Aug 27th, 2021
Maybe you can’t stop scratching and picking at your face, or patches of eczema or psoriasis suddenly re-appear. You see your reflection in the mirror and not only do you feel stressed out, but you look it, too.
Unsurprisingly there is a direct correlation between feeling stressed and having skin flare ups. When we feel stressed our bodies respond with a chemical reaction. A signal is sent to brain which tells the body to releases various hormones—such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine—which causes inflammation. It is these chemicals and the inflammation that affects the skin.
It can also be a vicious cycle; skin conditions may cause you to feel stressed as they affect your physical appearance and make you uncomfortable, impacting on everyday life, social activities and relationships.
Effects of Cortisol
Chronic stress can lead to high levels of cortisol, causing the formation of wrinkles and thinning of the skin. Cortisol also causes blood sugar levels to increase so the body has enough energy to perform a “fight or flight” response, and this long-term increase in blood sugar levels can have a negative impact on the skin. A high level of sugar in the blood causes a process called “glycation” to occur; this is where sugar molecules in the body crosslink with protein and fat molecules to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are not recognised as normal proteins by the body so the immune system responds by producing antibodies, which can cause the skin to become inflamed. Glycation also hardens the skin and discolours collagen and elastin, which makes wrinkles more prominent and causes skin to lose its natural healthy glow.
Keeping Stress at Bay
Whether it is emotional, physical, or mental, stress is an unavoidable part of the modern-day busy life. But how we deal with that stress can help you avoid unwanted side effects such as skin flare ups.
A few tips proven to ease stress:
1. Mindfulness – practicing mindfulness reduces activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so reducing activity means reducing stress.
2. Sleep – insufficient sleep can increase stress levels as it can make you more irritable, put you in a negative mood and causes low energy. Aim for at least 7 hours per night.
3. Exercise – exercising won't make your stress disappear, but it will lessen some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling. It helps you clear your thoughts and lets you deal with your problems calmly with more clarity. Exercise also lowers your body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the long run.
4. Talking therapies – you can reduce stress through talking therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A counsellor can help you understand why you feel stressed and find strategies that can help you learn how to cope with it.
5. Healthy, balanced diet – this is key to helping our bodies manage the physiological changes caused by stress. Eating well reduces oxidation and inflammation, and puts less physical stress on the body by helping to reduce weight gain.
6. Quit smoking – generally people smoke to ease feelings of stress. However, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, but this feeling is only temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings.
Don’t struggle with stress
Stress can have a damaging effect on the skin, from aggravating symptoms of chronic skin conditions to contributing to premature ageing. But by making time for rest and exercise and avoiding certain triggers, you can prevent skin break-outs.
If you struggle with skin concerns that can be aggravated by stress, then speak to the Anti Wrinkle Clinic to find out how we can help tackle flare ups.