Skin and the Stress Connection

How we feel on the inside could be affecting how we look on the outside. In fact, studies link factors that impact our emotional well-being — such as stress, depression and anxiety — to an increase in skin, hair or nail problems. Dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried, MD, PhD, FAAD, of Yardley, Pa., explains that there is a profound reciprocal relationship between feelings and appearance.

Stress can manifest itself on one’s appearance in many ways, but primarily by making the skin more sensitive and more reactive.

For example, stress can make psoriasis or rosacea worse, result in acne lesions that are more inflamed and more persistent, cause brittle nails and ridging of the nails, cause hair loss, cause or worsen hives, and cause excessive perspiration.

Stress also is a known trigger or can be a worsening factor for fever blisters, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and has even been shown to impair skin barrier function and dehydrate the skin — allowing more irritants, allergens, and infectious agents to penetrate the skin and cause problems.

Beyond the direct physiological effects of stress, patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin. For example, they often lack the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin care regimens, and there also might be signs of stress-related behaviors — such as scratching, pulling or rubbing — that can exacerbate problems.

When you treat both the skin and stress, the skin often clears more quickly and completely as the influences of stress are diminished. This, in turn, can help decrease your overall anxiety level, and you may start to feel better about how you look and feel emotionally.

On a microscopic level, stress reduction can decrease the release of pro-inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals. For example, release of neuropeptides (or stress chemicals released from the nerve endings) can be reduced with stress management techniques. This often results in skin that looks and functions better.

When people feel more attractive and more confident in their appearance, they tend to perform better in other areas of their lives — in their work, family life, social life, and marriage or personal relationships.

A study conducted by Dr. Fried evaluating the clinical and psychological effects of the use of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) found that patients demonstrated significant improvements in facial skin tone and fine wrinkling, and reported satisfaction with their physical appearance and the quality of their interpersonal relationships.

On Thursday, I’ll be letting you know all about the exciting skin care products from DaVita that we are now carrying in our website store. I’ve waited a long time for an outstanding product line like this, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!