What is stress doing to your skin? Learn about the stress-induced skin cycle

Ever notice that when you have a big exam, date or job interview coming up you start to break out, whether it be a pimple or two, or a collection of hives? Studies have revealed that our emotional well-being is inextricably linked to an increase in skin, hair or nail problems depending on the level or stress, anxiety or depression. Stress can do some strange and sometimes unexpected things to your body, but the skin can be particularly sensitive and reactive to your mood changes.

Stress also is a known trigger or can be a worsening factor for fever blisters, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and has even been shown to impair skin barrier function and dehydrate the skin — allowing more irritants, allergens, and infectious agents to penetrate the skin and cause problems.

Beyond the direct physiological effects of stress, patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin. For example, they often lack the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin care regimens, and there also might be signs of stress-related behaviors — such as scratching, pulling or rubbing — that can exacerbate problems. Traditional dermatological therapies should be used in conjunction with appropriate stress management therapies to successfully treat stress-related conditions.

Stress can make psoriasis or rosacea worse, result in acne lesions that are more inflamed and more persistent, cause brittle nails and ridging of the nails, cause hair loss, cause or worsen hives, and cause excessive perspiration.

Removing stress from your life can decrease the release of stress hormones and chemicals that cause inflammation. For example, release of neuropeptides, which are stress chemicals released from the nerve endings, can be reduced with stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation or regular therapy. This often results in skin that looks and functions better. These interventions can reduce blood vessel over-activity, resulting in less blushing or flushing.

With accurate diagnosis by a dermatologist, effective treatments improve the appearance and function of the skin. This alone can substantially reduce patients’ stress and improve their skin, hair and nail conditions. However, if stress is clearly interfering with patients’ overall well-being and ability to cope, simultaneous stress management interventions are warranted. In some instances, referral to a mental health professional may be necessary.

When dermatologists treat both the skin and stress, the skin often clears more quickly and completely as the influences of stress are diminished. As a result, patient’s overall anxiety level typically decreases and the patient starts to feel better about how they look and how they feel emotionally. Stop the cycle of stress causing-skin-issues today and talk to your dermatologist. Don’t get stuck with stress that causes skin issues that causes more stress about new skin issues!

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