Stress has an even bigger impact on your health than you think. We know stress can lead to obesity and an increased risk of heart disease. But did you know that stress can also impact the condition of your skin? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a variety of studies anecdotally link stress, depression and anxiety to an increase in skin, hair or nail problems, but proving the relationship between stress and inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and rosacea has been difficult, until recently.
Researchers from Cornell reviewed previous studies looking at the impact of stress on inflammatory skin diseases. Animal studies have already suggested such a relationship.
A study from Japan found that stress worsened inflammatory conditions in mice. Mice genetically prone to develop a rash similar to the inflammatory skin condition atopic dermatitis reacted when stressed, while mice that were not exposed to stress did not develop the rash.
There is some evidence already to suggest that stress and the nervous system affect inflammatory skin diseases in humans. Many of the body’s cells, including immune cells, can be regulated by neuropeptides and neurotransmitters (chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings). Stress can result in those nerve endings releasing an increase of chemicals. When that happens, it affects how our body responds and can contribute to the symptoms of stress that we feel. That specific release of chemicals can lead to inflammation of the skin. Therefore, stress reduction is important to decrease the release of these pro-inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals.
Treatment of inflammatory skin disorders should focus on both the skin and stress levels. Dermatologists report that when doing so, the skin often clears more quickly as stress levels are reduced. However they are as yet still unsure which comes first. Is the stress causing the outbreak, or is the outbreak contributing to stress and anxiety? Most often, both are true. Therefore, treating the stress and the skin makes the most sense. Eliminating stress will lead to fewer episodes and the clearer the skin is, the better a patient feels about how they look and how they feel emotionally.
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