How your mental health affects your skin

This year has been a tough one. With lockdowns, redundancies & ever looming uncertainty, most of us have felt anxious, stressed & even depressed at times.  But can these emotions affect our skin?

As our skin is our body’s largest organ it’s not surprising that it can be affected by poor mental health. As the skin contains sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve endings and cells all controlled by our nervous and immune systems, these are easily triggered by our mental health. Have you ever gone red from embarrassment? That’s a prime example of our skin reflecting our emotions. Blushing is a physiological reaction that is nothing more than the blood vessels in your face expanding but it goes to show how the two are linked.

When we experience stress or anxiety our body releases cortisol, a natural hormone that helps the body deal with stress. In small doses, cortisol serves as a great biological coping mechanism but if our body is exposed to persistent high levels of cortisol it can wreak havoc on your skin.

Acne is caused by inflammation. Stress and anxiety cause chronic inflammation in the body which causes cortisol to spike and encourages your sebaceous glands to produce more oil which dead cells stick to and ultimately block pores. It also encourages bad bacteria growth, making it the perfect environment for breakouts.

Cortisol also hinders the skin’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid, which is your body’s natural moisturiser, and along with inflammation causes conditions like rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, all which manifest themselves with flaky and itchy skin.

Cortisol also has the power to accelerate the skins ageing process, which in turn increases wrinkles and pigmentation and decreases brightness and firmness. When cortisol production is high, we see a drop in the production of the anti-ageing hormone known as DHEA.

Ultimately, this means that even using expensive skincare won’t help your skin if you’re stressed or anxious. The key is to try and relax and work towards relieving some of the stress in your life. Simple breathing techniques and recognising thought patterns can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

If you are struggling with your mental health, skin or both then you should contact your GP straight away and they will help you, don’t be afraid to speak out.

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