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Be Informed: How Internal and External Stress Can Affect Your Skin

April is Stress Awareness Month, so let’s talk about how stress (internal or external) can have an effect on your skin without you being aware.

A healthy dose of stress can propel us to greatness, sharpen our immune response, and aid in good decision-making.  An overload of stress can cause a great deal of harm, both mentally and physically. Classic stress-related symptoms we all recognize as stress include:

  • Lack of focus – brain fog, inability to complete tasks, forgetfulness 
  • Headache – migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches
  • Loss of/Increased appetite – not eating or overeating
  • Chest pain – feelings of having a heart attack, lining of rib cage inflamed
  • Insomnia – loss of sleep

Internal and external stress can also have a visible effect on the skin as well – and it’s more than just the connection between stressors, your brain, and turning red/flushing when you’re nervous or anxious.  The connection is much deeper, much more visible, and is commonly blown off as “I just have problem skin.”  My challenge to you is to consider the relationship between your stress levels and what’s visibly going on with your largest organ – your skin.  Consider this:

When stress is up, your endocrine system produces cortisol, which causes your skin to produce more oil that can clog pores and produce what appears to be a typical acne breakout.  Likewise, increased cortisol can result in more inflammation throughout the body that can agitate autoimmune conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis flare symptoms can look something like this:

Having dealt with psoriasis for 20+ years, being aware of my body and how it responds has been critical in recognizing and quickly mediating a stress flare.  Knowing your body and how it responds to work, medication, environmental, or other stress factors is the key to knowing if your skin issue is the result of stress or something else.  For the purposes of this writing, signs of stressed skin and how to alleviate it is the focus.


  • Skin oilier than normal
  • Acne breakouts
  • Hive-like rashes
  • Increased sensitivity to products and or sun
  • Inflammation of eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.
  • Hair loss or increased hair shedding


  • Maintain a skincare routine (at a minimum – cleanse, tone, and moisturize according to your skin type)
  • Commit to activities that increase the release of endorphins (walking, comfort food in moderation, acupuncture, sex)
  • Increase activities that promote sleep (deep breathing at bedtime, herbal tea, sleep stories)
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake and lessen processed, sugary foods that hinder skin rejuvenation

We are constantly being hammered these days with the importance of self-care, self-love, personal care, and wellness.  These are all important; however, none will work unless it is practiced with intention.   Being intentional and committing to reducing stress through how you care for yourself makes the process effective and fun.  Allowing yourself to think inwardly on the things you enjoy, then being purposeful in putting the activity to practice helps reduce stress. This, in turn, lowers cortisol, improves skin health, and ultimately helps you live with a full cup as opposed to an empty one.



Article Written by: Kim Cross | Kim is the owner and Happy Skin Formulator at Zhi Bath & Body, a natural skincare shop based in Charlotte, NC.  She has been in the beauty industry for the last 30 years as a stylist and skincare formulator.  Having dealt with severe psoriasis for over 20 years, she knows the hardship of finding products that are gentle, good for the skin, and smell amazing. 16 years of research and formulating has resulted in a goat milk skincare and soy candle line that is simply amazing. Helping you love you…naturally. 


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