Dermatology

Stress and Your Skin

As you embark on your quest for bright glowing skin, take a moment to consider the impact that stress has on the health of your skin.  When we experience stress, we are fighting an uphill battle in reaching our optimal state of wellness.

When I use the word “stress,” in reference to your skin, I am broadly referring to anything that causes a disruption in your ability to function as your best self.  This may be worry or anxiety related to a job, family, or health (yours or the health of a loved one).  Stress might also be injuries or insults that threaten your skin health such as ultraviolet light exposure, extreme heat or cold, or a very dry climate.  Or stress might be the result of a lack of sleep that places strain on the ability of your body to adapt and handle your daily routine.

Our skin projects what is happening within us. And when others view us, our skin is one of the first things they see. Therefore, healthy skin is important for creating a positive first impression. How else would the cosmetics and skin care industry have come to be valued at many billions of dollars?

Proper management of stress is essential in being able to achieve optimal skin health.  When we are stressed, our skin cells and our bodies release increased levels of cortisol which leads to inflammation and sensitivity in our skin.  This may manifest as a flare of eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, all of which are inflammatory-mediated.  High cortisol levels also result in increased oil production in our skin which can lead to acne breakouts.

Stress threatens the integrity of our skin barrier, weakening this protective mechanism of our skin and allowing loss of moisture and lipids that are essential in keeping our skin hydrated and strong.  When this barrier is compromised, along with the immuno-suppressive effects of stress on our skin, it becomes easier for pathogens such as bacteria and viruses to penetrate our skin, leading to further irritation and infection.

And the skin health/mental health connection becomes an intertwined relationship…when our skin is broken out with acne, flared from eczema, or inflamed with infection, this may propagate issues in our mental health such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (often manifesting as picking or digging at our skin), social anxiety, or body dysmorphic disorder.

No skin care cream or regimen can fix your skin when it is being overwhelmed by the internal hormones that regulate activity at the microscopic level within this organ.  The most holistic way to approach this component of your skin health is through daily practices to manage and eliminate stress in your life.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep.  Eat well.  Exercise regularly.  Meditate.  Do Yoga.  Go for a walk.  Work out. Drive silently in the car.  Take a few deep breaths.

Relaxation and stress management techniques are different for each of us.  Find what works for you and your routine.  When you take control of your stress, you support your skin in being strong and healthy.

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