Is high stress causing skin conditions like acne, skin rashes, psoriasis, and eczema to occur? Here’s how to tell!
If you’ve been experiencing high stress lately and have started to notice a change in your skin’s health, this is no coincidence. Aside from weakening your immune system and causing issues such as hair loss to occur, stress can also affect the state of your skin.
Everything from dry skin, to acne, skin rashes, and other conditions like eczema and psoriasis can all be rooted back to stress. And unfortunately, dealing with these skin issues can also increase stress levels, which can ultimately perpetuate the cycle. That’s why it’s critical to understand the relationship between stress and skin, as well as the different coping mechanisms and treatment available.
To learn more about the stress-skin connection, and how stress hormones may be affecting your complexion, read on!
Understanding the Relationship Between Stress & Skin
There are two dominant stressors that influence your skin health. The first is environmental stress. Unlike other organs in your body, your skin is constantly exposed to the outside world, making it more susceptible to environmental stressors such as temperature, humidity, and ultraviolet light. These factors can trigger your skin to produce stress hormones like cortisol, which inevitably, sends signals back to your brain. These signals contribute to the other main stressor that influences your skin: psychological stress.
Psychological stress disrupts the top layer of your skin—also known as the epidermal barrier—that acts to retain moisture and protect you from harmful microbes. A healthy epidermal barrier is vital for maintaining a clean, clear complexion as it helps to repair and shield the skin. So, when disrupted, your skin becomes more sensitive and reactive, causing irritation as well as the exacerbation of certain skin conditions to occur.
As your epidermal barrier continues to be affected by psychological stress, it can become increasingly challenging for these skin issues to heal properly, especially if left entirely untreated. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at different skin conditions and concerns that may develop from chronic stress, and what you can do to manage them.
How Exactly Can Stress Affect Your Skin?
Think stress is the explanation behind the changes in your skin? Below are a few common conditions to lookout for and available treatment options to consider.
Atopic Dermatitis AKA Acne
If you feel stressed on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if zits and pimples start to appear. The effects of stress tend to lead to acne because cortisol—the “stress” hormone—encourages your sebaceous glands to speed up. Your sebaceous glands control the oil production in your skin, so when provoked, they naturally cause your complexion to appear oilier. In turn, this can cause your pores to clog and consequently, lead to acne.
Dealing with acne caused by stress is hard enough to begin with, but it’s especially difficult for people who naturally have acne-prone or oily skin. If you resonate with one of these skin types and are currently struggling with stress acne on top of your usual breakouts, it may be a good idea to invest in a prescription product to adequately treat your concerns. Using a tretinoin prescription to fight blemishes, for example, can make it easier to get rid of acne and acne scarring in real-time, and prevent further development from occurring.
Skin rashes like psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema are all tell-tale symptoms of high stress. The conditions will generally develop on account of a weakened immune system— another stress response your body has when dealing with high anxiety. When your immune system is weakened, it’ll likely lead to dysbiosis—an imbalance of bacteria in both your gut and skin health—to occur. If the imbalance appears on your skin, it’ll likely manifest itself with redness or rashes.
Pre-existing conditions are normally characterized by itchy, dry skin, but when dealing with high stress levels, these issues become all the more aggravated.
Fortunately, managing these inflammatory conditions can include using a basic anti-itch topical ointment that is readily available at your local drugstore. However, these aren’t effective in strengthening your immune system. Arguably the best way to promote overall immunity is to stick with a varied, well-balanced diet.
Fine Lines & Wrinkles
The natural aging process speeds up when you experience high stress, as it can cause changes to the proteins in your skin and fluctuate anti-aging hormones like DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). These factors can ultimately lead to a reduction of brightness and elasticity in your skin and accelerate the aging process. As a result, the formation of fine lines and wrinkles may occur.
Environmental stressors like ultraviolet light and radiation can largely contribute to an acceleration of the aging process. For this reason, it’s critical to make sure you’re protecting your skin at all costs, regardless of if you are indoors or outdoors.
Be sure to apply sunscreen everyday as the last step of your morning routine. This will help mitigate environmental stress that comes from excessive sun exposure and keep your skin looking youthful and radiant all year round.
This article was written by a freelance writer.
How to Prevent & Ease Effects of Stress
Skin care can only get you so far when it comes to managing your stress. While washing your face regularly and incorporating treatment products in your daily regime may be practical in treating the skin issues mentioned above, they’re not beneficial in alleviating chronic stress as a whole. There are various ways to reduce high stress and anxiety, so try to explore the different options out there. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Schedule Time for Mindfulness: Give yourself a chance every day to relax with a stress-free mindfulness practice. Whether it be reading, writing, meditating, or stretching, remember to block off some time for yourself every day, even if only for 15 minutes.
- Stay Active: Exercise and physical activity offer numerous health benefits, and one of them is lowering levels of stress hormones. Take advantage of this benefit by staying active throughout the week! From personal training to outdoor activities like hiking and biking, there are plenty of ways to get your heart rate up!
- Talk to Someone: Managing high stress and/or poor mental health is not something you should burden yourself with. If you’re having trouble navigating your stress-free journey alone, don’t hesitate to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. A simple conversation with a friend or family member can be more therapeutic than you know, but if they’re support isn’t enough, don’t be afraid to seek professional guidance from a mental health counselor.