Signs of Stress: Rash, Hives, and More

Signs of Stress: Hives, Rash, and More

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  • Stress Shows

    Stress Shows

    You know when you’re experiencing stress. After your boss comes down hard on you or you get stuck in a particularly bad rush hour commute, you feel the effects. Your heart beats quickly, you breathe faster, and you sweat and feel anxious. At the end of a very stressful day you can feel irritable or have trouble sleeping.

    But that’s not the entire story. In addition to changing how you feel, stress can change the way you look. The outward signs often show up on your skin, hair, and nails.

    Learn how to prevent stress »

    Click through the slideshow to see examples of the physical signs of stress.

  • Acne Flare-Ups

    Acne Flare-Ups

    Have you ever wondered why you break out right before a big test or meeting at work? The link between stress and acne has to do with hormones. When you’re under stress, your body pumps out more of certain hormones, such as cortisol. These hormones cause glands under your skin to produce more oil. Excess oil can get trapped inside hair follicles, along with dirt and dead skin cells, producing pimples.

    Stressing out? See a visualization of how stress affects the body »

  • Inflamed Psoriasis and Rosacea

    Inflamed Psoriasis and Rosacea

    If you already have a skin condition like psoriasis or rosacea, stress can make it worse. Psoriasis is a buildup of too many skin cells, which form scaly silvery patches on the body. It’s caused by inflammation, which can be fueled by stress. That’s why people with psoriasis often get flares of the disease when they’re tense.

    Stress is also one of the most common triggers of rosacea flare-ups. These are red flushes that spread across the nose, cheeks, and chin.

  • Stressed People Aren’t Kind to Their Skin

    Stressed People Aren’t Kind to Their Skin

    Even if you have perfect skin, you might not treat it very well when you’re under stress. Stress is a distraction that can make you neglect your skin care regimen, which should include daily washing and moisturizing, as well as eating a healthy diet. Stressed-out people also tend to develop bad habits when it comes to their skin. They may pull or rub at it, or pop pimples. These bad habits can lead to permanent scarring.

  • Hives/Rash


    Hives are red, swollen, itchy bumps on the skin. Some people get them as part of an allergic reaction to an insect sting, food, or medicine. Others notice hives popping up on their skin on a more regular basis. Chronic hives may be due to an immune response, which is triggered by factors like heat, extreme exercise, or alcohol use. Stress can also cause hives, and it can make hives you already have even worse.    

  • Brittle Nails

    Brittle Nails

    Stress also shows on your hands. When you’re under duress, your nails can become thin and brittle. People who are stressed are also more likely to have bad nail habits, such as biting or picking at their nails and cuticles. This can damage nails even more and possibly lead to an infection. If you have the habit of rubbing your finger over your nails, it can eventually cause a bump or ridge to form in the middle of the nails.

  • Hair Loss

    Hair Loss

    Shiny, thick hair is more than just part of your image, it’s also a sign of good health. Your hair constantly goes through phases. It grows during the anagen (active) phase and falls out during the telogen (resting) phase. When you’re stressed, your hair stays in the resting phase longer, causing you to lose more hair. Rarely, people who are stressed develop a condition called trichotillomania, which causes an uncontrollable urge to pull out the hair. 

  • Sweating It Out

    Sweating It Out

    Just about everyone has broken out in a sweat during a stressful situation, such as a nerve-wracking job interview or a difficult test. The sweat comes from apocrine glands, which are concentrated under the skin of the armpits and groin. That’s why you may see dark stains forming under the arms of your shirt when you’re nervous. The fluid combines with bacteria living on your skin, creating that unpleasant sweat smell.

  • Treat Stress, Clear Skin

    Treat Stress, Clear Skin

    When your skin has suffered as a result of stress, you need to treat the cause. Try fighting stress with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, massage, meditation, and yoga. These techniques reduce levels of the stress hormones that can lead to breakouts and flare-ups of skin conditions. Also, see a dermatologist for treatments that will help clear your skin. When your skin improves, your mood might do the same.