Home Health & Wellness Stress and Itchy Skin – What’s the Connection?

Stress and Itchy Skin – What’s the Connection?

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The feeling of being stressed is a common feeling for us all, with 74% of people feeling overwhelmed due to stress in the last year alone. But when you feel stressed, have you ever noticed changes to your skin?  

The mind and skin are intrinsically linked, also known as the mind-skin connection. Stress can be a common trigger for skin flare-ups, especially when diagnosed with itchy skin conditions like eczema. Research suggests that stress can disrupt the function of the skin’s barrier, which normally protects the skin from harmful substances and loss of moisture. This kind of disruption to the skin is a key factor in many skin conditions.

Living with symptoms of eczema, like sore, dry skin and an itch which is made worse by scratching, can be challenging on our emotional well-being. Symptoms can impact sleep, mood, and confidence leading to further stress. In a recent National Eczema Society report, 75% of adults claim that eczema has negatively impacted their mental health.

Dermatology nurse, Paula Oliver, advises: ‘With dry skin and eczema, it’s very common for people to find themselves in the “itch-scratch cycle”. Sometimes the itch gets so bad that we scratch it until it bleeds, which can worsen the skin.’

So how can you break the itch-scratch cycle? Try these top tips to help restore your balance:

  • Use non-perfumed products: Nurse Paula Oliver recommends: ‘Use non-perfumed products and apply moisturiser regularly (at least twice a day). If you get the urge to scratch, reach for your moisturiser and apply it in downward strokes – don’t rub or massage it in as this can increase the itch.’
  • Take a bath (without bubbles): Taking a bath can release oxytocin, the happy hormone, which helps to relieve stress; however, did you know that a bubble bath can cause your skin to flare up further? Try a bath additive that is designed for sensitive and itchy skin.
  • Use an emollient that contains urea: Balneum’s Dry Skin and Itch Relief Cream £12.99 is designed to hydrate and soothe dry, itchy skin. It locks moisture into the skin by replacement of much-needed oils and is proven to relieve the itch within five minutes.
  • Wear cotton: ‘Wool or synthetic fabrics are best avoided, so opt for more cotton items of clothing which may be more comfortable,’ Paula recommends.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: Lack of sleep can impact stress, but if itchy skin keeps you up at night, make sure you use a thick cream that helps the skin retain moisture before you go to bed, to avoid it disrupting your sleep.


Paula Oliver is a nurse consultant in dermatology and her comments are made in line with her many years of experience in dermatology in order to help people care for their skin. Her comments in no way suggest any endorsement of a particular brand or product.

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