Are you stressed? If you’re like 80% of the American population, chances are that you have a moderately stressful life! Who doesn’t?! How you feel on the inside, can have a profound effect on how you look on the outside. This article addresses what stress can do to your skin, how stress causes skin problems, and what you can do about it.

We already know that stress can affect your health, longevity, and your psyche. But what about the direct effects on your skin? Studies show that there is a powerful connection between your mind and your skin, and 30% of all dermatology patients have some underlying psychological issue causing worsening of their skin conditions. A relatively new field in medicine called Psycodermatology studies just that issue, and has some powerful suggestions to keep your skin looking healthy, no matter how stressed you may feel. 

“Listening” to your skin is very important. Your skin may be the first indicator of things going awry in the rest of your body. Sometimes, we get used to the psychological feeling of stress, without realizing the physical damage we can cause by ignoring it. For example, stress can cause acne from heightened levels of cortisol in your bloodstream, worsening rosacea (redness of your face) from increased blood flow, psoriasis, and brittle nails and hair. Hair loss, dermatitis, excess perspiration, and hives are all indicators that you may be stressed out. Stress can also weaken your skin, causing more allergens and infectious agents to penetrate through. People who are stressed do not take care of their skin, often neglecting their skin care regimen. Many stress related behaviors, such as scratching, rubbing or pulling can also make your skin look worse. Of course, there is also the telltale “number 11” sign on your forehead (vertical wrinkles in the middle of your forehead) that shows that you are stressed in your facial expressions.

The good news is that treating your stress can help your skin. AND, believe it or not, studies have shown that treating your skin can even make you feel less stressed! This reciprocal benefit is well documented in the literature, and there are some easy ways to take advantage of this phenomenon.

Here are some great tips that you can start today to get rid of those stress related skin issues:

1. Find any anti-stress activity and do it on a regular basis. Whether it is yoga, a walk, or listening to music you can decrease the amount of stress hormones you produce almost instantly. When you relax, you reduce the number of neuropeptides and other stress hormones (like cortisol) that cause your skin to function poorly. These are the same hormones that dilate blood vessels and cause rosacea and acne. Stress reduction techniques can make your skin less red and more resilient. Join a gym, yoga studio, or a walking group and you may see some instant results on your skin.

2. Get on a good skin care regimen and stick with it. Sometimes, being in a routine, any routine, makes us less stressed. So does doing something for yourself that helps you feel better about you! Good skin cleansers, sun protection, and toners help your skin to rejuvenate and replenish itself. Seeing your skin look great also helps you feel more self confident and less stressed.

3. Drink lots of water. When we are racing against deadlines, we tend to forget to watch our daily water intake. Your skin needs the hydration to remain moist and replenished. Carry an 8 oz. water bottle everywhere you go, and refill it 8 times a day.

4. Get rid of the wrinkles? A study conducted Dr. Fried found that patients who were getting treated with Botox said that they felt less anxious (29%), more relaxed (36%), and more optimistic (49%). Botox is NOT a psychological drug, and these feelings are thought to come more from seeing yourself with less signs of stress on your face in the mirror. Not looking stressed is half the battle.

5. Try habit-reversal training. Stress often causes us to perform certain repetitive behaviors that are damaging to our skin. If you find yourself picking at a certain area or repeatedly touching your face when you are stressed, immediately do something else…like snap your fingers or write a sentence. Eventually the habit will disappear.

Bottom line is, it is important for us to realize and accept that stress has a huge number of potential consequences to our bodies and mind. What’s great is that treating your stress can lead to better skin, AND vice-versa. So exercise, talk to someone, and get on a good skin care regimen. You will look and feel a lot a better.

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