Stress Can Give You A Rash


Are you under a lot of stress lately? Do you have a rash? The two might be related. I commonly get asked by patients in my clinic “Is my rash because of stress?” The answer is, it might be.

Stress has many effects on your body. When under significant physical of psychological stress, your body releases a stress hormone, called cortisol. Cortisol in the natural world, could help save your life in dire circumstances. It helps keep your blood pressure up, makes your kidneys work harder, pushes your liver to get rid of toxins more effectively, and changes your metabolism from storing energy to burning it. In a crisis such as life-threatening starvation or diarrhea, cortisol works to help keep you alive. In the modern world, however, where we sometimes experience chronic stress from work or family, cortisol’s effects can be counter productive.

We can see this in the skin where elevated cortisol can change both the skin’s structure and function. Studies have shown that chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to a decrease in your skin’s natural lipid or fat barrier. These lipids are essential to keep your skin protected and to prevent it from drying out. Without a layer of lipids on your skin, it is no longer waterproof, and irritating soap and water from hand washing or bathing is able to penetrate the skin, causing inflammation. Without a protective lipid layer, the moisture in your skin evaporates easily, leaving the skin dehydrated. This dry, flaky skin is even more susceptible to damage or irritation.

Elevated cortisol also impairs your skin’s natural defense system. Your skin is constantly producing specialized protiens that act as bacterialcides, killing off unwanted intruders on your skin. Stress can lead to a drop in production of these first line defense proteins, leaving your skin vulnerable.

The consequences of this loss of lipids and decreased defenses is that rashes such as eczema and psoriasis can be triggered or can flare, turning a minor irritation into a full blown outbreak. Other diseases such as herpes viral infections, bacterial infections, and even acne are much more likely to worsen when your cortisol levels are elevated from stress.

Although there is little you can do to prevent stress, there are some things you can do to help your skin. Exercising at least 3 days a week can help you manage your stress and can help reset your cortisol levels to healthier levels. Meditative activities such as walking or yoga may likely help you to manage your stress, thereby lowering your level of stress hormones.

You can also help your skin by doing what you can to counter the loss of lipids from cortisol. Use a non-soap cleanser such as Dove instead of soap. Apply a moisturizer heavy in lipids, like a body cream, to your skin everyday after showering. Eat a diet high in omega 3 rich foods like flaxseed, salmon, and walnuts.

Finally pick stocks that will make lots of money in the next year. Well, maybe you can’t do everything.

Photo: Faungg,

14 thoughts on “Stress Can Give You A Rash”

  1. Maybe, best way to prevent cold sores – immune strength.

    Could you give some advices about herpes?

  2. That’s good to know. I always wondered if there was a link because I’ve gotten rashes before for no apparent reason. (No change in skincare routine, no contact with irritants…)

    Do the same kind of treatments work for these stress-caused rashes? (Like hydrocortisone?)

  3. I’m so glad that you all have posted this information!! I have been going crazy trying to figure what caused this rash! I’ve had a celestone shot that made my blood cells go crazy. My PCP thought iI had Thyroid Dz.; however, it was just the celestone. It lowered my TSH and raised my gluose ad WBC. I’ve had the bloodwork repeated and it all came back normal. I have been under a lot of stress for the past few months and 3 weeks ago it finally took a toll on my body. Thanks for the new tips! I’ve already been taking Benadryl, and i’ve been a walking zumbee!!

  4. I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff

  5. I agree with the article above. Not only is it important to choose chemical free skin care, but I found that using some lavender on my skin helps it de-stress. ..lavender i know was used by my ancestors to calm people down – and when applied to the skin it had a calming and cooling effect…i know use the Lavender Calm Lotion from the made from earth skin care line…i love it…uses organic and chemcial free lavender….

  6. Reginald Oh says:

    I am a retired nurse and am perplexed to the following statement:

    “Any Treatment for skin pigmentation / acne vulgaris / pimples / rosacea / breakout is considered as cosmetic”

    How do I dispute such controversial statement?


  7. hi i have linchen simplex chronicus from stress.and it is very bad never had any skin problems before the stress started.

  8. pam bissell says:

    maybe all of this has worked for everyone else. I have tried everything from lotion to organic soap and or vitamins nothing helps

  9. pam bissell says:

    jakki :hi i have linchen simplex chronicus from stress.and it is very bad never had any skin problems before the stress started.

    >I have had these problems since i cant even remember maybe 25 years or better

  10. best free advice:
    antiperspirant use on eczema of inside of elbow
    avoid down filled pillows
    don’t use moisturizers on eczematic skin


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