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The Effects of Stress on the Skin

Let’s face it…stress is something that we can’t escape! We all feel stressed at some point in our lives, our hope is to learn to manage it well, preferably before our skin becomes involved. Along with the emotional and physical side effects that occur, stress can also manifest in the skin causing rashes, flares, and exacerbations of multiple skin conditions. What happens and what causes these flares you ask? Hormones including Cortisol and Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine and Cortisol levels spike when we are under stress, this can affect your immune system, cause inflammation in the skin, and it can compromise the skin’s normal healing process.

In Acne, spikes of Cortisol levels cause the skin to produce excess sebum (oil) blocking pores and it decreases the skin’s ability to retain water. Norepinephrine adds to this flare as it reduces blood flow leading to acne flares and blemishes. This chemical response can also affect existing inflammatory skin conditions such as Psoriasis, Eczema, and Rosacea. The decrease in blood flow leads to flare up causing exacerbations in inflammatory processes and rashes, all of which can lead to a compromise in healing. Bottom line, stress can wreak havoc on your skin!

Aside from the common medical treatment that your Dermatologist provides for these common skin issues, what other options do we have to manage this? How do you manage stress? Do you hit the gym, the yoga mat, or maybe sit in silence, take a walk or meditate? It’s no secret that these are just a few activities that have been found to be major stress relievers. Overall, Self-care and taking time to pause and breath can all help in calming your mind and skin as well as getting adequate rest and sleep. Of course, this is much easier to “say” than to “do” but it’s so important to take these mental breaks and develop these habits so that they will be much easier to incorporate during high stressed times in your life. Even if it’s only 10 min out of your day, carving out “me time” can make the world of difference to your mental health and therefore the health of your skin.


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