Eczema - how to soothe dry inflamed skin.

Does stress actually cause skin conditions?

The connection between body and mind, and how one affects the other, is undeniable, especially when it comes to the effects of stress. It may after all be a state of mental or emotional strain but stress (particularly chronic stress) affects almost every system in the body.

Your nervous system isn’t great at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats, which means stressful periods in your life can have just as much of an impact on the body as physical trauma.

Stress can reduce immunity, disrupt digestion, increase health risks, speed up the ageing process, and even decrease fertility. It can leave you even more vulnerable mentally, making you more susceptible to other mental health issues.

It’s not just inside your body where stress rears its ugly head. On the surface – more specifically, on your skin – the effects of stress are seen too.

The relationship between stress and the skin

Stress does more than just weigh heavy on the mind. It causes a chemical reaction within the body that leads to the release or spike of several stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. This triggers the ‘fight or flight’ reaction, the same response we have when we’re physically threatened.

Whilst fight or flight mode is designed to make us sharper, stronger and more reactive so we can get ourselves out of sticky, dangerous situations, it also affects our health and wellbeing if we suffer from long term stress.

Upset digestion, increased weight gain, weakened immunity, a higher risk of heart disease and other health problems, loss of sleep, increased anxiety, and lower motivation has all been connected with an increase in stress hormones. But it also directly affects your skin.

The more stressed out you are, the more sensitive, irritable, oily, dull and fatigued your skin will be. Your skin may also become drier as stress levels heighten as Healthline explains:

“According to a 2014 review published in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, a pair of studies performed on mice found that stress impairs the barrier function of your stratum corneum and may negatively affect skin water retention. The review also mentions that several human studies have found that interview stress and stress from “marital disruption” can slow down the skin barrier’s ability to heal itself, too.”

A word about stress-induced skin conditions

Another tell-tale sign that stress is affecting your skin is that the symptoms of existing skin conditions will worsen.

For individuals with eczema and psoriasis, agitation caused by stress can lead to an increase in scratching. Rather than offering relief for irritated skin, however, the scratching triggers a vicious cycle with the release of inflammatory chemicals causing areas of thickened, damaged skin to itch even more.

Feeling anxious or stressed can also trigger the onset of skin conditions, particularly rosacea, hives, rashes, acne breakouts, and fever blister flare-ups.

The increased inflammation, enhanced oil and sebum production, slower rate of healing, and impaired immunity caused by the release of stress hormones are responsible for the worsening of these skin conditions.

How to break the cycle and enjoy a happier, healthier you

Breaking the cycle of stress-induced skin irritation isn’t easy but it is possible. Taking care of yourself is the most important step when minimising the impact of stress on the skin.

Build a skincare regime that’s in tune with your needs and that doesn’t put a burden on you, even during stressful periods. Try our simple 3-step solution for beautifully balanced skin the easy way. Be sure to stay hydrated, eat healthily, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep too.

If it’s nervous habits, like skin picking, that are further aggravating skin conditions, try to break these habits. Use breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, visualisation or simply activities that you love and find relaxing to prepare your body and mind for better stress management without taking it out on your skin.

The best advice we can give you for breaking the cycle of stress-induced skin problems is to be kind to yourself. Don’t be afraid to give yourself some self-love, with time, patience and self-care you can reduce stress, calm the mind, and enjoy a happier, healthier complexion.

Image:New Africa /