Stressed out? It shows on your skin

Stressed out? It shows on your skin

Contributed by Dr Kok Wai Leong, Senior Consultant Dermatologist, StarMed Specialist Centre

Is stress wreaking havoc on your skin? If you’re noticing rashes, acne breakouts, or other skin issues, it may be more than just a coincidence. 

I often get asked by patients whether there is a link between stress and skin health – the short answer is a resounding yes. Many of us have experienced outbreaks of rashes, acne, or sensitive skin during stressful periods. This is your body’s response to stressors from environmental changes or personal challenges.

Stress stems from various sources, from preparing for an important presentation to coping with loss or a devastating life event. When feeling stressed, your body triggers a chain reaction of increased levels of hormones and chemical signals. These changes can manifest in various skin, hair, and nail issues, including:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Inflammation in the skin
  • Hair loss
  • More oil and sebum production
  • Skin infection and delayed wound healing

Sensitive skin
During periods of stress, your body’s immune response undergoes changes that can lead to more sensitive and reactive skin. As a result, you may notice redness and itching, or stress-induced hives characterised by raised, itchy bumps or patches.

Inflammation in the skin
Stress is a catalyst for various inflammatory skin conditions, notably atopic dermatitis and rosacea. Atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, flares up due to heightened inflammation levels during stressful periods. Similarly, rosacea, characterised by facial redness, worsens as stress triggers increased blood flow to the skin, intensifying the symptoms.

Immune-related conditions, also known as autoimmune diseases, occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells, including those of the skin. Individuals with vitiligo, a condition characterised by white patches on the skin, may experience exacerbations triggered by extreme or sudden stress.

Hair loss
Hair loss, known as telogen effluvium, is another common consequence of stress. This condition often occurs after significant physical or emotional stressors, resulting in temporary hair loss and nail abnormalities.

More oil and sebum production
Individuals with acne may notice flare-ups during times of stress. This occurs due to heightened cortisol levels, which stimulate increased activity in the oil glands. Similarly, skin infections like cold sores may flare up, and wounds may take longer to heal when stress levels are high.

Skin Infection and delayed wound healing
Skin infections such as cold sores are typically more active during periods of stress. Also, you might find that your skin does not heal as well when you are stressed.

Behavioural and lifestyle effects
Stress can indirectly affect your skin in many ways through behavioural and lifestyle changes. It can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, and exacerbate tendencies to scratch or touch the skin, which can further aggravate existing rashes or acne.

Furthermore, individuals under stress may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive consumption of sugary and dairy-laden comfort foods or increased alcohol and tobacco use. These actions may aggravate skin inflammation and worsen conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or urticaria.

Caring for your skin during times of stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, affecting everyone to varying degrees. While it’s impossible to completely eradicate stress from our daily routines, there are effective strategies for mitigating its impact on both our minds and skin.

Begin by prioritising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness exercises. These practices can significantly reduce stress levels, benefiting you’re your mind and your skin. Additionally, adopting healthy habits like staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and ensuring you get enough sleep can work wonders for your skin health.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Stick to a consistent healthy lifestyle routine, as your skin requires good habits for repair and restoration.
  • Adhere to any additional skincare routines recommended by your dermatologist to address specific concerns.
  • Be mindful of your urge to scratch or touch your face. Instead, try distraction techniques like tapping and keep your hands clean.
  • If you find yourself struggling to cope with stress, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Behavioural therapy and other therapeutic options can provide valuable support.

By being mindful of the impact of stress on our skin and taking proactive steps to manage it, you can safeguard your skin’s health and appearance. Remember to continue implementing these lifestyle and skincare practices, and if your skin concerns persist, consult with a dermatologist for personalised guidance.

Schedule a consultation with StarMed’s Senior Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Kok Wai Leong, via our Virtual Patient Companion here. Alternatively, you may reach out to us at 6322 6333, or through WhatsApp at 9655 2101 to secure an appointment.


  1. Hunter HJA, Momen SE, Kleyn CE, et al. The impact of psychosocial stress on healthy skin. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015;40(5):540–546.
  2. Patel A, Jafferany M, et al. Multidisciplinary and Holistic Models of Care for Patients With Dermatologic Disease and Psychosocial Comorbidity: A Systematic Review. JAMA Dermatol. 2020;156(6):686–694.

Difference among Heart Diseases

Difference among Heart Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. According to the World Heart Organisation, there were 17 million premature deaths (under age 70) worldwide, 38% of whom were due to cardiovascular diseases. (1)

In Singapore alone, according to the Singapore Heart Foundation, 1 out of 3 deaths is due to heart disease or stroke. On average, 23 individuals die from heart disease each day in Singapore. From data collected in 2022, cardiovascular disease accounted for 31.4% of all deaths in Singapore. (2)

An overview of Cardiovascular Disease

The term cardiovascular disease encompasses a wide range of diseases related to the heart, the blood vessels, or both. These disorders can seriously hamper a person’s quality of life and survival as their implications are often systemic and complications may further damage other vital organs such as the brain (as in stroke).

Cardiovascular diseases may originate as a consequence of intrinsic heart dysfunction. This group of disorders include heart rhythm abnormalities, conduction defects of the heart, dysfunctions of the myocardium, and diseases of the heart valves. This can cause ineffective pumping of the blood, resulting in heart failure.

On the other hand, some cardiac diseases may be due to systemic pathologies of blood vessels. These may be primary disorders such as essential hypertension, caused by the age-related stiffening of blood vessels. In addition, such disease may be secondary to some other systemic pathology such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

Explaining the terminology – Difference in Cardiovascular, Heart Disease & Coronary Heart Disease (3)

Cardiovascular Disease – It is a more general term under which all illnesses related to the heart or blood vessels are classified. It includes arrhythmias, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, coronary artery disease, cardiac failure, peripheral artery disease, stroke, cardiomyopathy and congenital heart defects.

The primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease are smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol consumption and genetic predisposition. Such risk factors ultimately compromise the function of the heart directly or most commonly through the buildup of plaques in the arteries.

The primary symptoms of cardiovascular disease are shortness of breath, chest pain and discomfort, easy fatiguability, palpitations, and dizziness for which immediate medical help must be sought.

Heart Disease – Although this term is used interchangeably with cardiovascular disease, it is important to differentiate the two. The term “heart disease” refers to conditions in which there is a local pathology limited to the heart only such as problems with cardiac muscles, cardiac conduction systems or heart valves. Thus, every cardiovascular disease is not a heart disease but every heart disease is classified under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease if not properly managed may ultimately lead to heart failure, where the heart is unable to pump the blood efficiently. So, the treatment of heart failure must be accompanied by the treatment of the primary heart disease which leads to heart failure.

Coronary Heart Disease – This is a disorder related specifically to the blood vessels which supply the muscles of the heart, the coronary arteries. Like all other muscles of the body, the muscles of the heart also need oxygen-rich blood for proper functioning.

In coronary heart disease, the supply of oxygen-rich blood is interrupted due to the narrowing of the coronary vessels or their spontaneous spasm. Such narrowing happens due to the build-up of ‘plaque’, the primary cause of which is atherosclerosis. Over time this narrowing worsens and the heart tissue is further compromised due to lack of enough oxygen. Ultimately this results in a severe emergency, the symptoms of which are called “heart attack”.

How to prevent Cardiovascular Disease? (4)

Although genetic predisposition is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), most of the risk factors are modifiable. The risks can be minimised by the following ways:

  • Eat a balanced diet – Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains are packed with natural vitamins and antioxidants. Meats rich in low-density lipids and salt-rich diets should be avoided. Add diets containing high-density lipoproteins to your diet since they are cardioprotective. These include avocado, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish.
  • Remain physically active – Regular physical exercise remains the best weapon in your arsenal against cardiovascular diseases. Steady-state cardio (such as brisk walking) done regularly has been shown to significantly reduce CVD and hypertension.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight – Excess body fat can result in insulin resistance and CVD. The risk of metabolic syndrome can be significantly managed by maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol – Smoking significantly increases the risk for atherosclerosis. Alcohol can also increase the risk of CVD. Counselling and support groups can provide help in doing so.
  • Avoid added sugars – Added sugars alone are responsible for increasing cardiovascular risk. Manage intake of sugar and carbohydrates with high glycemic index.
  • Manage stress levels – Stress and anxiety are also a risk factor for CVD. Effective management of daily life stresses is also effective.

In short, cardiovascular disease is one of the most common health issue with significant morbidity and mortality. Seek immediate help in case of any symptoms and conduct regular visits to your physician for screening and optimisation of your cardiac health.

You may book a Health Screening appointment at Amara Clinic or contact our clinic for your enquiries about Personal Health Screenings. For enquiries about corporate healthcare programmes, including Executive Health Screenings, GP Services, or Weight management programmes, please contact our Corporate HQ.