Stress can affect your skin in a lot of ways and can make some common skin problems worse, especially acne, eczema and psoriasis.
It can become a very vicious circle in which your skin becomes a source of anxiety and stress, and this then has an even worse effect on your skin.
Getting stress and anxiety under control can be one of the best things you can do for your skin, especially as it can have a knock on effect on diet, sleep and other factors that can also affect the state of your skin.
Here’s what you need to know about how stress can encourage existing skin conditions to flare up and have a helping hand in why they occur in the first place.
The Mind-Body Connection
Research has shown that people with skin conditions often experience stress and anxiety too and this isn’t too surprising when you think about the psychological effects that skin conditions can have on self esteem and body image.
Most of us know how quickly spots could zap your self confidence as a teenager and this feeling can be a whole lot worse if you have bad acne as an adult or you develop eczema or psoriasis on areas of the face and body that are obvious to other people.
Anxiety also be one of the culprits for fuelling skin conditions, and stress hormones play a big part in this, particularly where acne is concerned.
When your body produces more cortisol as part of the fight or flight response, your skin responds by producing more oil and this can pave the way for acne. If you notice that you tend to break out more during stressful periods, this is one of the reasons why it happens.
Stress can encourage us to eat comfort foods, often of the sugary and starchy kind. These kind of high GI (glycaemic index) foods have been linked to acne breakouts.
Stress can affect sleep patterns and this can have a knock on effect on your skin. Levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) decrease while you sleep but of course, this doesn’t happen to the same extent if you struggle to sleep well. High levels of cortisol can make existing skin conditions worse, especially eczema and psoriasis.
Stress can encourage tic behaviours such as picking at your skin or pulling your hair. These type of actions can lead to scarring and even permanent hair loss. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why people engage in tic behaviours but it may be that it’s a type of coping behaviour.
Tips for Dealing with the Effects of Stress on Your Skin
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid stress completely (especially in modern life!) but we can change how we respond to it.
Here are some tips for reducing your stress levels and helping your skin to be less affected by the effects of stress:
Keep up with your skincare routine: When you’re feeling frazzled and anxious, your routine can quickly fall apart and you may find yourself forgetting to take care of your skin.
Exercise regularly: Exercise can reduce stress levels and releases ‘feel good’ endorphins that boost your mood and wellbeing. Even a quick walk can be invigorating, clear your head and help you to feel bit better.
Set aside some ‘me’ time: Lots of us don’t take time for self care and this can affect your mental health and potentially physical health too. Having some ‘me’ time can be anything from enjoying a relaxing bath to spending time reading a book. The important part is that you’re doing something that benefits your mental and physical wellbeing. Even exercise and sleep are forms of self care if you look at it this way!
Set some boundaries: Some stress can be caused by not feeling able to say no to people or reject situations that aren’t going to be good for your wellbeing. Don’t feel bad or guiilty about setting boundaries for yourself and being more assertive. You may actually find that people respect you more for doing this (assuming you tread the line between being assertive and being aggressive!).
Hypnotherapy: If self care measures don’t help as much as you hope, you may want to try a more permanent way to change your response to stress and anxiety. Hypnotherapy taps into the unconscious mind, which makes it more powerful for changing the way that you think and feel. If you don’t deal very well with stress, it can help you to react in a healthier and more positive way so that the effects aren’t so evident in your skin.