If there’s one thing I learned about having clear skin it’s that stress is your enemy. When you have a skin condition like acne, psoriasis or rosacea, it can get noticeably worse as your stress-level increases and can lead to flare ups. Sometimes it feels like blemishes and skin discolorations should win an award for having the worst timing possible—just when you’re worried about the way your skin looks, your skin responds by looking even worse. But even as you try and manage the problem by maintaining proper skin care, you may not be managing your stress, which can lead to more skin irritation.
Combining skin treatments with stress management strategies may be one of the best ways to get control over your skin, according to Dr. Richard G. Fried. Dr. Fried, a psychologist and dermatologist, recommends that those who suffer from skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and fever blisters should be managing their stress as well as their skin’s health to prevent flare ups.
The Science Behind Stress and Your Skin
Feelings of anger, anxiety, depression or tension can cause psychological distress, which your body responds to by releasing neuropeptides, chemicals that the skin’s nerve endings that are released as a defense mechanism against infection and trauma. These chemicals can inflame the skin and when released during stressful situations, can make skin conditions worse.
Even in situations of low, but constant stress – whether it be from school, work, relationships, etc. – stress can cause the nerves to inappropriately release neuropeptides. Stress can also make your skin more permeable, meaning bacteria can more easily enter and inflame your skin. The resulting flare ups may also make you feel more stressed because you may feel that you have no control over your skin, which can start the vicious cycle all over again.
When it comes down to it, acne treatments like cleansers, topical and oral antibiotics, and even powerful drugs like isotretinoin (Accutane) can keep bacteria out of your skin and shrink the size of your oil glands, but even these may not be effective by themselves. Skin Care Physicians, one of our clients who provide medical and cosmetic dermatology services to Boston area patients, will often combine skin treatments to attack a problem from multiple angles. However, because the mind is at least partly responsible for your flare ups, treating the symptom (the flare up) is not as effective as treating the cause.
Stress Relief + Skin Treatment
Dr. Fried suggests that rather than relying on dermatological skin treatments to treat the problem, patients should also be managing their stress. Dr. Fried recommends that patients try stress- management strategies like psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, hypnosis, tai chi, yoga, antidepressants and beta blockers. Although most dermatologists aren’t qualified to prescribe these treatments, patients can consider seeing a psychotherapist, psychiatrist or other qualified person who can make recommendations based on a patient’s individual situation. Ultimately, patients need to find stress management strategies that work for them. On the other hand, treating the skin condition can also help manage stress. The Skin Care Physicians offer a full line of chemical peels and facials that can be physically soothing while treating you skin condition at the same time. At their Boston Dermatology practice, Skin Care Physicians are dedicated to comprehensive care and treatment for a variety of medical skin conditions. Consider talking to a dermatologist about your options.
Kim Paterson is a copywriter who specializes in writing about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, and skin care for medical marketing company Etna Interactive. A recent Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate, Kim enjoys writing, blogging, cycling, and playing music.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy
- My friend Eric and me! Contrary to popular belief, skin is not just skin. Dermatologists even qualify different skin types on a scale known as the Fitzpatrick scale; different types denote different susceptibilities to skin diseases, treatment plans and options. In a prior interview of mine with African-American dermatologist Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., she informed…
- Thanks largely to the organic and natural product movement, there are a lot of well-intentioned people out there who say things like: Let thy food be thy skin care. If my eighth-grader can't pronounce it, I won't eat it or use it on my face. If I can't eat it, I won't use it on my…
- It seems that when summer comes around, everyone talks a lot about avoiding shine and oil. When the heat and humidity go up, so too does the oil on your skin. But that can be deceptive. There are a number of short- and long-term ways that summer actually dries out your skin. Short-Term: A Very…