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9 ways your skin can react to stress, according to a dermatologist

As more and more of us face increasing demands at work and at home, it’s no secret that feeling chronically stressed can impact our health in many ways, affecting us both mentally and physically.Chronic stress messes with your body in several ways — from sleepless nights to appetite changes, your body can react in seemingly unusual ways when you’re experiencing a lot of stress.It turns out that your stress levels can seriously impact your skin, exacerbating existing skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, and causing side effects like excessive sweating or even hair loss.

In fact, the link between skin and stress is becoming better understood in the medical community. “Psychodermatology is a field that addresses the impact of an individual’s emotion as it relates to the skin,” Karen Mallin, PsyD, an instructor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and dermatology & cutaneous surgery of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami said.

  • You might deal with Acne breakouts when you’re under stress.

By now, many popular myths surrounding acne have long been disproven, and we know that it’s not just teenagers who battle breakouts. Adult acne is surprisingly common and has many causes, with stress being a major trigger.It is very common for people to experience breakouts when stressed, and it’s all due to hormonal changes our bodies experience during times of stress. Your body releases stress hormones including cortisol, which may increase the skin’s oil production, making you prone to breakouts.If you’re suddenly battling breakouts and can’t figure out why, you might want to check in with your stress levels.

  • Eczema flare-ups might be worse during stressful times.

If you have eczema, a skin condition which typically presents as a red, itchy rash, you might find that flare-ups are markedly worse during stressful times. Some people with eczema may find that their flare-ups start or worsen with increased stress. Once eczema is active on the skin, that can also lead to more stress as it can be itchy and uncomfortable for patients, so it can lead a vicious cycle. This is because stress can increase inflammation which can trigger an eczema flare.Also, when the skin is dry, which can occur when the skin is stressed, it tends to be more prone to an eczema flare, so keeping skin adequately moisturized is crucial to help minimize irritation.

  • People with Rosacea might also notice an uptick in symptoms 

Just as inflammation can cause an eczema flare, it can also trigger a flare-up in those who suffer from rosacea. It is well-known that rosacea, characterized by red bumps, redness or flushing, can have many triggers, including stress. Being stressed can trigger an inflammatory response that can aggravate the skin, increase redness and bumps.

  • You might notice that you breakout in hives when you are actually stressed 

Hives, which is also known as urticaria, is due to an increase in histamine levels in the body. While many times the triggers for hives is unknown, it can be due to a recent infection, [new or change in dose of a] medication, food [allergy or intolerance], or stress. Stress can trigger or worsen hives by increasing the release of histamine.Any sudden skin reaction should be examined by your doctor or dermatologist, who can determine if it’s stress-related or has another underlying cause.

  • The skin around your eyes might look puffy and dark circles might look more pronounced. 

It’s common for many of us to experience dark undereye circles after a few sleepless nights, when we’re stressed out, we might pick up habits that literally lead to stress showing up on our faces.Often when we are stressed, we are not always as good about taking care of ourselves, getting sleep, staying hydrated or eating well, all of which can lead to worsened under eye appearance.There’s no shortage of skin-care products on the market designed to reduce or help deep under eye circles, but it also might help to check in with your mental health before dropping big bucks on pricey creams, lotions, and potions.

  • Your skin might also look swollen or dull 

Similarly, if you’ve noticed that your overall skin tone isn’t as bright these days, it might be a matter of stress showing itself on your face. When stressed, we often forget to take care of our skin or apply our typical creams. As a result, the skin can look sallow and/or dull.For many people, skin care is a form of self-care, so if you find that your routine helps relax you, you might want to keep at it, even when you’re feeling extra stressed.

  • The relationship between stress and psoriasis is cyclical

Unfortunately for those who suffer from psoriasis, a skin condition marked by thick, scaly patches of skin that might appear all over the body, stress and psoriasis can be a vicious cycle.Stress can be considered a trigger of a psoriasis flare, but a psoriasis flare can also cause stress. Stress may trigger psoriasis by increasing inflammatory markers that are involved in psoriasis.

  • You skin might feel dry and flaky 

If you’re noticing an overall change in your skin’s texture, check in with your stress levels. When the skin is stressed, cortisol can lead to a decrease in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, which can lead to moisture loss in the skin, leading to the skin looking dehydrated. We often also forget to apply moisturizing cream and our normal routine when stressed, so this can also affect how the skin looks.

  • Stress can age your skin more quickly 

Though there’s no shortage of products out there that claim to slow the skin’s aging process, one thing is clear: chronic stress can show up on your face, possibly leading you to look older than you actually are.Stress can lead to increased cortisol which has been shown to break down collagen and decrease synthesis of hyaluronic acid. The loss of collagen and hyaluronic acid can lead to fine lines and wrinkles over time.Stress can also increase free radical formation which can lead to skin aging.

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