Oh Good – Prolonged Stress Can Lead To Bad Skin

Our mind and body are more connected than we think.
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Skin issues affect many of us – 60% of people in the UK currently have, or previously had, a skin condition. And 70% of these said it affects their confidence, according to the British Skin Foundation.

There’s no quick fix or guaranteed cure for skin conditions, but recent research suggests our minds can have a lot to do with what’s going on in our bodies.

Yup, stress can play a big role in our skin.

Anyone who’s had a big event coming up can relate to stress-related breakouts – there’s nothing like pre-job interview skin.

But stress can also wreak havoc on our immune systems, exacerbating or even causing problematic skin issues.

The stress-skin connection

A poll by Typharm of 1,000 people with skin conditions found that almost half (48%) of those surveyed identified prolonged stress and anxiety as factors which can lead to skin conditions.

Seven out of 10 (69%) said stress contributes to flare-ups and 57% confirmed that stress can exacerbate their skin problems.

This is due to how ongoing stress can weaken our immune system, say experts at Bupa: “This makes you more vulnerable to infection and skin diseases like vitiligo (loss of skin colour) and urticaria (another name for hives).”

These autoimmune diseases trick your body into thinking it’s fighting an infection and produces chemicals that attack your normal cells.

It works in reverse, too

Interestingly, research from Harvard shows that our skin can actually produce stress signals itself, sending signals to the brain.

They say that repeated exposure to stressors in our environment could actually cause your skin to produce its own stress-inducing signs, which “can travel to the brain and perpetuate the stress response.”

So, our skin can stress us out even more. Great.

These signals trigger a part of the brain called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a trio of glands that play key roles in the body’s response to stress, which sends them into a fight-or-flight response, flushing the skin with inflammation.

How to minimise stress levels

Some stress in life is unavoidable, so it’s useful to develop a toolkit that can help you take control when things get a bit much.

Making sleep a priority and finding ways to relax, rest and be more mindful can help to damp down inflammation and build resilience.

Cultivate a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. We know it sounds boring, but it can make a big difference.

And if all else fails, speak to a doctor about your stress levels and skin.