Date: 12/06/2021

by: Pacific Dermatology Specialists

Patient Education >Can Holiday Stress Really Change My Skin?

Stress is one of those things that always shows up at the worst times, and the holidays are a prime example. Stress goes much further than its emotional impact, however, and can cause issues for your skin this holiday season.


The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. Between planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after your houseguests who have already outstayed their welcome on the second night, you’re probably feeling pretty frustrated. You’re likely aware of many of the other accompanying physical symptoms of stress—from losing sleep to headaches and an aching, clenched jaw. But do you know the full extent of what stress can do to your skin?

As if stress itself wasn’t enough, it has to pile on with a variety of possible skin conditions. Stress may feel modern, with our concerns revolving around getting enough wine for a work party or finding the right (but impossibly elusive) gift for your nephew. But stress, and the way our body reacts to it, hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. While we aren’t avoiding predators and hunting mammoths anymore, our body’s reaction to stress doesn’t know that. So when we feel stressed about things that are admittedly stressful but not warranting a wave of adrenaline, we still get that adrenaline and all the other hormones it brings with it. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is one culprit for causing stress-related skin problems. Cortisol can cause the body to produce more oil, or sebum. Oil is necessary for protecting the skin and retaining moisture, but too much of it and our pores can become clogged. Acne flare ups are incredibly common when someone is stressed for this reason. Stress can also trigger the development of hives or other types of rash. Hives are red, raised welts that appear on the skin. They’re usually very itchy, and some experience pain or a burning sensation as well. Hives are usually the result of an allergic reaction -- a straightforward case of contact dermatitis. When an allergen comes into contact with the skin, it reacts and develops hives. Common allergens include fragrances, poison ivy, animal dander and some metals common in jewelry. Hives are more common in women, but they can happen to anybody, and sustained high stress makes them very common during the holidays. Stress can also trigger a variety of pre-existing skin conditions.


So how do you keep stress from wreaking havoc on your skin? There are a few different ways to approach holiday stress and the effect it has on your skin. A two-pronged approach is the best way to get your skin looking and feeling better. First, focus on what’s causing your stress and find ways to reduce it. Second, treat the skin conditions that stress causes with the help of your dermatologist. Reducing stress -- that’s certainly easier said than done. But here are a few tips for tackling holiday stress. Practice mindfulness: yoga, meditation, therapy, or whatever works for reducing stress for you. You can’t just drop all your responsibilities, but managing your stress is possible, it’s just a matter of finding the right method. Regular exercise is important. Walk, run, lift weights, do whatever you can to keep your body moving. This is a good way to work out stress and use that stress as a motivation. Getting enough sleep -- at least seven hours nightly -- can also greatly reduce stress. As for the second prong, treat your skin condition, which all depends on what you’re dealing with. For acne or other intensifying, pre-existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, consulting your dermatologist is the only way to make sure you’re treating stress-related skin issues properly.

Yes, holiday stress really can change your skin. If you’re dealing with a lot this winter and your skin is suffering, reach out to the qualified skincare providers at Pacific Dermatology Specialists today.

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