Have you ever noticed that your skin suddenly starts acting up when you’re stressed?
Acne breakouts, flare-ups, and rashes tend to become worse when you are going through a stressful period and this is quite a common occurrence.
I am quietly sipping on my glass of water while I’m putting the words I want to write in order but my other hand is vigorously scratching my already red and inflamed scalp as all I’m thinking of is tomorrow’s final exam.
My seborrheic dermatitis which I have been successfully managing to keep under control has been noticeably worsening and spreading in the past week due to stress and anxiety for the upcoming exams.
Stress can affect your whole body, including your hair, nails, and skin.
The mind and skin are connected by means of nerve endings so as emotions are played out neurologically, stress, tension, and anxiety are very common to be expressed through the skin.
Since stress is a part of life and it happens to all of us because unfortunately, we cannot avoid our jobs, bills or even the annoying people we have to face on a daily basis, we have to find a way to handle it.
Besides being one of the main factors that can contribute to high blood pressure, heart diseases, and even chronic sadness and depression, here are 5 effects of stress on the skin and how to deal with it.
1. Skin Aging
As the skin is the largest organ of our bodies, it plays an important role as a barrier to maintain homeostasis between environmental and internal tissues.
Upon sensing stress, neurons in the hypothalamus which is a small region of the brain located at the base secrete hormones which are transported to the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland uses these messages to produce hormones that affect many parts of the body including stimulating all the other hormone-producing glands to produce their own hormones.
As a reaction to this complex process, the adrenal gland is being stimulated and this allows the production of the hormone cortisol which is commonly known as the primary stress hormone.
Cortisol can accelerate the aging process as it aggressively attacks and breaks down elastin and collagen which are the main proteins that keep our skin toned and provide it with elasticity.
Furthermore, we all tend to make certain facial expressions such as frowning that can cause fine lines and wrinkles between the eyebrows as well as horizontal lines on the forehead.
If this is constantly being repeated, the skin will eventually lose elasticity in the area and it will not be able to bounce back leading to permanent wrinkles.
2. Acne Breakouts
Stress has long been suspected to induce acne flare-ups and it has been closely studied only to be confirmed by a well-controlled and extensive study some years ago.
Increased acne severity is significantly associated with the spike of the cortisol hormone as this directly stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum that can lead to clogging of the pores and further inflammatory acne breakouts.
Stress is closely associated with increased colonization of P. acnes bacteria which is the main acne-producing bacteria that lies on the skin.
It can actively interfere with your daily skincare routine as we all tend to skip on our skincare regimens from time to time after a long, exhausting and stressful day.
The outermost layer of our skin serves as a barrier function by regulating our epidermal permeability. This barrier creates a “seal” which is essential for retaining hydration and protection against infections.
When your body is constantly exposed to producing excessive amounts of cortisol, this leads to its reduced ability to retain water.
The absence of moisture leads to dehydrated skin and the formation of dry patches and flakes.
If this condition persists for a prolonged time period if will inevitably lead to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles as well as redness, irritation and rough texture.
4. Aggravates Skin Conditions
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that is commonly known as eczema. A complex mixture of genetic, environmental and immune factors may lead to this condition and its stage.
A defect in the skin’s barrier function caused by excessive amounts of cortisol may be the main factor contributing to acquiring this condition in the later stages of life.
The reason for this is that the stress hormone can weaken the skin’s barrier function and lead to increased sensitivity to environmental allergens and foreign microbial organisms.
An inevitable inflammation and flare-ups will follow contributing to further and aggravated itchiness and discomfort.
Another very similar type of autoimmune disorder is thought to occur when the immune system is weakened due to constant exposure to stressful situations.
Psoriasis while most of the time being a genetic condition with symptoms very similar to eczema, it may also be triggered by stressful life events.
It is a common disorder affecting almost 3% of the population and it is characterized by rapid and abnormal growth of skin cells followed by a formation of silvery scales on the outermost layers of the skin.
Having psoriasis is stressful on its own, though being constantly presented to emotionally stressful factors will further contribute to flare-ups.
5. Stress Rash
Stress is becoming increasingly associated with an outbreak of hives which are characterized as raised, red-colored spots or welts.
This can make up what is described as a stress rash.
Areas affected by stress rash feel itchy or in more severe cases can cause anything from mild tingling to a burning sensation when touched.
These dry and inflamed patches can develop in one area on the skin but they can often “connect” to form even larger welts that typically vary in size.
How To Control Stress?
It is completely unrealistic to think that you can avoid stress completely. We are all exposed to a stressful situation at some point in our lives and it is ridiculous to expect that this can completely be cut off as you go about your daily life.
It is normal to become stressful and anxious when you are late for an important meeting but still nowhere near to your destination due to crazy traffic.
Or it can even occur at the end of an already stressful day when you are about to hit the gym and blow off some steam when someone just decides to take their time on your favourite machine.
It is important to understand and accept these situations because they simply won’t go away just because you hate it.
Taking time for yourself to do something you enjoy, even if it’s just for 10 minutes of your day can have a positive impact on you.
Getting enough sleep is another good way to start the journey of successful stress management. Seven to eight hours is recommended for a well functioning metabolism.
Remember that it is okay to say no when you feel like you are being pushed to do something you are not comfortable with doing. It is important to set limits and boundaries as this will help to lower your stress levels.
Does this mean that every once in a while you can just leave answering all the demanding e-mails for tomorrow morning?
Breathing exercises are a great way of lowering stress levels. Remember, stress has a seriously negative impact on your well being and simply breathing in and out can distract your mind from a stressful situation for a moment.
Take a walk or commit to getting regular exercise. It is good for your mind, body, and soul.
Don’t neglect your skin. Take care of it by getting into the habit of regularly doing your daily skincare regimen without skipping even if you are tired or stressed.
Pushing yourself to actually do something for yourself will automatically have a positive impact on your thinking.
You probably didn’t need me to tell you that stress is bad for your health.
But while I am not a doctor and can’t help if there are any serious health issues associated with stress in your life, I would love to teach you all I know about how stress negatively affects your skin.
This article covers 5 effects of stress on the skin as well as suggestions on how to deal with it.