Often, people have the misconception that bad skin comes from either bad genes or bad luck, but a lot of the time it is actually caused by stress.
Stress can take a huge toll on your skin. It can cause a number of skin problems such as, acne, psoriasis, or eczema. This happens because when you are stressed out, your body releases cortisol from your sensory nerves and immune cells, which can throw off the other hormones in your body and cause breakouts on your face or body.
Cortisol is a natural hormone that helps the body deal with stress. In small amounts, cortisol is normal and healthy. It serves as a great short term coping mechanism to stress.
However, cortisol can turn into an enemy of the skin if it remains active over a long period of time. People who are prone to high stress over long duration's of time, will sustain high levels of cortisol, which can negatively affect the skin in various ways:
Acne: You may notice that during periods of high stress you experience more acne breakouts. High cortisol levels prompt the skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil). The additional oil clogs the pores leading to the development of inflammation and bacteria, resulting in acne.
Skin Conditions: Beyond acne, stress can also magnify other skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea. Many people who suffer from chronic skin disorders tend to notice that their symptoms flare up when their stress levels are elevated.
Aging: Cortisol also has the power to accelerate the aging process of the skin, rapidly enhancing common unwanted aging signs like lines and wrinkles, age spots, and skin dullness.
Aside from the hormones, we have to look at how we deal with our stress. If we get easily angry or agitated while stressed, we may be likely to scratch our skin, which can lead to areas of thickened skin on the body.
This is a particular issue in people with eczema who often report feeling more itchy, and scratching more when stressed. In people who have psoriasis, scratching can also be a problem as psoriasis often occurs in areas of skin that have been damaged, so scratching can make psoriasis worse.
Bad skin can also come from our behaviors when stressed out. When stressed, we are more likely to eat junk food, and not get enough sleep. Both of these things are known to cause bad skin.
We may turn to sugary, comfort foods, and more often than not, a glass of wine, all of which can exacerbate skin conditions. Also, the stress hormone cortisol, naturally decreases while we sleep, allowing the skin to refresh, so a lack of sleep can lead to a build up of cortisol which will then lead to more acne or other skin problems.
Keep reading to find out what you can change.
So what can we do?
When stressed out there are a number of things you can do to de-stress. Get as much physical activity as you have time for. Exercise releases endorphin's which are also known as 'the happy hormone'.
Get more sleep, as hard as it is to sleep when you're stressed out, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself to de-stress.
Drinking a lot of water and eating a well-balanced diet are important too, since your body can't handle stress well if it's not properly nourished. Fruits, vegetables, and high-quality proteins like grass-fed meats are also crucial
There is a new practice called 'Psychodermatology,' which is psychology and dermatology combined.
This is becoming very common for these two practices to integrate together, and many dermatology offices now have psychologists in-house.
Dermatology is ready for a more integrated approach with other fields such as psychology, and psychiatry.
This integrated approach is allowing for new treatment possibilities including antidepressants, relaxation therapy, or counseling that can alleviate the mood problems that result from or cause skin problems. This practice goes to show that skin related problems from stress are very much real, and very much a problem.
Stress not only affects our psychological state, it also affects our skin. Dealing with stress can be as easy as taking time to mediate, eating a healthy meal, or getting a good nights sleep.