When a person has positive emotions, his or her skin glows and looks healthy. This is because the skin barrier function remains normal, the skin is well-hydrated, and the blood circulation is adequate.
Negative emotions are detrimental to our skin in many ways. For instance, when we bite our nails and pick at them, we are anxious, worried or scared and we damage our nails. When in distress, some people even rub their fingers over their thumb nail, which creates a ridge across the nail. Doing this can even distort the nail plate. When the nail grows, a raised ridge forms in the middle of the nail. Brittle, peeling nails are a common side-effect of anxiety.
In some people, stress can cause excessive perspiration. Depressed or worried people tend to neglect their skin. They often lack the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin care regimen, which itself can exacerbate problems.
Under stress, an individual succumbs to overeating, drinking and smoking, all of which affect he skin, causing dryness, a sallow complexion and blemishes.
Negative emotions can lead to stress and vice versa. A hectic work schedule, the environment, a poor diet, lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, illness, over exertion or mental tension are all causes of stress. Stress causes the formation of the ‘stress hormones’ adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. These induce a series of changes in the skin causing a lot of skin problems.
- Increases sebum [oil] production leading to clogged pores, white heads, and black heads.
- Impairs ability of the skin to heal and renew, making it more susceptible to infections. It also affects our immune function.
- Increases release of inflammatory neuropeptides, making the skin sensitive. This could lead to itching, redness and hives. Release of neuro-peptides [or stress chemicals released from the nerve endings] can be brought down with the help of stress management techniques, according to dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G Fried. As a result, skin looks and functions better.
- Exacerbates existing skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, eczemas, rosacea and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
- Affects hair. Under stress, hair can go into the telogen [fall-out] phase. Telogen effluvium is a common hair loss problem that can occur up to three months after a stressful event.
- Causes inadequate sleep, baggy eyes and dark circles.
- Impairs lipid barrier function especially in adults, causing the skin to become dry and dehydrated. Dry dehydrated skin will allow more irritants, allergens and infectious agents to penetrate the skin and cause problems.
- Accelerates the ageing process. The stress response upsets your body’s natural balance, which causes damage to hormone secretion, cell repair and collagen production. This leads to fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation.
Although it’s impossible to remove all the stress from your life, there are techniques to help you cope with stress more effectively.
- Follow your skin care routine. Do not neglect your skin even if you are feeling down.
- Pay attention to your diet. Avoid excessive levels of sugar, caffeine, junk food, smoking and alcohol.
- Practise relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga to calm your mind.
- Pamper yourself with a massage or a spa treatment to lift your mood.
- Take up a hobby. It will take your mind off worries and help you relax.