How Stress Affects Your Skin, Hair and Nails

Applying for a new job.  Final exam week.  An ugly divorce.  Sudden illness.  What do all these things have in common?  In a word – stress.


We all know that stress has significant physical and psychological ramifications.  However, lesser known side effects of stress pertain to dermatological problems.  Conditions like acne, brittle nails, and hair loss are commonly associated with stress.

How Stress Affects Skin
When experiencing significant amounts of anxiety, our body’s level of cortisol (the stress hormone) rises.  Our skin reacts by increasing its oil production.  As a result, patients typically experience acne or other skin problems.  Even individuals who don’t usually suffer from acne can experience a bout of temporary stress-related acne.

Also, stress has a negative effect on the barrier function of the skin.  As a result, the skin suffers from water loss which reduces the tissue’s ability to repair itself after injury.

How Stress Affects Hair
One of the leading causes of temporary hair loss is stress.

The hair growth cycle consists of three phases.  During the last phase – telogen – hair naturally falls out.  As the old hair is shed, a new hair begins to grow in the vacated follicle.  When stress occurs, an unnaturally large amount of hairs prematurely advance to the telogen phase of growth.  Excessive hair loss occurs because so many of the scalp’s hairs are in this shedding phase.  This condition is called telogen effluvium.
Luckily, normal hair growth usually resumes within about six to nine months.

How Stress Affects Nails
In and of itself, stress causes white horizontal lines to appear across the nails.  Also, nails become brittle and begin to peel.  Many people who are stressed develop nervous habits or tics they are unaware of.  The most common nervous tics are biting and picking at nails.  Some people even rub their finger over the thumb nail when upset, causing a ridge to form.

How to Manage Stress
Managing the effects of stress can help alleviate some of the anxiety and side effects.
  • Learn to recognize the underlying problem that is triggering your stress.  Develop skills and practices to minimize the stress.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.  It doesn’t need to be a strenuous workout, just get your body moving.  Exercise releases endorphins in the body which can help reduce stress.
  • Avoid very hot showers or baths.  Use soap that is specific to your current stress-induced skin condition.  Apply moisturizer after bathing.
  • Use sunscreen (with SPF of 15 or higher) to protect your skin from further aggravation.
Look for ways to reduce your stress, which is the root of your skin, hair, and nail issues.  And most important of all, don’t stress about your stress-induced condition!  In time, it will pass and all will return to normal.

Guest author Laurel Walker recently moved across the country (she used a Jacksonville mover from  The process was extremely stressful, and she witnessed first-hand the effect stress can have on a person’s body.

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  1. I truly believe that stress has a great effect on us. So we need to learn how to manage stress in our lives because I know we cannot avoid stress.

  2. I also believe that stress damages the skin beauty, it must be avoided,try to avoid it feel live happy always,then watch how your skin glows.

  3. I agree and I know stressed mind will cause many problems, because I’ve experienced a lot. I’m so sensitive and I usually think so much even for a simple thing. I should concentrate on it.

  4. Nilima3:07 PM

    Stress makes your body release more hormones then usual, and it makes you break out!

  5. Sunanda3:08 PM

    It could give you a stress rash.

  6. Kusuma3:11 PM

    Stress can effect your period no matter what

  7. Health Expert3:12 PM

    Stress causes your skin to age and it can even cause acne. It also causes your cheeks to sag down, because your mouth is turned down because there is no smiling. Stress can also cause hair loss and weight loss or gain. Stress will make you ugly then kill try and relax! :-)


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