Women applying cream to arm

Can stress cause dry skin?

Work… relationships… financial pressures… the news… there’s so much to worry about these days, it’s no wonder we all feel stressed from time to time! And as well as playing on our mind, stress affects our bodies too – especially our skin. There’s a definite link between stress and dry skin, so if you’ve got a lot on your plate, you might see skin flare-ups start to appear. But just like a little bit of meditation helps to calm our thoughts, a good coating of moisturiser can help to de-stress our skin too.

How does stress affect my skin?

Skin is the biggest organ in the body and the first thing any outside elements come in to contact with - it almost acts like a suit of armour. When you put it like that, it makes perfect sense that skin is the first thing to react to stressful situations.

Did you know…?
There’s a whole field of medicine dedicated to the impact our emotions have on our skin – it’s known as Psychodermatology.


Image showing the itch scratch cycle

When skin is under pressure it can get spotty, wrinkly, baggy, dull… and if you’re wondering does stress cause dry skin? The answer is an absolute yes. When you feel stressed (for short or extended periods of time) you produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which affect different functions – including the flow of blood to your skin. This can make you sweat more, which leads to loss of moisture. The result? Stress-induced dry skin.

Dry skin from stress can also go one step further and aggravate existing skin conditions. That lack of moisture inflames those patches of eczema, kick-starting the itch-scratch cycle. And while more research is needed in this area, one study showed that 66% of people with psoriasis reported it was made worse by stress – which is again down to an increase in inflammation.

Stress = flare-ups = more stress. It’s a vicious cycle that’s really hard to break – and we know just how much of an impact that can have on your life.

What are the signs my skin is stressed?

Women's hand showing Eczema

It’s so easy to power through with our busy lives and ignore those tell-tale stress signals - so you might find that your skin is the first thing to tell you that you need a break! If you notice any of these start to pop up, it might be time for a bit of R&R:

  • Acne: those pesky hormones block the sebaceous glands in our skin, which can cause spots if you’re already prone. 
  • Wrinkles or frown lines: stress affects the proteins in your skin so it can lose its elasticity.

  • Dullness in the skin: you can lose your glow if dead skin cells build up on the surface of your skin. 
  • Wounds that take longer to heal: we’re all guilty of picking that irritating scab in stressful moments – but there’s also some evidence to suggest that stress impacts the messages sent to our sensory nerves, which can impact inflammatory and immune responses.
  • Flare-ups in eczema and psoriasis: stress sparks the itch-scratch cycle which leads to flakes, cracks and soreness. You could almost call it a dry skin stress rash.

How can I de-stress my skin?

Now we know why we’re getting dry skin from stress and can spot the signs, we can take some steps to improve it. Try a few of these top tips to help your skin be more chill.

Tip 1: Take care of yourself
Getting enough sleep, doing some exercise and eating healthily will all make you feel better – and you’ll see the results of this in your skin.

Tip 2: Drink more water
As we discovered, stress-induced dry skin is down to the lack of moisture caused by those pesky hormones, so a few extra glasses will help your skin stay hydrated.

Women applying moisturiser to her neck and arm

Tip 3: Make time to moisturise
Moisturising is a key part of a skincare routine and especially important for fighting dehydration in skin. With no fragrances, SLS or steroids, Epaderm Cream is great for everyday use. Or if you think your skin needs a bigger drink, try a layer of Epaderm Ointment overnight to really lock that moisture in while you sleep.

Tip 4: Be prepared for flare-ups
Stressful moments tend to happen outside of the house – and if it’s causing an eczema flare-up, it’s important to moisturise wherever you are to stop that itch-scratch-stress cycle getting worse. Pop a little pot of Epaderm in your bag and you’ll always have a way to help keep your skin calm.

Tip 5: Ask for help if you need it
This is just as important for skin health as it for mental health. If the effects of stress on your skin are getting too much for you to handle, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the treatments available.

Stress is something we all experience in our daily lives. So if you find yourself with stress-induced dry skin, or notice that stress is exacerbating your Eczema or Psoriasis, the good news is you don’t need to master the art of meditation to combat this. With a few self-care tips and a good moisturiser, you can help keep your skin hydrated and healthy.


Stress - Every Mind Matters - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Does stress cause skin problems? (bupa.co.uk)

How Stress Hurts Your Skin (insider.com)

Self-reported stress reactivity and psoriasis-related stress of Nordic psoriasis sufferers - PubMed (nih.gov)

Stress And Skin Conditions | LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor UK

Does Stress Cause Wrinkles? Yes, It Can Speed up Skin Aging (insider.com)

5 signs you have stressed-out skin – and how to fix it (cosmopolitan.com)

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