What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

Stress and tension can be difficult to deal with.

If you’re prone to stress, it can cause a rash and even worsen existing conditions.

In this article, I explain 7 types of skin rashes that are caused by stress. You will also receive useful tips to reduce and soothe your skin complaints.

Purpose of this article: We examine which harmful influences stress can have on your skin and how stress can cause and worsen skin rashes. Of course, I will give you some useful tips to treat and prevent skin rashes caused by stress.

Can you get a skin rash from stress?

The short answer to this question is yes.

Stress can cause a rash and make existing skin conditions worse.

I understand very well that you are shocked by this. Most people don’t immediately associate skin conditions with stress.

Maybe you thought an allergy was the cause of those red spots on your skin. You may have been using expensive soap for years because you thought cheaper soap would dry out your skin.

Skin problems can have other causes, but can just as easily be caused by (chronic) stress.

How can stress cause a rash and make it worse?

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

You may have noticed for yourself that there is a connection between how you feel and what happens to your skin.

You must have been so nervous that you started blushing. In this case, you experienced acute, temporary stress.

But several scientific studies show that psychological stress and chronic stress can also affect your skin. And this influence goes far beyond just blushing. Some effects can permanently damage your skin.

Let’s take a look at why stress has such a negative impact on your skin.

When you’re stressed, your body produces stress hormones. In acute stressful situations, these ensure that your body prepares for survival. Your muscles tense, your heart beats faster and you become more alert.

One of the most important stress hormones is cortisol.

Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and plays an important role in the normal functioning of your body.

  • It affects your blood pressure and your immune system.
  • It plays an important role in regulating your blood sugar.
  • It stimulates your central nervous system, controls your cardiovascular system, and influences your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Naturally, cortisol also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
You might think the more of this miracle substance in my body, the better! Cortisol is responsible for all kinds of important functions.

However, I have some disappointing news for you: in large amounts, cortisol can do a lot of damage to your body and your skin.

A high cortisol level affects your immune system

Cortisol is usually anti-inflammatory and controls the immune response.

However, a constant excessive amount of cortisol in your body causes your immune system to go haywire. This makes your immune system work less well and it can even make mistakes so that it starts attacking your own good body cells.

The less well your immune system works, the more susceptible you become to pathogens. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi penetrate your body more easily so that wounds on your skin heal less quickly or you can get fungal infections on your skin.

If your immune system under the influence of cortisol attacks your good body cells, you can get autoimmune diseases such as muscle rheumatism due to stress .

A high cortisol level disrupts your sleep

A lack of sleep can lead to skin problems, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine .

It is especially during sleep that your skin recovers. The less you sleep, the less time your skin has to recover. And this can have a big impact on how you look.

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

The culprit of a disturbed night’s sleep? That’s right: cortisol.

Sleep has an inhibitory effect on cortisol production in your body. Your body – under normal circumstances – comes to rest during your sleep.

However, if you cannot fall asleep under the influence of stress, your body will not relax. It remains alert and the level of cortisol remains high, which causes sleeping problems.

But a lack of sleep, in turn, also increases the cortisol concentration in your body. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have enough time to inhibit cortisol production.

In this way you actually end up in a vicious circle of too high a concentration of cortisol in your body.

She explains very clearly why too much cortisol has such a negative influence on your general well-being and health. Have a look:

What types of rashes can trigger stress?

#1: Acne

While stress in itself is not the only cause of acne, stress does play a major role in triggering acne. It can also make existing acne worse.

Under the influence of stress, the CRH or the Corticotropic Releasing Hormone comes into effect. This hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

But the CRH hormone can also bind to receptors in the sebaceous glands. This increases sebum production. If you are naturally prone to acne, this can make your acne worse or trigger an acne flare-up.

You probably know that under the influence of stress you will fiddle with scabs or pimples more often.

Because your immune system works less well due to high cortisol levels, pimples are more easily inflamed and that makes acne worse.

Acne rash stress

#2: Red Spots on Skin

There are several types of red spots that can appear on your skin under the influence of stress.

If you’re in a stressful situation, you’ve probably noticed that you sometimes blush. This flushing often starts on your face but can also extend to your neck area. When your stress decreases, these red spots disappear.

However, some people develop a fear of blushing because of this, which only increases the stress and they actually end up in a vicious circle.

An excess of cortisol can permanently suffer from these red spots. If your immune system is also weakened, even small inflammations can develop on your skin, so that red spots are always visible.

But cortisol isn’t the only culprit. Histamine is also produced under the influence of chronic stress. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that, among other things, causes blood vessels to widen, which can lead to red spots on your skin.

Red Spots Skin Rash Stress

#3: Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common, non-contagious chronic skin condition. This is often hereditary, but people without a hereditary factor can also suffer from it.

Psoriasis causes red patches on the skin that can later flake and itch.

According to the Dutch Psoriasis Foundation, mental stress can lead to an outbreak of psoriasis and make itching worse.  Research has shown that stress – especially psychological stress – can trigger or worsen psoriasis in 26 to 88% of psoriasis patients.

Scientists are not yet in agreement as to why this is so. It is certain that people with psoriasis seem to have a problem with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This regulates the body’s response to stress.

Psoriasis rash stress

#4: Cold Sores

Your colleague has been ill for a while and you take over all the work from him. In the evenings, the care for the children is added. You find it difficult to fall asleep and you feel that you are going into ‘overdrive’.

Surmenage lurks around the corner. Suddenly the time has come: you wake up in the morning with a tingling and burning sensation on your upper lip. Slowly tiny itchy blisters form on your lip.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes labialis virus. About 80% to 90% of the Dutch are carriers of it. However, this does not mean that this percentage of the population actually walks around with cold sores.

There are certain factors that contribute to the outbreak of cold sores. One of the main factors of this is stress. Under the influence of cortisol, your immune system weakens so that it can work less hard against an outbreak of this virus.
Cold sores skin rashes stress

#5: Eczema

Eczema comes in many different forms: blisters, red spots on the skin, flaky skin, etc. Very often eczema causes itching that makes you scratch. This can cause additional problems such as infections or broken skin that makes eczema worse.

Different forms of eczema have different causes, but research has shown that genetics, external triggers, and psychological stress play a role in eczema.

Also according to Mark Levenbergdermatologist and Medical Director at Pfizer, there is a scientific link between stress and eczema. Stress affects our immune system and skin barrier making it an important factor in developing eczema.

eczema rash stress

#6: Hives or urticaria

Hives are characterized by severely itchy bumps or swellings on the skin.

Urticaria can vary in size and shape and patches can grow together to form larger areas on the skin.

Hives occur when the body reacts to allergens and releases large amounts of histamine. In response to this histamine, tissue dilates, causing it to leak. The fluid in the tissue causes swelling and itching.

The most common cause of hives is an allergic reaction. For example, certain foods or medications can cause hives.

External factors such as pressure, heat or cold can also cause an outbreak, but stress is also an important trigger for a hives outbreak.

Hives rash stress

Can you also get shingles from stress?

Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus or chickenpox virus.

The first symptoms are often itching, tingling, and pain in the affected area. After a few days, red spots and blisters appear on the skin.

According to the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), 1 in 4 Dutch people will ever get shingles.

Shingles usually only occur once in a lifetime. However, some people are very sensitive to it. In 1 in 20 people who have ever had shingles, it can come back.

The reactivation of shingles is mainly due to stress, according to some studies . A weakened immune system due to large amounts of cortisol in the body can reactivate the varicella-zoster virus.

What is the effect of stress on your skin and face?

It is probably already clear to you that stress can cause serious skin disorders.

But what else does stress do to your skin?

bags under your eyes

Do you sometimes get scared by your reflection when you see the bags under your eyes? Puffiness becomes more common as you get older. The supporting muscles under your eyes become weaker and sagging skin can also cause puffiness.

However, research has shown that a lack of sleep due to stress also promotes skin aging. Due to lack of sleep, your skin becomes less elastic, which means you get puffiness more quickly.

Dry skin

The horny layer is the outermost layer of your skin. It contains proteins and lipids that play a role in keeping skin cells hydrated. This stratum corneum also acts as a barrier protecting the skin underneath. If your stratum corneum is not working properly, your skin can become dry and itchy.

A 2014 study examining the influence of stress on the stratum corneum of the skin in mice showed that stress affects the barrier function of the stratum corneum. As a result, the skin retains less moisture and becomes dehydrated.


It’s no secret that you have fewer wrinkles when your skin is elastic and well-hydrated.

Chronic stress causes changes in the proteins in your skin, which reduces its elasticity. But just as well, stress dries out your skin, causing you to get wrinkles faster.

Stress also makes you less comfortable in your own skin and frown more often, which of course also contributes to the formation of wrinkles.

dull skin

In the long run, stress limits blood flow to your skin. In dangerous circumstances, there are other organs that need a lot of energy. So your skin comes second.

The less blood that is transported to your skin, the less energy your skin has to recover.

This makes your skin look tired and dull and loses moisture, shine and elasticity. Skin that does not recover will also have uneven pigmentation.

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

7 Tips to Reduce Stress Rash

If you have skin complaints that are the result of stress, or you are not sure whether you have a rash, always see a doctor. A doctor is the only one who can check whether you actually have a skin rash.

The information I give you below is intended to help reduce possible skin rashes caused by stress. It is not a substitute for a consultation or diagnosis by a doctor.

Tip 1: Make time for yourself

On average, people spend only 15 minutes a day on ‘me-time’. That is far too little because self-care has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

If you’re too preoccupied with external responsibilities – instead of taking care of yourself – you may not know what makes you happy.

Take time to think about the things you can do to feel happy. Don’t look too far.

Find your happiness in small things: enjoy a sunrise, experience nature at its best, appreciate the conviviality of an evening with your family, take a warm bath, and listen to relaxing music.

In short, make time for the things you enjoy.

Tip 2: Increase your resistance

By increasing your resistance you can give your immune system a helping hand.

Eating and drinking as healthy as possible is a first requirement to increase your resistance.

Be sure to include fatty fish and green vegetables on your menu and provide a daily portion of vitamin C in the form of fresh fruit.

Can you never enjoy a sweet sin? Anyway. An occasional piece of dark chocolate is fine. It’s even healthy for your immune system!


Dark chocolate contains theobromine. This antioxidant boosts your immune system by protecting your body cells from free radicals.

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

If you are really not able to cook healthy every day, additional supplements in tablet form can help you. Supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, and fish oil (EPA/DHA fatty acids) are certainly worth considering.

Tip 3: Move, move, move!

Regular exercise and exercise help you to deal with stress better.

Exercise makes your body release endorphins, the chemical in your brain that relieves pain and stressExercise also lowers the level of stress hormones in your body.

You probably already knew that exercise is important for a healthy mind in a healthy body.

But various scientific studies also emphasize the importance of exercise.

What I already discussed in tip 1 also applies to exercise: do what you like!

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

Tip 4: Take care of your skin

At night you often fall asleep on the couch. When you wake up in the middle of the night, you drag yourself to your bed. You really don’t have the courage to clean your skin anymore. With make-up and without a nourishing night cream you dive into bed.

Stress makes you neglect your skin more often.

And yet, taking good care of your skin is very important to limit the negative effects of stress on your skin. If you clean your face well in the evening, harmful substances do not get the chance to affect your skin.

Earlier in this article you could also read that cortisol affects the barrier function of your skin, making your skin drier. Keeping them well hydrated is therefore very important.

You often look better with a nice tan. Still, it is important to protect your skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun and especially from the tanning bed. These thicken the skin, making it more sensitive to inflammation.

But there is another good reason why you should take good care of your skin. A well-known skin care brand conducted an eight-week study on the effects of acne on adults. As it turned out, a good skincare routine can lower stress.

A team of experts examined 30 acne-prone women ages 18 to 45 who followed a skincare routine. The results showed that the cortisol level decreased by about 83% and that the participants felt 76% more confident.

Tip 5: Have regular sex


Sex: if you experience chronic stress you probably don’t always feel like it. Nevertheless, sex is a very useful ‘tool’ for relieving stress.

By sharing the sheets with your partner, endorphins are produced. This is also known as the happiness hormone. This substance will simply make you feel happier.

You can also consider a portion of good sex – with a little imagination – as a form of exercise. Earlier you could read that exercise is important to lower the amount of cortisol in your body.

In addition, a Scottish study, published in the journal  Biological Psychology , found that sexual activity prevents a rise in blood pressure during stressful events.

Tip 6: Practice facial yoga

What Types of Skin Rashes Do You Get From Stress? Explanation + Tips

Yoga was developed thousands of years ago and various studies have shown that yoga has a beneficial effect on both body and mind.

Yoga improves blood circulation throughout your body and oxygen intake. And your skin benefits a lot from that. Your skin will not only look healthier but also recover better.

By the way, did you know that there is also such a thing as facial yoga and that it is a great alternative to surgery and botox?

Facial yoga exercises work all layers of your skin and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, making your skin look tighter and smoother.

Curious how facial yoga works? Be sure to watch the video below.

Tip 7: Solve the cause of your rash

The most important thing to do if you often suffer from rashes is to reduce your stress.

Learning how to manage stress in a healthy way is important if you want to cure your skin rash.

You can reverse the symptoms if you make the decision to change your lifestyle as soon as possible and take action to get your stress under control.



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