Work is stressful, you’re worried about money, and now your skin is breaking out in hives! Can it all be connected?!
The short answer is YES, stress and anxiety absolutely can and do affect your skin.
Why does anxiety cause rashes?
When you’re worried about something your body acts as if it's in danger. While a memo from your boss might not exactly be as lethal a tiger in the undergrowth, your body reacts to fear in the same way, whatever the circumstances; it’s just a question of degree. So any anxiety will trigger the release of substances that will allow the body to run away, very fast, from the danger it assumes is present. Unfortunately, cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream cause inflammation, which in turns makes for itchy skin.
What does anxiety rash look like?
The most common and obvious kind of anxiety rash is hives, which is characterised by raised itchy welts or bumps across the body. Hives can appear very suddenly and may take a day or so to subside, but may take longer if the original trigger is still affecting you.
Sudden or prolonged stress or anxiety can also cause chronic skin conditions to worsen, so you may find that your eczema, acne or psoriasis flaring up in response to a difficult or stressful situation. In that case the rash that your anxiety causes will look like that skin condition and can be itchy, inflamed, dry, spotty or scaly, depending on your condition.
What can you do about anxiety rash?
If you’re getting stress hives, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Press ice packs, ice towels or cold compresses to the area
- Direct a blast of cold air from fan at it
- Try not to itch! That will cause more histamine to be released, possibly break the skin, and make things even itchier; try pressing the area or patting it through fabric instead.
- Take an antihistamine to reduce the swelling
- Try applying our Cooling Cream to calm and cool yourself down
- Keep creams and balms in the fridge for extra cooling effect!
- Try - if possible - to take time out and unwind: long, deep, out-breaths for ten minutes can help in the immediate aftermath of a hives outbreak
- Find relaxation strategies that work for you longer term: meditation, walking, knitting, mindfulness, yoga etc. have all helped sufferers
For a more detailed explanation of the relationship between anxiety and rashes, read our article Stress and Your Skin.
Recommended products for stressed skin:
Balmonds Skin Salvation with hemp, beeswax and calendula (from £7.99 for 30ml)
Balmonds Cooling Cream with menthol, aloe & lavender (£19 for 100ml)
Balmonds Intensive Facial Oil with rosehip, lavender and chamomile (£22 for 30ml)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.