This photo has been used for illustrative purpose only.
We have all experienced stress in some form or another, whether for a short or long period of time. This emotional tension stems from unavoidable parts of everyday life, including work, family problems, financial woes and the digital pressures of social media.
According to dermatologist Dr Anil Budh-Raja, daily stressors can also manifest in your skin, triggering or worsening a wide range of conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and even hair thinning. “Stress causes a change in brain and body chemistry and has a significant impact on our skin,” Dr Budh-Raja explains, describing the process as the “brain-skin connection.”
To understand how stress and anxiety can affect the skin, Dr Budh-Raja says we must first understand 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.”
A 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.
According to experts, the consequences of emotional tension can play out physically as well as psychologically. To avoid stress affecting your skin negatively, here’s what you can do about it.
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