Stressed mind and stressed skin: how to break the vicious cycle?

Can anxiety cause breakouts and rashes

Stressed mind and stressed skin

I think it’s fair to say that the past year has been unkind even to the best of us. You’re probably feeling more burnout and stressed than usual. Aside from our mental health, this pandemic has taken a toll on our skin so that many have stressed skin too.

So, with a stressed mind and stressed skin, how can we break free from this viscous cycle?

How does stress affect your skin? what is stressed skin?

When we think of stress, we might attribute this to our mood and feeling. But what if I told you that stress also has a major impact on our skin’s health? When we feel stressed, our body releases stress hormones (e.g. cortisol).

As the levels of stress increase, more cortisol is produced and compromises our immune system, producing more oil and irritation.

For our skin, this means that increase psychological stress can make skin conditions worse or even cause them!

Can anxiety cause breakouts and rashes?

Anxiety is an emotion that leaves us feeling tense, nervous or scared and is a normal and natural response to stress, particularly during COVID-19. It can leave us feeling restless and uneasy as it heightens our nervous system.

Our skin may be affected adversely if anxiety is causing our skin to feel itchy, break out in hives or rashes and may lead us to pick at our skin constantly. We may pick and itch at the skin subconsciously but doing so prevents the skin from healing itself and will cause long-term scarring.

Anxiety can also exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis where stress is disrupting the balance of the skin.

Increase of psychological stress can make skin conditions worse or even cause them!

Can anxiety cause breakouts and rashes?

Anxiety is an emotion that leaves us feeling tense, nervous or scared and is a normal and natural response to stress, particularly during COVID-19. It can leave us feeling restless and uneasy as it heightens our nervous system.

Our skin may be affected adversely if anxiety is causing our skin to feel itchy, break out in hives or rashes and may lead us to pick at our skin constantly. We may pick and itch at the skin subconsciously but doing so prevents the skin from healing itself and will cause long-term scarring.

Anxiety can also exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis where stress is disrupting the balance of the skin.

What does stress acne look like?

Stress acne can come in many different forms. It might worsen acne that already exists. People who are stressed may experience oilier skin, as a result of higher cortisol presence. This, in turn, can cause more sebaceous filaments, blackheads/whiteheads and breakouts.

Stress acne is not to be mistaken for hormonal acne. The latter comes around the time of your period and mostly appear around the chin area. This is affected by changes in androgen hormone levels that also affects oil production.

How stress affects your face

How to improve mental health and get healthy skin

With changes in work dynamics, uncertain futures and imbalances in life, it is no doubt that we will all experience being stressed at one point. You may feel helpless and in a rut, but breaking free from these triggers will improve mental health in the long run and get you on the path to glowing, healthy skin.

Meditation

This may be cliché for some but setting time aside to focus on the mind can drastically improve your mental health. Simple breathing exercises and being in-tune with your own thoughts will take you to a place of peace.

Apps like Headspace and Balance are some great tools to get you started on your meditation journey and break away from the work-from-home madness. They have a range of meditation guides that you can filter depending on concern and time so you can fit it whenever in your daily life.

Cut the caffeine

Whilst caffeine isn’t the cause of acne, it has been studied to be related to anxiety and stress. Being a stimulant, it can trigger a higher heart rate and cause a ‘fight or flight’ physiological reaction. Try easing the caffeine intake by drinking a cup less than you usually do and see what difference that can make!

Getting your steps in

With all this built up energy and stress, what better way to relieve them then by taking a daily walk or doing a 20-minute workout. Exercise has proven to release endorphins and is a great way to reset and regulate your emotions. Don’t overexert yourself and start off slow! This is a great way to improve quality of life and destress.

Whilst caffeine isn’t the cause of acne, it has been studied to be related to anxiety and stress. Being a stimulant, it can trigger a higher heart rate and cause a ‘fight or flight’ physiological reaction.

How to treat your skin when stress is already taking a toll

Luckily for our stressed skin, treating stress acne is pretty much the same to treating any type of acne. Here are some tips you can incorporate into your routine.

  1. Chemical Exfoliation

Adding in an AHA/BHA exfoliant into your routine can help increase cell turnover and prevent build-up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Doing this overtime will improve hyperpigmentation from breakouts and smooth the skin of rough bumps and texture.

AHA (alpha-hydroxy-acids) are great at working the skin on the surface. Look for glycolic or lactic acids to achieve glowy and smooth skin.

BHA (beta-hydroxy-acids), like salicylic acid, work deep down into the pores as well as the surface and are perfect for unclogging pores and blackheads. Use these exfoliants 2-3x a week for optimal results.

  1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

The truth is that no skin damage will ever be fixed if you’re not using sunscreen on a daily basis. Sun exposure is one of the key factors that contributes to premature ageing of the skin, exacerbate existing irritation as well as increasing PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation).

Applying every day and reapplying every two hours no matter rain or sun will protect the skin and help skin problems heal quicker.

  1. Antioxidant serum

Incorporating soothing and calming ingredients into your routine will help with any skin condition caused by stress and anxiety.

Look out for ingredients like green tea, panthenol (vitamin B5) and aloe vera that are known to help calm itchy, stressed skin.

skincare products for acne-prone skin

You are beautiful: 3 feel good tips to remember

  1. Acne is the most common skin condition with 95% of people aged 11 to 30 years old experiencing it at some point in their lives. This means you are definitely not alone!
  2. Take this as an opportunity to practice self-care. Light a candle and unwind the evening with a glass of wine and face mask! There has never been a better time to pamper yourself and take yourself on a spa date.
  3. Our skin is not meant to be perfect. Social media and its unobtainable beauty standards have brainwashed us into thinking that skin is meant to be pore-free, smooth and wrinkle-free. The reality is that hyperpigmentation, texture, breakouts exists – and that’s okay!

Whilst it is never nice to have a pimple, know that this is temporary, and skin is skin! We are all perfectly imperfect in our own ways.

Author: Katherine Chong

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