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It’s important not to neglect your skin, especially when you are tired or stressed.
Do you ever notice your skin flaring up under stress? We reached out to Marie Jhin, MD, a board certified dermatologist with Premier Dermatology, to learn more about how stress affects skin. Read on for a few good reasons to take that vacation.
Q: Why does stress affect our skin?
A: As a board certified dermatologist practicing for almost 20 years,
I’ve seen how stress affects my patients’ skin, hair, and nails. I often see my patients’ skin conditions flare up during stressful times, including conditions like eczema, psoriasis, herpes and rosacea. I have also seen new problems arise from stress such as hair loss and nail changes.
What is the science by which stress affects the skin? Stress causes the release of the chemicals cortisol and interleukins that cause inflammation. These inflammatory chemicals are very helpful when our bodies are threatened by illnesses like the flu or colds. But they can wreak havoc on our skin, hair, or nails.
If you have a genetic predisposition to eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, these skin issues are more likely to appear during times of stress. Stress can cause other issues as well. When I see a patient with hair loss, one of my first question is what else is happening in their lives. We’re familiar with life stresses like work or family, but it can also be from stress to your body. For example, a crash diet or severe back pain or surgery can cause issues for the skin. Oddly, it may be a few months after a stressful time or incident before you notice changes to your skin. For example, there is a nail condition called “beau’s lines” which are horizontal ridges on your nails. These occur about a month after a stressful incident. Dandruff or “seborrheic dermatitis” is another condition that can make a delayed appearance.
Stress can also come out as a side effect when you’re not taking good enough care of yourself. You may not be washing your face or neglecting your sleep or not eating well. This puts more pressure on your body to perform and can create a vicious cycle of more stress. Your skin reacts to these kinds of stress in the same way as it does to emotional stress, and it can take weeks or months to recover.
So how do we protect our skin from the ravages of stress? Just understanding that stress can cause these effects in your skin, hair, and nails is a good start. It can help you get to know how your skin reacts to events in your life, and you can take action to alleviate the symptoms. If you know your body is under stress, watch for potential skin flare-ups and see a board certified dermatologist to help with treatment. It’s important not to neglect your skin, especially when you are tired or stressed. Take time to get regular exercise, get enough sleep and take time for yourself. And of course if your stress continues for long periods, consider seeing a professional such as a therapist to learn stress management techniques.
If you notice that your skin clears up or looks better on vacation, that may mean your current lifestyle may be too stressful. Although we can’t always be on vacation, consider how you can change your mindset or manage stress that you can always be in a “vacation” mindset.
Here’s some inspiration: Get That Inside-Out Glow at These Wellness Retreats.
Do you have a question for our skincare experts? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.