How Stress Can Impact the Skin

How Stress Can Impact the Skin | Dr. Ali Ghahary

When you’re under a lot of stress, it can have a major impact on your health. Most notably, stress often causes an increase in anxiety. However, stress can also impact you and your health in ways you may not even realize. For example, it can contribute to fatigue, insomnia, body aches and pains (such as muscle and joint pain), headaches, upset stomach, chest pain, overeating lack of appetite, alcohol or drug abuse, and even a decreased sex drive. Stress can also contribute to some serious skin problems.

When you’re stressed, there is a rise in cortisol, which is your body’s main stress hormone. If your cortisol levels are high, this can cause a mix-up in the messages that your nerves send out and can lead to everything from an outbreak of hives, rash, or even an increase in wrinkles over time – and, if you already suffer from previously diagnosed skin disorders, such as psoriasis, rosacea, eczema or dermatitis, stress can often trigger severe flare-ups of these conditions. Another common skin condition that can be triggered by stress is acne, as when you’re stressed or anxious there can be an increase in the production of the skin’s oil (known as sebum) – and the more sebum you produce the easier it is for your follicles to become clogged, resulting in acne. Stress can also cause the skin to thin, become more sensitive, as well as delay the body’s natural ability to heal skin wounds.

So just how do you prevent the skin from being affected by stress? By stopping the stress cycle. How do you do that? By finding out what your stress triggers are – and there can be many. Stress can be triggered by life events, such as the death of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, problems at work or job loss, increased financial obligations or financial problems, or moving to a new home. It can also be triggered by things like public speaking, chronic illness or injury, and even mental health problems such as depression, anger, and poor self-esteem.

Once you’ve figured out what your stress triggers are, you can work on finding a solution. For many people, getting rid of the stress in their lives often means removing any toxicity. If you’re in a relationship that is unhealthy (whether it’s abusive or one you’re simply not happy being in), then you need to get out of it. If you’re finding your job more stressful than usual, whether it’s the workload being too much for you to handle or having problems with co-workers, try first bringing this up to your HR or management department. If a resolution can’t be reached, you may want to consider looking for alternative employment. In some cases, employers will often offer stress leave for their employees or even short or long-term disability. You may also need some additional help coping with the stress in your life, and that’s okay too. If you’re experiencing stress, it’s important to let someone know – whether it’s a trusted individual like a friend, family member, or a medical professional. Your family physician is often a good place to start as he or she will be able to provide you with additional resources (such as a list of counselling services that may be of benefit to you), or make a referral to a psychologist. They will also be able to prescribe you with medication to help with your stress and anxiety.

Once your stress level has significantly decreased, you should also start to notice an improvement in your skin. If your skin problems persist, however, then you may need to be referred to a skin specialist, known as a dermatologist, for further evaluation.