We’ve spoken about how stress can damage our health this week, but can it also be responsible for skin problems? We asked a top Harley Street expert.
When our bodies enter a state of stress the impact is both physical and psychological. That means as well as affecting the way we think and feel, stress effects the way our body works from the inside too, changing processes at a cellular level. With the skin the biggest organ in our bodies it therefore stands to reason it will also be effected when we are going through a stressful period in our lives. We caught up with consultant dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass to find out just how stress and skin break-outs and problems are linked.
Why does stress/depression cause the skin to go into meltdown?
Hormones are incredibly important in dermatology, especially when considering the role of psychological stress in triggering, or exacerbating, common skin diseases including eczema, psoriasis and acne. There is increasing evidence that stress hormones can aggravate skin diseases.
Stress hormones have an effect on the sebaceous glands found within the skin, which can lead to a worsening of acne levels. However, the level of stress required for this to occur varies from each individual. There is evidence that both the stress from exams and sleep deprivation can make your acne worse.
Are there any studies that prove the link between the mind and skin problems?
There are numerous studies that link stress, or stressful life events, to the development of various issues including hair loss, acne, psoriasis and eczema. There are papers that suggest the reverse, but the moreusual observation is that stress exaggerates immune‐mediated inflammatory conditions. Certain studies also show that cognitive behavioural therapy can be used as a useful additional therapy in psoriasis.
How do you identify that your skin concern is stress/mind related and not another factor such as product?
Skin diseases are complex disorders based on genetic predispositions and teamed with environmental factors that may cause a condition to worsen. Stress is just one of many potential external factors that can make a skin condition worse. For example, in cases of eczema, stress may make your skin disease worse but food allergens, aero allergens, cold weather, use of soaps can all be contributing factors to this. There is a variety of evidence showing that high levels of stress and anxiety levels are particularly prevalent in patients with skin disease.
Stress can cause bad diet habits, does this in turn play a part in the skin?
In times of stress, many people turn to sugary foods and alcohol. Evidence suggests alcohol makes the symptoms of psoriasis worse, whilst new findings showa link between a high glycaemic load (GL) diet, and the symptoms of acne. This would suggest a low GI diet may help prevent flares of acne.
What steps can you take to break the cycle of your mindset affecting your skin and in turn becoming stressed by your skin flare-ups?
It is difficult to give generalisations as people need specific intervention for their particular skin disease. Skin disease needs to be treated holistically. In other words, the whole of the patient’s situation needs to be taken in to account during a consultation. Treatment may be a combination of medical intervention, and the use of sessions with a clinical psychologist. A number of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, don’t have cures. As there is such a strong link between stress, anxiety and skin disease it’s important patients with skin diseases have access to both disciplines.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed at the moment, try these simple tips to ease stress from Dr Rangan Chatterjee. And, this 5 minute yoga sequence will serve to at least distract you from whatever is stressing you out.