Daily stressors can manifest in your skin, triggering or worsening a wide range of conditions. TNS
Emotional tension is quite unavoidable nowadays. Whether it is everyday life, family issues, financial problems or work troubles, we all experience stress in one form or another.
Anxiety may originally occur in the brain, the consequences can be manifested physically. Dermatologists have gathered that daily stressors can affect your skin negatively, triggering or worsening a wide range of conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and even hair thinning.
Dermatologist Dr Anil Budh-Raja describes this process as the “brain-skin connection.” She says that stress causes a change in the brain and body chemistry, which in turn has a significant impact on the skin. To understand how stress and anxiety can affect the skin, it is important to know a little about the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is comprised of a number of glands that produce hormones and, when everything is in place, it allows the human body to work like a well-oiled machine. However, when outside factors such as stress intervene, this intricate system can slip out of sync.
During moments of tension the body produces excess cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” which wreaks havoc on everything from your immune system to blood pressure. “Stress increases cortisol production from the adrenal glands, which in turn increases sebaceous gland activity, to produce more oil and sebum,” Dr Budh-Raja explains.
“The result can be acne and increased sensitivity of our skin. Cortisol also weakens the skin’s immune system, leading to oxidative stress which manifests itself as wrinkles, lines and lacklustre skin. It also increases inflammation on the body and conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis can flare up.”
Dr Sarah Coles, a chartered clinical psychologist, agrees, adding that the onset and consequences of stress can often form a vicious cycle.
“Anxiety and/or stress, which can be caused by skin conditions such as eczema, in fact can exacerbate the condition due to the body’s inflammatory responses such as producing cortisol or interrupting sleep,” Coles says.
“Stress can also make us less likely to engage in healthy habits, for example, we might work longer hours, eat less well, or drink more caffeine.”
When troubles are piling up, it can often feel like the worst time for pimples to populate your face, but they often do. While it can be frustrating, science says it makes perfect sense for stress to exhibit itself physically.
A 2015 study into the effects of stress as a causative or maintaining factor in psoriasis showed that about half of participants said their first experience with the disease came during a particularly difficult time in their lives, while 63 per cent said their symptoms worsened when they felt anxious or under pressure.
Similarly, a separate 2017 study of female medical students found that for 74 per cent of participants, anxiety and stress were exacerbating factors of their acne.
Thankfully, experts suggest that much of the skin damage caused by stress can be mitigated by focusing on daily moments of self-care.
When it comes to looking after your skin during periods of extreme stress, Dr Adam Friedmann, a consultant dermatologist, recommends eating a healthy balanced diet, protecting the skin from UV rays using a high factor SPF and incorporating a moisturiser that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients into your skincare routine to help improve any redness, flaking or itching.
Dr Budh-Raja agrees, advising that anyone with stressed out skin invests in products that contain soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, oatmeal, rosemary extract and niacinamide, which restores the surface of skin against moisture loss and dehydration.
While it is good to know that we can find remedies to help counteract the effects of anxiety on the beauty counter, Dr Coles says it is also important to address the root of the problem and to try to manage stress levels using alleviation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
“There are lots of ways to manage stress in daily life, for example having a good sleep routine consisting of settling in a dark room with no bright screens an hour before bed and waking up at the same time each day,” Coles says.
“It is also important to have a good repertoire of coping strategies for managing stress that work for you. I like to think of this as having a menu to choose from as different strategies often help in different situations.”
She continues: “For some people this might be going for a long walk, spending some time outside, reading, talking with a friend, mediation, yoga, or some other form of exercise.”So if you know you’re about to enter a stressful period, try to build in time for the activities that will help you to feel calm and rested — your skin will thank you.
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