Does stress affect your skin? I asked a US guest writer for their view.

Damaging Effects of Stress on Your Skin

Our body and skin react to stress in different ways. But they can’t tell the difference between different types of stress, whether they be emotional, environmental, or physical stress.

‘Your skin, however, can distinguish between acute or short-term stress and chronic or lingering stress’, New York City-based dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, Dr. Whitney Bowe said.

The field of psychodermatology emerged out of the need to deal with various skin problems arising from different stressors.  Patients are reportedly frustrated by comments like “it’s only your skin” or “it’s just skin disease,” Dr. Anthony Bewley of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) said. Psychodermatology acknowledges that skin ailments, including stress-induced conditions, can be as serious as any other disease.

How the Skin Reacts to Stress

Here are some of the ways your skin responds to stress:

  1. Your skin becomes inflamed.

Your digestive process can slow down when you have anxious thoughts. Prolonged stress can affect your gut or digestive system the way a high-fat diet does, according to a recent study.

Dr. Bowe explains that chronic stress can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut that can lead to internal inflammation, which in turn triggers skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

  1. Your skin dries up.

Your body produces more adrenaline when you’re under stress. Adrenaline activates your sweat glands, causing you to lose a lot more water more quickly. This dries your skin and makes it prone to eczema.

  1. Your existing skin conditions worsen.

If you are predisposed to having eczema or psoriasis, cortisol produced by your body when you are stressed can cause the weakening of the immune system and inflammation of the skin.

  1. Your skin becomes oilier.

Your cortisol level can shoot up because of stress, causing your sebaceous glands to produce higher amounts of oil than usual.

  1. Dark circles appear below your eyes.

More blood goes to your main organs when you are stressed, so your face looks drained. Stress can also cause capillaries around the eyes to break, spreading the blood cells beneath the eyes and forming a dark purple hue.

  1. Your skin defenses may become exhausted.

Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause dark spots, moles, or even skin cancer.

  1. Your skin may grow thinner and more sensitive.

High cortisol levels can make your skin bruise and tear easily. Thinning skin that easily gets wounded is one of the symptoms of Cushing syndrome.

  1. You may develop wrinkles and fine lines.

Psychological stress can manifest through creases around our eyes and forehead.

 How to Calm the Effects of Stress on Your Skin

  1. Take time to care for your skin even if you are stressed or tired.

Apply a night face mask as part of your evening skin regimen once or twice a week.

  1. Eat a balanced diet rich in omega 3’s and fresh fruit and veg. 

Try a smoothie with berries, coconut milk and oats, you can add chia seeds.

  1. Get regular exercise.

Even moderate exercise such as walking helps boost oxygen, circulation, and the delivery of nutrients to your skin.

  1. Avoid Alcohol.

It’s extremely bad for your skin!  Practice stress management techniques like breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation. Also, include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

  1. Get enough sleep and give yourself time to unwind from a stressful day.

Knowing how stress can harm your skin can help you plan your life so that you can reduce it to a more manageable, healthier level.