Woman with Stress Hives on her chestThe winter holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family and celebrate the better aspects of humanity like goodwill, joy, and generosity. Unfortunately, for many people, the holidays also come with a huge helping of stress. Financial strains, family arguments, long-distance travel, and party planning can all be contributors to holiday anxiety.

As you probably know, frequent or intense stress is bad for your health. Many dermatologists say that these detrimental effects due to holiday stress, also include your skin. There are a variety of skin conditions that can be aggravated by holiday stress or stress of any type. These are mainly inflammatory conditions and include hives, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.

How Stress affects your skin

Before we get into these specific diseases, let’s discuss how stress worsens some dermatologic conditions. Your skin is an organ like any other, and all the body’s organs are related and interdependent. Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system which largely controls the “fight or flight” response. This response triggers a number of body processes, and among the most important is the secretion of adrenaline into your bloodstream.

Your body cannot differentiate between causes of stress. Being chased by an angry bear and dreading a dinner conversation with your in-laws both cause your body to react in very similar ways. Stress and adrenaline cause your skin to become more reactive and leads to an inflammation response. So people with inflammatory skin conditions more readily experience a flare of their disease when stressed out. Some of these conditions include

Stress Induced Hives

Known medically as urticaria, hives are raised, red welts that may appear almost anywhere on the body. They may connect to form larger patterns and also may be itchy. Hives are a common symptom of allergic reactions to foods or materials like latex. However, some patients have no obvious allergic triggers. In such cases, their welts may appear due to stress and anxiety and holiday stress is no exception.

Patients with chronic hives may experience welts that last up to six weeks. If you notice a flare-up of your hives, it’s best to get to a dermatologist as soon as possible. Your specialist will likely be able to give you a medication, such as an antihistamine or steroid, which will reduce your itching and the visibility of your hives.

You should note that severe swelling associated with hives, especially in your face or throat area, is a medical emergency. These symptoms require immediate medical attention as swelling could block your airway and cause extreme harm or even death.


There are many forms of psoriasis but, in general, the symptoms consist of silvery, plaque-like scales that vary greatly in size from patient to patient. These lesions are dry and may itch or burn. While all of the triggers for psoriasis are not yet fully understood, dermatology experts list stress as one of the chief culprits.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease. Most patients will have to deal with symptoms from time to time for life. However, avoiding stressful situations and other triggers can go a long way towards helping you manage this disease. It can be difficult or impossible to avoid some stresses such as the holidays, but your dermatologist can help you manage your symptoms.


Eczema or atopic dermatitis is another inflammatory skin condition. It is common among both children and adults and is usually characterized by an itchy rash. As with other skin conditions, many eczema patients have triggers that can cause flare-ups of their disease. These triggers include stress, certain fabrics, soaps, detergents, or cosmetics.

Just as with hives, an eczema trigger does not necessarily have to be an external factor. Stress can act as an trigger. While it is certainly important to avoid materials and chemicals that may cause your eczema to flare, it is just as vital to take measures to control the stressors in your life.


The main symptom of rosacea is facial redness or skin flushing. This condition is most common among Caucasian people with light skin tones. Rosacea patients can have breakouts that resemble acne. The redness is mainly caused by broken capillaries and inflammation.

Several factors may influence a rosacea flare including temperature and humidity. Unfortunately, stress is also one of these factors. A person who is upset or anxious typically has more blood flow to their facial skin, which can contribute to rosacea symptoms.

What to Do if Holiday Stress Causes Skin Condition Flare Ups?

This holiday season, try to remember that the holidays are for everyone – including yourself. Take time out to enjoy yourself, relax, and de-stress. Also, if you experience skin symptoms, don’t neglect to consult with your dermatologist. They can offer invaluable advice and appropriate medications to help get you feeling and looking better.