Stress and Your Skin

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020

Have you noticed that your skin changes when you’re feeling frantic and stressed? You’re not alone, with several studies concluding that stress can take a toll on your dermatological health. In this article we find out why stress affects skin and a few ways to prevent skin problems.

What is Stress?

Quite simply, stress is how we respond to challenges and dangerous situations. You might feel stressed at work, when facing a tough exam or dealing with relationship issues. Many other scenarios can cause a person to feel stressed such as financial and job insecurity.

Our bodies respond to stress by kick-starting the nervous system and pumping hormones around the body. These hormones, which include cortisol and adrenalin, allow us to take action; this is referred to as the "fight or flight" response.

Symptoms of stress include high blood pressure, a racing heart, headaches, insomnia, anger, depression, a feeling of overwhelm or general moodiness.

How Stress Affects Skin

Dermatologist Flor Mayoral says not only does stress affect our physical and psychological health, it can also wreak havoc on our skin.

"In treating hundreds of patients over the years with skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, acne and psoriasis, I have seen firsthand how stress can aggravate the skin and trigger unexpected flare-ups that, in effect, create more stress for patients," said Mayoral in a article.

A 2001 study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, showed that stress affects the skin’s barrier function. This leads to water loss, which impairs the skin’s ability to repair and regenerate. The study was applauded as the first to find a direct link between stress and the skin’s functioning.

Stress Management Tips for Better Skin

While you may not be able to stop your skin from responding to stress, you can try a few stress management techniques to practise keeping calm.

Here are a few tips and techniques for staying stress-free:

  • Meditate: sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes and quieten your mind. Meditation has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Practise yoga: several asanas are useful for managing stress. Our article Yoga for Stress and Anxiety is an excellent resource for combatting stress through this healing modality.
  • See a counsellor: consulting a counsellor, psychotherapist or life coach can help put things in perspective. A professional will also be able to teach you relaxation and conflict resolution techniques.
  • Take time out: allocate time to be on your own and relax. You might book in for a massage, curl up on the couch with a book or unwind in a warm bath.

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Originally published on Jul 10, 2013

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