Can Stress Cause Skin Problems?
The mind and the skin are closely interconnected. Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, vitiligo and even premature aging can both cause AND be triggered by stress!
Many of our nerve endings are connected to our skin and other organs. When we experience emotions, they can play out on our skin.
So how does stress affect these different skin conditions?
Acne – Stress is not the main cause of acne, but it is a big player. When you are stressed out, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. A surge in cortisol causes increased sebum production, which triggers acne. Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to sugar cravings, and eating sugar also increases acne breakouts. The presence of pimples is already stressful enough!
Eczema – Anxiety about stress at work, school, and home can make eczema flare up. This is partly due to high cortisol levels, which triggers inflammation in our bodies and aggravates skinflammation issues (including eczema).
In addition, studies have shown that sleep plays a role by impacting our skin’s ability to heal eczema. The itching and discomfort of your eczema is, by itself, stressful and may even keep you awake at night. This is only making the problem worse!
Rosacea – Those of you with rosacea know that dealing with the visible signs of rosacea can trigger more flushing, which can lead to even more stress. In a survey done by the National Rosacea Society, 70% of people with severe rosacea symptoms said it negatively affected their professional interactions, and 41% said rosacea made them avoid public contact or cancel plans.
You know it impacts your life on more than just a physical level, and I know how frustrating that can be. Women can sometimes cover it up with makeup, but it’s not addressing the problem.
Vitiligo – This autoimmune skin disorder is characterized by white spots or patches appearing on the skin. These spots are from lack of pigmentation caused by destruction or weakening of the pigment cells in those areas. Stress is not the direct cause of vitiligo, but it can make it worse. We know that stress negatively impacts our immune system, and being anxious or stressed can aggravate autoimmune conditions (including vitiligo and psoriasis).
Premature Aging – When we’re having a bad day, we usually frown more. While I’m a big fan of smile lines, I don’t think anyone likes the looks of excessive frown lines, which are likely to occur with chronic stress. High levels of cortisol are likely to cause insomnia, belly fat and an inability to roll with what life brings our way.
Take a deep breath! Don’t stress about all that I’ve written above…
Here are my top 10 tips to decrease stress
- When we laugh, our cortisol levels drop and serotonin (our mood-boosting neurotransmitter) increases. It’s the fastest and easiest way to stop stress fast. And, remember, smile lines are so much sexier than frown lines!
- This might seem like a simple task, but most people don’t know how to breathe to relieve stress. The first step is to be aware of your breathing. Next, take deep breaths that expand your chest and belly while relaxing your muscles in your neck and shoulders. (Tip: try counting to 10 breathing inward and then another 10 count breathing out.)
- Surround yourself with positive people. We can’t always choose who is around us at work and school, but we can choose the people we are within our free time. Look for people who radiate positivity. You know who they are, and you’ll be happier for it! When we’re positive too, our skin is more likely to heal and have a healthy glow.
- It only takes a few minutes and can quickly reduce stress. Close your eyes and picture a scene you love such as a beach, mountaintop, or picnic spot, and sit quietly to fully experience the beauty, serenity and joy it brings. If you have skin issues, you can also visualize healing of your tissues and healthy, glowing skin taking over.
- Get out in nature. Step away from your computer, phone, or energy-zapping situation and into nature. Even if it’s just a quick walk around the block or park, a few moments in the sun and fresh air can boost your mood and give you a little extra Vitamin D to brighten your day. Not to mention, it’s a great time to take a break from a stressful situation and breathe.
- Move your body. Studies show that moderate exercise improves our energy, mood, and sleep. If we exercise every morning (without overdoing it), it can help balance our adrenal function to help us better cope with stress.
- Sleep soundly. Sleep is essential for helping us energize, manage stress, and stay focused and positive. Optimally, we should all get about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. (Tip: Try taking a warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil and some Epsom salt before bedtime.)
- Eat a healthy diet. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and high-quality protein to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs to keep your hormones balanced and your skin healthy. (Tip: Start your day with a nutrient-packed smoothie and skip the grains and sugar.)
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude is about appreciating what you have around you. Research shows gratitude helps us feel happier, improve our health, be better at dealing with problems that arise, and build solid relationships. (Tip: Start a gratitude journal and write down 1 thing every day that you’re grateful for.)
- Research shows that meditation helps you lower stress, be more compassionate, improve sleep, boost mood, decrease inflammation, and even lower yearly doctor costs! The goal of meditation is to focus and quiet your mind in order to have greater clarity and inner calm. (Tip: Simply close your eyes and focus on a word that brings you a sense of peace. Let go of all other thoughts.)
Even if you have seemingly perfect skin, you might not treat it very well when you’re under stress. Stressed out people often develop bad habits such as picking and rubbing bumps and blemishes, which can lead to permanent scarring.
Stress may also lead you to neglect your skin care regimen, which should include daily cleansing and nourishment. Not only do you want to carefully select clean, all-natural skincare products, you want to also nourish your body on the inside with healthy foods and nutrients.
Treat your Stress for Clear Skin, and When you Skin improves your Mood will do the same!