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Can Stress Cause Dry Skin? What We Discovered

The top layer of your skin is made up of dead cells and is covered by natural oils, which trap moisture to keep the skin soft. But if there’s not enough moisture in this top layer, which can happen if the protective oils production is reduced, dry skin could result. Dryness can make the skin flaky or itchy, which is quite uncomfortable1. Sometimes the dryness can be too much to tolerate, and it may indicate some other medical condition. If the dryness is so severe that it interferes with your ability to work or sleep, it cracks or bleeds; then it requires medical treatment2.

Stress and Dry Skin

Your stress levels can seriously impact your skin, which may flare up your existing skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema and causing other side effects. Stress can affect your immune system, which may result in a dry skin rash.

Stress may affect the skin’s barrier, which reduces your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Stay hydrated when you’re under stress to keep your skin smooth. It would be best if you also were extra careful about moisturizers which should be hypo-allergenic and unscented.3

Stress can affect the whole body, so prioritizing your overall well-being is a must. Long-term stress may play a role in premature aging and reduced elasticity in the skin. This loss in elasticity can cause dryness and wrinkles in the skin. When the skin is stressed, it can lead to a decrease in hyaluronic acid synthesis, which can lead to moisture loss in the skin, leading to dry skin. Stress can also increase free radical formation, which can lead to skin aging. Chronic stress can show up on your face, possibly leading you to look older than you actually are.

Other Causes of Dry Skin


The fragrant oils in perfume tend to irritate dry skin even more, so avoid such products that have too much fragrance. That’s because these oils are a common reason for allergic dermatitis. Most creams and body lotions have excess fragrant oils, and they may be more harmful than good for your skin.


Many soaps, detergents, and shampoos extract moisture from your skin and scalp, as they are formulated to remove oil. Carefully choose your soaps, shampoos, and body washes, including laundry detergents, so that they do not contain any harsh ingredients.

Acne Medications

Salicylic acid can be great at treating acne, but it may also dry out your skin when you first start using it. Retinol also causes dryness. If there is burning, peeling, and flaking of the skin, then it is better to stop using the product.

Dry Air

Sometimes the air inside the room can be as bad on your skin as the air outside. Most ventilation systems draw out the humidity from the air making skin feel dry and itchy. Luckily, you don’t need to suffer from dry, itchy skin all winter. You may consider installing a humidifier that will increase indoor humidity.

Long, Hot Showers

It might be tempting to stand under a scalding hot water shower for a long time, especially during the cold months. But this practice could end up creating issues with your skin. In many cases, you will have reactions with the soap or bath shampoo and experience dry skin. Limit your showers to less than five minutes while keeping the water temperature warm. Afterward, apply a moisturizing cream within quickly after getting out of the shower, as moisturizers work best on damp skin.


Dry skin tends to become more of an issue as people get older. Adults above 40 years of age are at an increased risk of having dry skin, affecting about half of the individuals in this age group. As you get older, your skin produces less oil and gets drier. For women, it could also be due to the hormone changes associated with menopause. Moisturize every day or multiple times a day if needed to replenish lost moisture.

Certain Medical Conditions

Skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema can make your skin more prone to dryness. So how might you know if the dryness is the result of the weather or something more serious? Look out for inflamed areas, redness, itchiness, or scaly patches on the skin, and if they look serious, consult a doctor.

How Can You Relieve Stress?

Stress is the body’s response to an unwanted situation. Everyone experiences stress in life at one time or another. It can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one. The stress response includes increased heart rate and high blood pressure. It induces fear, anger, and negative thoughts.

How to Handle Stress?

While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover4.

  • Eat and drink to optimize your health. Eating a balanced and healthy diet and avoiding junk food can help you to combat stress. Avoid alcohol or overeating.

  • Exercise regularly. Apart from the obvious physical health benefits, exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Consider aerobic exercise, weight training, or movement activities such as yoga. High-intensity exercises release endorphins, which are hormones that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.

  • Avoid using tobacco and nicotine products. People who smoke often call it a stress reliever. Nicotine puts more stress on the body by increasing blood pressure, reducing blood flow, and slows breathing.

  • Study and practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps manage stress and protect the body from the effects of stress.

  • Reduce triggers of stress. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. Meet and interact with friends and close relatives who are ready to support you in times of need.

  • You can also do deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, music therapy, etc.

Ask your doctor about these techniques to reduce stress and associated dry skin issues.

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