Can Stress Cause Cysts On Skin?

Have you ever wondered if stress can actually cause cysts to develop on your skin? It’s an interesting question that many have pondered. Stress has long been known to have a significant impact on our physical and mental health, but could it also be a culprit behind those pesky skin cysts? In this article, we will explore the connection between stress and the formation of cysts on the skin, shedding light on this intriguing topic. So, sit back, relax, and let’s uncover the truth behind this potential link.


Cysts on the skin can be a cause of concern for many individuals. Understanding what these cysts are and how they are related to stress is important in order to effectively manage and prevent their occurrence. In this article, we will explore the definition of skin cysts and stress, the different types of skin cysts, the causes of skin cysts, the effects of stress on the skin, the connection between stress and cyst formation, research on stress and its impact on cysts, strategies for managing stress to prevent skin cysts, treatment options for skin cysts, preventive measures, and the importance of consulting a dermatologist. So, let’s dive in!

Definition of cysts on skin

Skin cysts are fluid-filled or semisolid sacs that can develop anywhere on the body. They are typically benign and painless, but can sometimes become inflamed or infected. Cysts are believed to form when skin cells, hair follicles, or oil glands become trapped and accumulate. While they can vary in size, shape, and consistency, cysts are generally round or oval in shape and may be firm or soft to the touch. It is important to note that not all skin growths are cysts, as some may be warts or tumors, which require different forms of treatment.

Definition of stress

Stress is a natural response to a challenging or threatening situation, be it physical, mental, or emotional. When you encounter stress, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, preparing you for a “fight or flight” response. While stress is a normal part of life, excessive or prolonged stress can have detrimental effects on both your physical and mental health.

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Types of Skin Cysts

Epidermoid cysts

Epidermoid cysts, also known as epidermal inclusion cysts, are the most common type of skin cysts. These cysts develop when cells from the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) accumulate in a confined space. Epidermoid cysts are typically slow-growing, measuring anywhere from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. They are usually found on the face, neck, chest, and back.

Pilar cysts

Pilar cysts, also referred to as trichilemmal cysts or wen, are cysts that form within the hair follicles. These cysts are often smooth, mobile, and filled with keratin, a protein found in hair, skin, and nails. Pilar cysts are most commonly found on the scalp, but can also occur on other parts of the body.

Sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cysts are formed when the sebaceous glands, which produce the oil that lubricates the hair and skin, become blocked or damaged. These cysts contain a thick, yellowish substance called sebum, and are typically found on the face, neck, or torso. Sebaceous cysts can range in size and may have a central blackhead-like opening.

Dermoid cysts

Dermoid cysts are rare, congenital cysts that develop from cells present during early fetal development. Unlike other types of cysts, dermoid cysts can contain tissues such as hair follicles, sweat glands, and sometimes even teeth and bone. These cysts are typically found on the face, neck, or in the areas around the reproductive organs.


Milia are small, white or yellowish cysts that form when keratin becomes trapped beneath the surface of the skin. These tiny cysts are commonly seen on the face, especially around the eyes, nose, and cheeks. Milia are often associated with newborns, but can also develop in individuals of any age.

Causes of Skin Cysts

Blocked hair follicles

One of the primary causes of skin cysts is the blockage of hair follicles. This can occur when dead skin cells, oil, or other debris clog the hair follicles, leading to the formation of a cyst.

Genetic factors

Some individuals may be more prone to developing skin cysts due to genetic factors. Inherited conditions such as Gardner’s syndrome, an autosomal dominant disorder, can increase the likelihood of cyst formation.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes can also contribute to the development of skin cysts. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those during puberty or pregnancy, can increase the production of sebum and contribute to the blockage of hair follicles.

Skin injuries or trauma

Skin injuries or trauma, such as cuts, punctures, or surgical incisions, can trigger the formation of a skin cyst. The body’s natural response to injury can sometimes lead to the accumulation of cells and fluid, resulting in a cyst.

Effects of Stress on the Skin

Skin inflammation

Stress can lead to inflammation in the body, including the skin. Increased levels of stress hormones can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to redness and inflammation. This can aggravate existing cysts or contribute to the development of new ones.

Weakening of the immune system

Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting off infections and promoting proper healing. As a result, the body’s ability to clear cyst-forming factors may be compromised, leading to an increased likelihood of cyst formation.

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Altered hormone levels

Stress can disrupt the normal balance of hormones in the body. Elevated stress hormone levels, such as cortisol, can impact the production of sebum, the oil that lubricates the skin. Excess sebum production can contribute to the blocking of hair follicles and the formation of cysts.

Increased sebum production

Stress can stimulate the production of sebum, which can contribute to the development of cysts. When sebum production increases, the pores can become clogged, leading to the accumulation of debris, dead skin cells, and oil, which can ultimately result in the formation of cysts.

Understanding Stress-Induced Cysts on Skin

Psychological stress and its impact on the body

Psychological stress can have a significant impact on the body, affecting various systems and functions. When you experience stress, your body undergoes physiological changes that can impact your overall health, including the health of your skin.

Connection between stress and cyst formation

While the exact mechanisms underlying the connection between stress and cyst formation are not fully understood, it is believed that stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the skin’s oil glands, hair follicles, and immune system. This disruption can contribute to the development of cysts on the skin.

Influence of stress on existing cysts

Stress can exacerbate existing cysts by increasing inflammation and sebum production. When stress levels are high, the body’s inflammatory response can be heightened, leading to increased redness, swelling, and discomfort in cystic areas.

Research on Stress and Cysts on Skin

Scientific studies on stress-induced cysts

While research specifically focusing on stress-induced cysts is limited, numerous studies have explored the relationship between stress and various skin conditions. These studies have provided valuable insights into the potential role of stress in the development and exacerbation of cysts on the skin.

Findings and evidence

Multiple studies have observed a correlation between high stress levels and the presence of skin cysts. They have also found that stress can worsen symptoms and prolong the healing process of existing cysts. While the evidence is not definitive, it suggests a potential link between stress and cyst formation.

Correlation vs. causation

It is important to note that the studies conducted so far have established a correlation between stress and cyst formation, but they do not prove causation. Additional research is needed to fully understand the cause-and-effect relationship between stress and skin cysts.

Managing Stress to Prevent Skin Cysts

Stress management techniques

Managing stress effectively is key to reducing the likelihood of skin cysts. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help promote relaxation and reduce the impact of stress on the body.

Regular exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity is not only beneficial for overall health, but it can also help reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that can help combat stress and promote a sense of well-being.

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Healthy diet and hydration

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide the necessary nutrients to support overall health, including the health of your skin. Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water each day can help maintain skin hydration and elasticity.

Getting enough sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for proper immune function and overall well-being. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and creating a comfortable sleep environment can help reduce stress levels and promote restful sleep.

Seeking professional help

If stress becomes overwhelming and affects your daily life, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support in developing effective coping strategies to manage stress.

Treatment Options for Skin Cysts

Medical intervention

If skin cysts become bothersome or symptomatic, medical intervention may be necessary. A dermatologist can evaluate the cyst and determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

Incision and drainage

For cysts that are infected or causing discomfort, a dermatologist may perform an incision and drainage procedure. This involves making a small incision in the cyst, draining its contents, and sometimes administering antibiotics to prevent infection.

Cyst removal surgery

In certain cases, surgical removal of the cyst may be recommended. The dermatologist will carefully excise the cyst, ensuring complete removal to minimize the risk of recurrence.

Topical medications

Topical medications, such as creams or ointments containing retinoids, can be prescribed to help reduce inflammation, regulate sebum production, and promote healing of cystic areas.

Home remedies

Some individuals may opt for home remedies to manage cysts on their skin. However, it is crucial to seek advice from a healthcare professional before trying any home remedies, as they may not be suitable for all types of cysts and can potentially cause further irritation or infection.

Preventing Skin Cysts

Maintaining good hygiene

Practicing good hygiene can help reduce the risk of skin cysts. Gently washing the skin with a mild cleanser and warm water can help prevent the build-up of excess oil, dead skin cells, and debris that can contribute to cyst formation.

Avoiding skin injuries

Taking precautions to avoid skin injuries, such as wearing protective clothing or gear during physical activities, can minimize the likelihood of cyst formation due to trauma.

Avoiding squeezing or picking at cysts

While it may be tempting to squeeze or pick at a cyst, doing so can introduce bacteria and potentially worsen the condition. It is best to leave cysts untouched and allow them to resolve on their own or seek appropriate medical treatment.

Regularly exfoliating and cleansing the skin

Exfoliating the skin regularly can help remove dead skin cells and promote healthy skin cell turnover. Additionally, cleansing the skin with gentle products can help maintain its cleanliness and prevent the accumulation of debris that can contribute to cyst formation.

Consulting a Dermatologist

When to see a dermatologist

If you notice any new or changing skin cysts, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist. They can provide a professional evaluation and offer guidance on the most appropriate course of action.

Diagnosis of skin cysts

A dermatologist will perform a thorough examination of the cyst and may request additional tests such as a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions.

Treatment recommendations

Based on the examination and diagnosis, the dermatologist will recommend the most suitable treatment option for your specific case. This may include medical intervention, home remedies, or a combination of both.

Follow-up care

Regular follow-up appointments with a dermatologist may be advised to monitor the cysts, assess their response to treatment, and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

In conclusion, while the exact cause of skin cysts remains unclear, stress appears to have a potential connection in their formation and exacerbation. By managing stress effectively through various techniques and seeking professional help when needed, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of developing skin cysts. Furthermore, practicing good hygiene, avoiding injuries, and following a healthy skincare routine can contribute to preventing the occurrence of cysts. Consulting a dermatologist is crucial for an accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment recommendations, and appropriate follow-up care. Remember, taking care of your overall well-being, including managing stress, plays a significant role in maintaining healthy skin.