The truth about your skin
Ever notice how that pimple pops up at the most inopportune of times, like the day before your wedding or right before your big presentation in front of a large audience?
The same goes for breaking out in hives.
You may have long suspected it to be true, but does stress have anything to do with the quality of your skin? Experts say the connection isn’t in your head. Stress can have a physical impact on your skin.
“Stress affects our skin directly and indirectly in many ways,” says Dr. Jessica Borowicz, a dermatologist affiliated with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Stress causes the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and molecules, and this affects the skin by increasing inflammation and decreasing its ability to fight infections properly. Things that your skin could normally tolerate, you may have more sensitivity to when under stress due to those heightened chemicals.”
In fact, many skin conditions are worsened by stress. Some examples include acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis and hives. In truth, fifty percent of hives are from unknown causes that relate to stress. And one type of hair loss, called Telogen Effluvium occurs when the body undergoes stress, whether due to illness, extreme weight loss or other significant emotional stressors.
Stress can also indirectly affect your skin in terms of how it affects one’s habits, says Dr. Borowicz.
“Often, when stressed, patients may not be as good with their skin care routine, or they may forget to take their daily medications,” she explains. “They may touch their face more or start picking at their acne as a nervous habit or even as a coping mechanism. This can start a vicious cycle, with poor skin conditions leading to more stress emotionally, and more stress leading to worsening skin conditions physically – and the cycle goes on and on.”
So what can you do?
Dr. Borowicz offers these recommendations to patients undergoing skin issues as a result of stress:
“Decreasing stress is easier said than done,” she says. “The mind-body-soul connection is important, so I encourage patients to find an outlet for their stress – whether it’s a yoga class, learning to meditate, spending a night away from the kids or even having a glass of wine to decompress. Taking a few minutes for yourself to get balance is key. It’s also important to seek support when necessary from friends, family, community groups or health outreach. When stress is so severe that it’s clearly impacting your day-to-day life, it may be necessary to work with a psychologist or psychiatrist.”
Don’t think the cause of your skin woes is stress?
Another trigger Dr. Borowicz commonly sees is hormones, especially in women.
“We all have hormonal fluctuations, but to what degree our skin is sensitive to them is the variable that affects certain conditions like acne, rosacea and melasma,” she explains.
Other culprits she’s seen that impact one’s skin include food, the sun, extreme heat or cold and even certain skin care products.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is the manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.