A woman examines her skin in the mirror. TNS
Gulf Today Report
Have you noticed that your skin has taken a beating in the past year, with an increase in acne, deepening wrinkles or aggravated existing conditions?
Blame it on the pandemic.
Science says stress impairs not just our mental and physical health, but also the largest organ in our bodies, the skin.
Social restrictions coupled with the stresses of working from home and homeschooling has impacted people’s mental health, says dermatology nurse consultant Paula Oliver to The Independent.
Even though normalcy has been restored, with few limitations still in place, it can still feel stressful for many, and this added stress could be causing skin to flare-up for eczema and psoriasis sufferers.
Also, having complexion issues can have a bearing on your mental health.
“I often say to my patients, ‘Stress causes skin disease and skin disease causes stress,’” says consultant dermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed aka The Psychodermatologist.
“People with skin conditions are at higher risk of developing poor psychological health, meaning they are more likely to feel embarrassed, low, anxious, have body image issues or feel socially isolated.
“These feelings can then impact their skin and it can turn into a vicious cycle.”
Why does stress impact our skin?
“The brain has a stress-activated pathway that causes the release of various chemicals and hormones that drive inflammation both in the body and the skin,” Dr Ahmed continues.
“Feelings of emotional distress lead to the release of a stress hormone (cortisol), which is known to affect the immune system.”
The effects of cortisol can vary, with skin “feeling dry and itchy, as well as the formation of lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, signs of premature aging and dull skin.”
Oliver adds: “Acne tends to heal much slower when a person is under stress, which means that pimples stay longer and appear more visible at this time.”
Experts suggest that treating the root cause of your stress rather than its symptoms should be the approach to follow.
Dr Ahmed says: “Often, very simple changes can make big differences in patients’ lives.
“So, it’s important to consider the amount of sleep people are getting, their daily fluid intake, food choices, and amount of time spent exercising.”
Oliver recommends sticking to “a healthy, balanced diet, which is full of rich, leafy greens, good fats and high fibre foods. Drinking at least two litres of water a day can also help hydrate the skin, preventing breakouts and signs of ageing.”
Exercise is another activity to consider, she says, as it “releases endorphins that make you feel happy, and it gives you the opportunity to clear your mind from daily worries.
“Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk, cycling to the shop or putting on some music for a dance, get your body moving to help yourself feel uplifted.”
In addition, Dr Ahmed recommends trying relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness or meditation that help you unwind and feel reenergised.
“Ways to facilitate this have become easier. There are apps that can be used, online habit reversal and self-help websites.
“If you’re not sure what approach is right for you, speak to a healthcare professional.”
“Finally, it’s important to remember that chasing the concept of flawless skin can be emotionally distressing, but learning to cope with ‘skin imperfections’ can be empowering,” says Dr Ahmed.
“So, having a good skincare product that helps take care of your skin and treats any marks can help you feel more confident in your own skin.”
She recommends using a lightweight oil to “replenish hydration for improved elasticity and supple skin.”
Oliver advocates an emollient that is ideal for “the relief of dry skin, and diagnosed eczema and psoriasis.”
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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