Stressed Skin?: 4 Ways To Calm It

Have you ever woken up and noticed dryness and redness that showed up seemingly overnight? Your skin might be stressed out.

“Stressed skin can result from various factors, and finding the cause can help you decide how to address it, too.”

  • Shani Darden

Many factors can lead to stressed skin, but there are also a few ways to help it calm down again. Read on for some professional tips on how to soothe stressed skin.

What Causes Stressed Skin?

If you have stressed skin, it may not be immediately obvious. That’s because some of the obvious signs of stressed skin include irritation, dryness, itchiness, redness, and even breakouts – and unfortunately, there are quite a few skin conditions and factors that can cause these signs.

If these signs show up seemingly overnight, it’s likely that your skin is just having a stress-based reaction. However, if these signs show up gradually and stick around for a while, I suggest consulting your dermatologist to identify any possible underlying conditions.

Stressed skin may calm down once the aggressor is gone, so you might notice your dryness or redness disappear as quickly as it showed up. Here are a few things that can cause stress reactions in your skin.

Irritating or Ill-Fitting Skincare Products

Some skincare ingredients, while incredibly effective, can also cause stress for sensitive skin. Even normal skin can display redness and dryness with powerful ingredients like retinol.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the ingredient is bad for your skin – it just means that you might need to adjust your skincare routine to accommodate the product. If your skin is extremely sensitive, your dermatologist may even recommend gentler ingredients that achieve the same end goal.

Skincare products can also cause stressed skin if they aren’t a good fit for your skin type. For instance, products that are formulated for dry skin often include occlusives and emollients, which are heavy types of moisturizers. These ingredients are great for smoothing and hydrating dry skin but may exacerbate oily skin and cause breakouts.

Meanwhile, skincare products that are formulated for oily skin typically include exfoliating and pore-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid. While ingredients like these are great for helping balance oil production and shrink blemishes, they are likely to exacerbate redness and flakiness on dry skin types. 

Environmental Stressors

Environmental stress can also contribute to stressed skin. Factors like pollution and smoking can introduce toxins and lead to irritation.

A dry environment can also cause stressed skin. Your skin’s natural moisture mechanisms make heavy use of hyaluronic acid, which is a humectant.

This ingredient works by drawing in moisture from the environment and other skincare products and holding that moisture in your skin cells. However, your skin can't absorb moisture if you live in a dry environment, making you prone to dryness and stress.

Sun damage can also cause stressed skin. UV radiation can affect your skin cells and impact important cellular processes like collagen production. For instance, a sunburn is a common form of UV damage that can cause redness, itchiness, and dryness.


Exfoliating is an important part of every skincare routine. Your skin cells renew themselves often, and the dead skin cells left behind can sit on the surface of your skin.

This dead skin cell buildup can contribute to a flaky appearance and prevent products from reaching your skin. Without exfoliants, your serums and moisturizers can only be so effective. However, exfoliating too much can stress your skin out. 

Unless you’re using a gentle exfoliant that’s designed for daily use, I recommend exfoliating only once or twice a week. Anything more, and you risk damaging your skin barrier.

Your skin barrier helps keep moisture in your body and bacteria off of your skin. When this barrier is compromised, your skin has difficulty retaining hydration. Plus, you might notice more breakouts as more bacteria come into contact with your skin.


Another factor that can contribute to stressed skin is, well, stress. Mental and physical stress can trigger extra sebum production.

Although sebum is a necessary part of your skin’s natural hydration mechanisms, too much of it can clog your pores and create an unpleasant sheen. Sebum is also a natural food for blemish-causing bacteria and can encourage them to stick around.

These combined effects can result in breakouts and irritated, red blemishes. Plus, stress can exacerbate any underlying skin conditions you may have that already contribute to dryness, redness, or breakouts.

How Can I Calm Stressed Skin?

To truly solve the problem of your stressed skin, we recommend partnering with your dermatologist to identify the root cause of your skin’s stress. However, there are a few ways that you can take care of the discomfort in the meantime.

1. Assess Your Skincare Routine

If you have a skincare routine, it’s worth examining for stressors. When checking your skincare routine, it’s important to check for powerful ingredients like retinol and AHAs like lactic acid, glycolic acid, and citric acid.

If you have oily skin, I also recommend ensuring that your products are non-comedogenic or oil-free. Products with these labels are designed not to clog your pores, which can help avoid causing your skin stress.

If you’ve recently begun using a new product, that may be your culprit. Especially if the product contains a powerful ingredient, I recommend using this product two or three times a week and slowly tapering up to nightly use. 

One of my favorite products for soothing irritated skin is my Cleansing Serum. This soothing formula features hyaluronic acid and oat bran extract to help your skin hold on to extra moisture and olive and chicory leaf extracts to help soothe irritation. Plus, it’s free of fragrances and parabens, which are known to irritate sensitive skin.

2. Use a Soothing Serum

A soothing serum like iS Clinical’s Hydra-Cool Serum can help relieve redness and soothe itching related to dryness. This serum features hyaluronic acid for hydration, mushroom extract to relieve redness, and Vitamin B5 to give your skin a little extra boost of rejuvenation. 

I recommend applying a serum like this after your cleanser and any powerful ingredients to help reduce any irritation they may cause. 

3. Apply Moisturizer

One great product for stressed skin is a soothing moisturizer. Since signs of irritation like redness and itchiness are commonly related to dryness, the right moisturizer can be pretty effective at soothing the irritation.

If you have dry or sensitive skin, I recommend iS Clinical’s Reparative Moisture Emulsion. This hydrating emulsion can help calm redness and irritation while giving dry skin the support it needs to stay hydrated.

4. Apply a Calming Mask

Finally, I recommend applying a soothing mask. A mask that features soothing ingredients will not only help calm the irritation in your skin, it can also be an essential part of your nightly de-stressing routine. And remember – stress can lead to skin irritation.

Final Thoughts

Signs of stressed skin like redness, dryness, and irritation can be uncomfortable and frustrating to navigate – however, there are a few things you can do to calm that stress. Skincare products like hydrating serums, moisturizers, and soothing cleansers can all help give your skin the support it needs.


Hyaluronic Acid: What It Is, Benefits, How To Use & Side Effects | Cleveland Clinic

Skin Barrier Basics for People With Eczema | National Eczema Association

How Stress Affects Your Skin | Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers