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Is your skin taking a beating from stress?

How do you react to stress? Do you break out more, or does your rosacea flare up? Your emotions can affect your whole body and can have a powerful impact on your skin.

If your acne gets worse when you feel nervous, that’s because your body releases stress hormones, including cortisol, which tells your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Oily skin is more prone to acne and other skin problems. Stress can also worsen problems such as psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema or trigger hives and other skin rashes.

Plus, skin problems themselves can be stressful. Some people are so embarrassed by their skin that they keep to themselves, which adds more stress and only worsens the problem.

Your body expresses emotions through many nerve endings connected to the skin, just as it does through other organs, causing gastrointestinal symptoms, increased anxiety or hypertension. In fact, many skin disorders take their roots from — or place their roots in — the psyche.

The relationship between the emotions and the skin has inspired a new field of study called psychodermatology, which examines those connections more closely than ever before. The new field evolved after scientists and medical experts determined that dermatology should have a more integrated approach with other fields such as psychology.

This thinking has widened the scope of treatment possibilities that now may include antidepressants, relaxation therapy or counseling to alleviate mood problems that might result from or cause skin problems.

Reduce effects of stress

You can’t avoid stress, but you can try to reduce its effects on your body, as well as battle its symptoms on the skin. That includes developing a good skin care regimen, which should incorporate beneficial skin-care products as well as these essentials:

  • Get enough sleep. Getting less than eight hours can cause fluid to pool below your lower eyelid area. Make sure you shut off electronic devices an hour before you go to sleep and use the downtime to get calm and relaxed before bed.
  • Drink water. You’ll look dewy and fresh-faced if you drink eight glasses or more each day. Also consider drinking green tea for healthy antioxidants and eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and celery.
  • Practice deep breathing. This can help calm anxiety, which can cause skin issues to flare up. Breathing exercises can also help minimize the chances of getting a rash or hives when you are stressed. These exercises can reduce flushing and redness, which can happen when you take short, shallow breaths, as is often the case during stressful situations.

Stress happens to everyone, and since you can’t avoid your job, bills or life, the best thing to do is to learn to manage it. Remember to take care of your skin even if you’re tired or stressed. Get enough sleep, along with some exercise. Both are important for your skin, as well as the rest of your body. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy, like reading or a long bath.

You also might want to consider a number of stress management techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and visual imagery.

Once you realize how your inner turmoil shows itself, you will be better-equipped to use home and professional therapies to counter its not-so-pretty effects.

Courtney Zechman is the licensed esthetician at Low Country Dermatology. She can be reached at 912-354-1018.