Having some stress in your life can be good for you. But when you have too much stress, it can ruin your health in many ways, including your skin.
I’ve mentioned before that I can take in a lot of stress. It’s a good and bad thing. It’s good because I can manage through things that some people might not be able to handle, so it takes a whole lot to get me stressed. What’s bad about it is that I have no idea I’m stressed until it’s too late. I don’t tend to get the usual telltale signs like neck pain, headaches, or acne. I will get an occasional pimple, but I can chalk that up to a number of things (like what I’m eating), so I never think it’s stress, even though it’s a potential source.
Like me, you may not even notice when you are showing some signs of stress. Do you ever find yourself scratching when you’re under pressure, or do you break out in acne right before a main event or a big test? Chances are these are related to stress.
The way stress impacts your skin
In moderate doses, the pressures of work, family life, and change can fuel you. Sometimes the demands grow, and it may seem like there are too many things competing for your time. That’s when your body kicks into high gear to help you cope.
There is an extensive list of skin disorders that are at least partially related to stress. Stress causes the body to release a hormone (cortisol) that upsets the hormonal balance in the body, affecting many organs, including the skin. The hormone causes oil glands to increase production, leading to breakouts.
Another side effect is that skin becomes dehydrated, sensitive and more susceptible to damage, such as wrinkles and lines and (which can also come from furrowing your brow when feeling tense). Itching is a primary symptom of many stress-related skin conditions. The scratching itself can cause a mild skin disorder that can get worse, and stress sufferers are more prone to nervous scratching.
Some stress-related skin conditions
- Acne: Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts on face, back, and shoulders.
- Eczema: Dry skin, with patches that are red and intensely itchy, patches may ooze, become scaly, crusted, or hardened.
- Hives: Red, swollen, extremely itchy welts on skin.
- Psoriasis: Dry red patches of skin covered with scales.
- Rash: Skin inflammation and discoloration that changes the way the skin look (eczema, hives and some types of acne are types of rashes).
- Rosacea flare-ups: Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, small visible blood vessels and bumps on the face and watery or irritated eyes.
The most important thing to do with most of these skin conditions is to keep your hands off of them. Avoid scratching or touching any lesions. Try relaxing in a warm bath with baking soda or oatmeal added to the water to help with the itching.
Cortisone ointments, oral antihistamines, and even antibiotics are helpful for some conditions, but see your doctor before treating yourself to get the right solution for you. A skin condition can also be a sign of allergy, infection or other illness that you should consult with your doctor to ensure you get the right treatment.
When you feel like you have more stress than normal, there are some useful relaxation techniques you can try.
- Try deep breathing, meditation or visualization. One simple visualization technique is to imagine that you’re in a peaceful place, smell the crisp air and imagine the beautiful view.
- Go for a walk.
- Read or listen to some music to calm your mind.
- Take some time out to spend with friends or family; go for dinner, to the movies or do anything you enjoy.
- If you have a pet, play with it. Thinking about it makes me smile!
Pay attention to the signs
Pay attention to some of the signs of stress. Other than the skin conditions mentioned in this article, some stress-related disorders include an upset stomach, heartburn, high blood pressure or insomnia.
Speak to a healthcare professional or counselor to find out how you can effectively manage your stress.
What are some of your ideas for helping to reduce stress?