If you have not thought about it, stress and anxiety can really affect your skin. Have you noticed you get breakouts when you are under pressure or going through something stressful? Other skin ailments besides breakouts can be linked to stress and anxiety too. Learn what they are and more about how your skin is affected by stress in the article below.
If you’ve been feeling super stressed, you are not alone. According to a 2017 survey of stress conducted by the American Psychological Association, over 50 percent of Americans say that now is the worst period of U.S. history in their memories. And many of us are literally losing sleep due to stress: The survey also found that 45 percent of people reported lying awake in the past month because of it.
We’ll be the first to admit that our stress can get the best of us sometimes. It not only trickles from our brains to our bodies: It can show up on our skin, too, or exacerbate existing psychological conditions that can then in turn wreak havoc on our complexions. Here’s what to know about what stress can do to your skin.
Anxiety and stress can be linked to scarring.
Tic behaviors ? for example, pulling your hair or picking at your skin ? can cause serious skin problems, says Abigail Waldman, a dermatologist at Brigham and Women?s Hospital in Boston. Sometimes, those problems can be permanent. ?There are people who cause their own balding from pulling out their hair, which is [a disorder] called trichotillomania,? she says. Waldman says that research suggests between 0.6 percent and 3.6 percent of adults suffer from trichotillomania. Researchers aren’t totally sure what causes trichotillomania, but if you do have it, stress is known to exacerbate it. Subconsciously, you might also pick at or scratch your skin, which could lead to wounds and scars.
Stress can cause flare-ups and worsen pre-existing conditions.
Eczema acting up? Psoriasis flaring again? You might be stressed out, says Waldman. A flood of the hormone cortisol can tank your immune system, a response that takes a toll on your skin and your Zen.
Stress and skin woes also have a bit of a cyclical relationship. ?Patients who have skin conditions have been shown to have higher instances of anxiety and social avoidance,? says Waldman. ?It?s all interconnected in that stress and anxiety can impact skin conditions, and having skin issues can lead to anxiety and negatively affect someone.? For what it?s worth, Waldman notes that skin freak-outs in tense times are usually NBD ? they?ll clear up in due time. But if you have chronic skin concerns that could be linked to mental well-being, check in with both a dermatologist and a psychiatric professional, she suggests.
Lack of sleep makes it worse.
Even small stressors and anxieties can add up and negatively impact the quantity and quality of your sleep. And unfortunately, skipping out on sleep doesn?t just result in you wanting to take a nap under your desk at work. It can lead to swollen eyes and dark circles, Waldman notes.
A daily moisturizer with caffeine can help lighten and tighten the eye area, says Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist in West Islip, New York. But there?s really no solution like getting a good eight hours of quality rest ? and not just on the weekends but through the week. ?Sleep is when our neurons recharge and our brain does its repair,? she says. ?Similarly, it?s a time when we tell patients to use medications that can also work to repair skin.?
Superanxious times can make your hair fall out.
Telogen effluvium is a condition in which the number of hair follicles that are growing hair drops, which results in hair loss. Normally, hair has a predictable pattern of growing and falling out and growing again, Waldman says. But in cases of TE, less of the hair follows this pattern and the hair on the scalp thins. The cause is not completely understood, but there appears to be a link between chronic stress and TE. Doctors speculate that if your body is perceiving anxiety as a threat, it may not view growing hair as worth the energy, Waldman notes.
Of course, on a less extreme scale, many of us have seen clumps of hair in the drain before (then gone straight to WebMD and diagnosed ourselves with anemia or bubonic plague ? or convinced ourselves we?re pregnant). But thinning and shedding hair can be normal when you’re experiencing heightened anxiety or stress. Fortunately, the effect reverses itself in calmer times, says Waldman. To help with hair growth, make sure you?re eating enough protein, Mariwalla says.
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