Study links stress to negative impact on ‘healthy’ skin conditions

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Study links stress to negative impact on ‘healthy’ skin conditions

Related tags: Skin

The psychological stress of events such as an exam or returning to work after a vacation, could have a negative effect on you skin’s barrier function, a new study shows.

There have been a number of studies done in the past showing that psychological stress is known to have a negative effect on a large number of skin diseases, such as psoriasis.

However, little research has been done on the relationship between psychological stress and the epidermal permeability barrier function (EPBF) of healthy individuals, which led to a team from  Iwate Medical University, Japan, deciding to look into it.

From the outset their view was that psychological stress deteriorates EPBF and aimed to investigate this relationship.

“Our results indicate a link between psychological stress and EPBF and suggest that psychological stress is a factor that influences skin conditions,”​ say the study authors.

In this case, the results indicate the possibility that psychological stress causes a decline in EPBF and deterioration in barrier disruption and recovery. Furthermore, it implies a relationship between psychological stress and the exacerbation or protracted healing of skin disease.


In the study psychological stress was assessed using salivary alpha-amylase (sAmy), which is a is a biochemical parameter that reflects psychological stress, and chromogranin A level corrected with total protein as psychological stress biomarkers (CgAP).

Measurements were obtained from 16 healthy female students during two periods of presumed higher stress, in this case final examinations and returning from a long vacation; and a period considered as a control.

The EPBF level was evaluated by measuring transepidermal water loss three times: just before, immediately after and four hours after barrier disruption by tape stripping.

The rate of barrier disruption was evaluated by comparing the difference between the TEWL at the start and straight after, while recovery was assessed by comparing the difference between the TEWL straight after and then four hours after.

Barrier disruption

The subjects demonstrated a significant increase in the sAmy value after the long vacation compared with the control. There was no change in the CgAP value between the groups.

Meanwhile, the EPBF level showed significant deterioration during both higher stress periods, with a significant increase in barrier disruption after the long vacation.

The research team says that future research should involve the combination of various methods or conditions of this study, such as type of subjects, stressors, types of biomarkers or questionnaires for indices, and so on.

“We believe by accumulation of these research relations among the endogenous physiological process, psychological stress and skin physiology will be clarified,”​ they add.



Fukuda, S., Baba, S. and Akasaka, T. (2015), Psychological stress has the potential to cause a decline in the epidermal permeability barrier function of the horny layer. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 37: 63–69. doi: 10.1111/ics.12169

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Skin Care

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