and the skin dries out,” adds Dr Goddertz. “To combat stressed skin, make sleep and water you best friends!” he recommends. “Try to fit in a full eight hours of sleep, and build more water consumption into your day.”

As well as making sure you’re staying hydrated from the inside out, use a serum or moisturiser with hyaluronic acid, which acts like a sponge in your skin, helping cells to soak up water and stay plump.

The Ordinary

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, available from Amazon

2. Acne

If you’ve been breaking out with spots and can’t tell why, it may be down to stress. “When the body is severely stressed, it releases large quantities of the hormone testosterone,” explains Dr Goddertz. “This can, among other things, promote sebum production, which can lead to so-called stress pimples and blackheads.”

Salicylic acid helps to reduce sebum secretion and dissolves the dead skin cells that clog pores and cause typical ‘whitehead’ spots, so apply daily with a cleanser, tonic or serum.

Beat stress caused acne with Murad

Murad Outsmart Blemish Clarifying Treatment, £35

3. Ageing

We all know that we should wear a high-quality SPF daily to help prevent wrinkles, but there are lots of other factors that can contribute to skin ageing too.

These include, according to Dr Goddertz: “Environmental stress like sun rays, pollution or oxidative stress, as well as ‘lifestyle’ stress caused by smoking, poor nutrition, or mental stress contribute to ageing of skin.”

He recommends using a product that contains co-enzyme Q10, a substance which occurs naturally in our skin cells and acts to facilitate cells’ energy supply and protects against free radicals due to its antioxidant properties.

“With increasing age, skin cells lose more and more energy and this leads to stronger appearance of signs of ageing in our face. As we get older, your body produces less Q10.  Without enough Q10, your skin will quickly lose its firmness and elasticity.”

Nivea Q10 cream

Nivea Q10 Power Anti-wrinkle Firming Face Cream, available from Amazon

4. Redness

“For some people, suffering from stress can lead to anxiety and panic attacks,” says De Benito. “Often, when we’re worried about something, we suffer from shortness of breath and forget to breathe slowly and calm down.”

This can lead to redness and flushing of the complexion. Dr Goddertz explains: “The red spots on the face, neck or décolleté are caused by a sudden expansion of the blood vessels. Often, they are triggered by emotional stimuli such as stress and anxiety.”

To treat this type of blotchiness, look for a soothing moisturiser with green colour-correcting pigment to counteract the red tones in your skin.

Darphin Intral Redness Relief Recovery Cream

Darphin Intral Redness Relief Recovery Cream, available from Amazon

5. Flare-ups

As if all of the above wasn’t bad enough, those who have a pre-existing skin condition, like eczema or acne, can suffer flare-ups when stress strikes.

“Stress causes bacterial imbalance, which leads the breakouts in the skin,” says Dr Benito. “If you notice this happening, make sure you take warm – not hot – showers and moisturise straight after.”

You don’t want to exacerbate the problem with a heavy product, so use a lotion developed for sensitive skin, like CeraVe.

CeraVe cream for stressed skin

CeraVe Moisturising Cream, available from Amazon

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