Skin Care Tips from the Dermatologist
The answer is yes. Experts agree that stress does not cause the skin problem, but it can make symptoms worse.
Authors of a detailed scientific review paper out of Germany conclude that there is “mounting evidence that stress in the sense of psychosocial stress alters the ability of the skin – through neuroendocrine and immune changes – to respond to environmental challenges. Especially in case of skin damage, due for example to a chronic disease such as atopic dermatitis, there is a more rapid and severe exacerbation of the skin disease under psychosocial stress. It therefore seems obvious: Anything that reduces stress must also reduce inflammation. This possibly also plays a role in the development of skin tumors.” (1)
As a dermatologist, I know that skin problems cause stress. I’ve also observed over the years, that when my patients are under stress, their skin problems are much worse. In my 30 years of practice, I’ve even seen patients whose skin formed a flurry of basal cell skin cancers over several years when they were under severe life stress. Once the stress dissipated, their skin stopped forming basal cell cancers.
Stress reduction can help improve skin problems.
Now that researchers are working out the neuroendocrine immunologic pathways for skin problems, we know that stress reduction is an important component for improving them. Whether the problem is classic eczema (atopic dermatitis), rosacea, psoriasis, acne, hives and even skin cancer, the neuroendocrine immune state of your overall physiology will be impacted by stress – and so will your skin. Stress, whether acute or chronic, shifts the state of your body’s immune balance, and that will impact your skin problems.
Any patient with a skin problem will tell you that the problem also causes them stress. It can be a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’ question with stress and skin problems. We are now able to say that no matter which came first, stress reduction will help. This is important.
How can you lower your stress to help your skin problem?
Mindfulness has been shown to help.
According to Susan Abbey, MD, “Dermatology was actually the first area to show an impact of mindfulness… because the skin has been regarded as an organ that responds to emotional stimuli and psychological influences.”