Woman in hajib scratching her arm from a stress rash 682x408


Stress rash on skin: Symptoms, causes and prevention

  • Stress can increase the level of the hormone cortisol, increasing inflammation in your body, which can lead to hives, acne, eczema and hair loss among other symptoms.
  • Warm temps, and caffeinated or alcoholic drinks all can aggravate hives.
  • The most common cause of hives is an allergic reaction but hives can also can be caused by a reaction to stress.

Has life during COVID-19, civil unrest and protests amped up your stress level? Well, that stress might very well lead to a stress rash such as hives or an acne breakout. Stress can also worsen conditions like eczema and psoriasis and lead to hair loss. Read on for tips to identify, treat and avoid it from happening.

What causes a stress rash?

Symptoms from a stress-filled life often show up in our skin and hair. When under stress, our body can have an increase in the hormone cortisol. This in turn can increase inflammation in your body and a flare of many conditions.

Can stress cause hives?

Raised red bumps on your face, neck, arms and chest, hives vary in size from tiny bumps to large welts. Severe hives form into itchy, burning clusters. The most common cause of hives is an allergic reaction, but, hives can also can be caused by a reaction to stress. Warm temps and caffeinated or alcoholic drinks can aggravate hives.

Does stress cause acne?

Can be caused when stress hormones rise, triggering your oil glands to produce more oil, and voila! An acne breakout.

Does stress affect eczema?

Eczema is red, itchy, dry and inflamed skin. While the cause of eczema isn’t known, one trigger for it does seem to be stress.

Can stress cause temporary hair loss?

Hair loss can be triggered by stress, but sudden, patchy hair loss also can be a sign of an underlying health condition. See a provider to determine the cause and treatment.

When to see a doctor for stress rash treatment

Most rashes and acne breakouts will clear up after a few days with good skin hygiene and over-the-counter medications.

Treatment is similar for skin breakouts and eczema. Antihistamines and medicated creams and ointments often help clear it up within a few days. If your condition doesn’t clear up within that time frame, check with a provider. Many skin conditions can be diagnosed and treated through a virtual or online visit. Definitely check with a provider if:

  • Your skin rash or breakout becomes so uncomfortable you are having trouble sleeping or focusing on daily tasks.
  • You develop a fever, red streaks, pus, skin peeling, blisters or scabs.

Depending on your symptoms, your provider may treat your skin rash or breakout with stronger antihistamines, steroids or antibiotics.

women stress rash

Image above shows what stress rash looks like


How to prevent a stress rash

  • No matter how stressful your life is, it’s important to maintain your normal skin care routine, avoid harsh soaps and detergents and moisturize your skin regularly.
  • After a shower, pat yourself dry, then apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
  • Develop your own routine for stress reduction. Use whatever works best for you which might include exercise, getting enough sleep, eating right, journaling, or taking some quiet time for you to unwind and relax.



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