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What You Need to Know About Stress and Your Skin

Posted by Suzzy on 7/22/2014 to Anti-Aging

When life gets busy and overwhelming, the result is often excess stress. While some stress is natural and helps give us the energy to complete everyday tasks, unmanaged stress results in countless physical symptoms, including skin problems. Because stress is a significant part of life, it is important to manage it effectively. 

  • Skin and stress. As stress levels rise, so does cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. This leads to increased oil production, and can result in oily skin, acne, and similar problems. Furthermore, stress has an adverse effect on the barrier function of the skin. This results in water loss that interferes with the organ’s ability to heal. 
  • Hair and stress. There are a multitude of reasons for hair loss in both men and women, and stress is high among them. Hair loss is a common problem among those who have experienced a traumatic event within the previous 3 months. In these cases, hair usually grows back within 6 to 9 months. Life-changing circumstances, such as surgery or childbirth, can lead to hair loss as well. During such times, the body focuses specifically on recovery. Its lack of work in the hair growth department means that it may not grow as fast as it did previously. Some hair could also shed and not grow again right away. 
  • Nails and stress. The nervous habit of nail-biting is a common one. Peeling and brittle nails are also common side effects of stress. Certain physical and emotional stressors can even cause white horizontal lines to develop across the nails. 

Stress may have a negative impact on the body, but there are ways to minimize it. Learning to identify the underlying problem linked to the stress is the first step in the process. Some circumstances may warrant therapy or counseling services to acquire the tools necessary to effectively cope with stress. Exercising is helpful as well, because it releases endorphins in the body. These reduce stress. Also, avoid hot showers and baths, and use soaps that are free of detergent. Apply a moisturizer as soon as possible after bathing. When in contact with the sun’s rays, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. 

There are more formal interventions for minimizing the harmful effects of stress on the skin, nails, and hair. Stress can manifest itself in many ways, but it primarily leads to more sensitive and reactive skin. For instance, it can worsen rosacea and psoriasis, result in persistent acne, and cause excessive perspiration, hives, brittle nails, and hair loss.

 Stress also worsens fever blisters and seborrheic dermatitis and impairs skin barrier function and hydration. The results are more allergens, irritants, and infectious agents that can penetrate the skin. Aside from these physiological effects of stress, individuals who are overwhelmed also commonly neglect or abuse their bodies. They may not have the energy or motivation to maintain proper hygiene, for instance. Furthermore, they might engage in stress-related behaviors, such as pulling, rubbing, or scratching. When the root causes of stress are remedied along with their effects on the body, self-esteem is likely to improve and lead to better overall health and wellness. Other common stress-related skin complaints include the following: 

  • Psoriasis. Psoriasis is usually recognized by its silvery, scaly bumps, and redness and raised patches on the scalp. It can appear on other parts of the body as well, such as the knees, elbows, and under the fingernails. The armpits, navel, groin, and eyebrows may even be affected. Fortunately, it does not typically cause itching. Prescription topical creams can alleviate this condition, along with stress-relieving massage and aromatherapy. 
  • Eczema. This condition refers to any type of inflamed, red, itchy, and scaly skin patches. Topical creams are also helpful in these cases. Sea salt baths and almond oil can help minimize the exacerbation of eczema. 
  • Dandruff. This is known as an embarrassing, flaky scalp condition in conjunction with an oily scalp and dull hair. A variety of shampoos are available to alleviate the condition. 
  • Acne. Whiteheads, pimples, and blackheads can be caused by stress due to an increase in the hormones that help people cope with it. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can remedy this issue by controlling bacteria and the clogging of pores. Severe cases may require oral antibiotics. 
  • Hives. Hives are raised welts, usually white or red in color. They can persist for up to six weeks but typically fade within a day or less. They can be extremely itchy and may create burning sensations. Hives commonly manifest as allergic reactions, extreme changes in temperature, pressure to the skin, and food intolerance, but medications and emotional stress can lead to outbreaks as well. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available remedies. 

Cosmetic interventions obviously improve outward appearance, but they can also positively affect how people feel about themselves and how they function. When individuals feel attractive and confident, they are more likely to perform well in other areas of their lives, such as socially and professionally. When carefully considered, cosmetic procedures can be quite valuable. One study, conducted in 2008, found that patients who received injections experienced substantial benefits. Twenty nine percent of the participants reportedly felt less anxious after the procedure, while 36 percent felt more relaxed, and 49 percent were more optimistic. 

Consider these steps, in addition to those described above, to minimize the effects of stress: 

  • Schedule time to engage in something relaxing and enjoyable – even if it’s only for a few minutes. This may include taking a bath, going for a walk, journaling, or reading a book. 
  • Get enough rest. Sufficient rest is often neglected in today’s fast-paced environment, but is crucial to self-care. Seven or eight hours of sleep every night is optimal. 
  • Set boundaries. Healthy boundaries demand respect and encourage self-care. These are individual guidelines that determine what are and are not acceptable ways to be treated. This includes saying “no” when necessary to requests for favors. 
  • Use stress management tools, such as breathing exercises, meditation, visual imagery, and yoga. There are countless possibilities for managing stress, and the effectiveness of each depends on individual preference and needs. 

If you are suffering from stress-related skin conditions, browse our selection of products at Flawless Beauty and Skin.

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