Stress has a destructive relationship with our skin. Everything in the body is correlated, so it transpires onto our most outer layer. Stress has an immense impact on both the extrinsic and intrinsic factors of our skin, which can cause the body to react in various negative ways. The skin is much deeper than just the outer layer, as our mind and the organ work together. If you are a victim to stress and might possess stress-related symptoms, ask yourself the following:
- How am I eating?
- How am I sleeping? Have my sleeping patterns changed?
- When my skin issue started, what was going on in my life?
- Are my symptoms stress related?
Understanding Your Stress Hormone & How it Works
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone which fuels the its’ “fight-or-flight” response. This hormone is released during periods of stress which in return increases heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, respiration and muscle tension. Cortisol also reduces the body’s system functions that are not needed during times of crisis, such as the reproductive, digestive and immune systems. Other functions of cortisol include:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Increases the body’s glucose production (blood sugar levels)
- Enhances the body’s energy and restores balance
- Assists in memory formation
- Controls your sleep/wake cycle
- Regulates inflammation
How does cortisol work? Two glands in the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary, sense if the bloodstream contains the right level of cortisol. If levels are too low, the brain adjusts the amount of hormones it produces. The adrenal glands sense these signals and then determine the amount of cortisol to release. Most of the cells in the body contain cortisol receptors, which receive and use the hormone in various ways. The body’s needs vary from day to day, which causes the level of cortisol production to rise and fall accordingly.
Stress vs. Skin
The major concern with stress and skin is inflammation. When stress affects the body through the skin, it can develop through three different skin conditions: acne, rosacea and psoriasis. The common denominator between these stress-caused symptoms is the reddish color, which comes from inflammation.
During periods of excessive stress, one may experience more acne-related breakouts than usual. High levels of cortisol result in elevated sebum (oil) production which causes pores to become clogged. Once pores are clogged, the development of inflammation and bacteria cause acne to form.
According to the National Rosacea Society, there have been multiple scientific studies on how the process of facial flushing and redness are linked to high levels of stress. Heat and stress are triggers of rosacea and can cause redness flare-ups to the skin.
Psoriasis and stress have an intertwined relationship. Stress causes psoriasis, while psoriasis can cause stress. While professionals are not sure how stress directly affects psoriasis, they assume it has something to do with the immune system and its functionality.
Stress can also accelerate the aging cycle in the body, resulting in wrinkles and dark circles. Wrinkles form as a result from dehydration and loss of collagen. Similarly, dark circles are largely related to dehydration in the body and a lack of sleep. To combat the effects stress has on wrinkles and under eye circles, one must stay hydrated and conscious of their stress levels.
Questions to Ask Your Dermatologist
As the effect of stress on the skin comes off as quite complex, it is important to refer to a professional with all of your skin-related concerns. Some stress-related skin questions include the following:
- How can I combat stress-related symptoms with my specific skin type?
- What signs/symptoms should I look for when deciphering stress-related skin conditions?
- How can I manage my cortisol levels?
If you struggle with stress-related skin symptoms, seek professional treatment right away. There are various means of treatment and remedies to have you feeling the absolute best in your own skin. The dermatologists at Knoxville Dermatology Group are licensed professionals who are experienced in hundreds of skin conditions. To make an appointment visit us online or call (865) 690-9467.