Advice on how we can de-stress our skin from a sk:n Dermatologist
With Lockdown 2.0 upon us, it is more important than ever to focus on our mental and physical wellbeing
Feeling stressed and under pressure is unfortunately a common occurrence in most peoples’ lives and with the UK now back in a national lockdown this is more apparent than ever. However, becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to problems with our skin and managing it can be even more challenging. We are all experiencing changes to our daily lives as we try to adjust to the everchanging ‘new normal’ way of living, which for many is understandably triggering a lot of worry and stress.
To help, Dr Daron Seukeran, one of our Medical Director’s here at sk:n, explains why our skin is effected by stress and how we can try to keep it under control.
“In stressful situations the body produces hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, as well as proteins such as endorphins, insulin and ones that trigger inflammation. We know that this can have an impact on certain skin conditions.
“Psoriasis and eczema are conditions known to become worse when individuals are going through stressful circumstances, which in turn can have a psychological and social confidence impact too. Although there is not a huge amount of clinical evidence, many people also feel that their acne gets worse during stressful times.
“Conditions such as these can negatively influence how you feel about yourself and, not to mention unrealistic social standards and pressures on social media, which can contribute to this. This can lead to lack of self-confidence, and low self-esteem, social isolation and an increase in stress – creating a vicious cycle.”
Here are some surprising tips on how to keep stressful skin flare ups at bay:
- Eat more…. carrots
We have always been told that eating carrots is great for our vision, however a lesser-known fact is the great benefits for our skin. Carrots provide a vital source of vitamin A, which is helpful for any healthy skin diet. They also contain biotin, vitamins K, C and B6, potassium and thiamine, all of which can help skin cells stay healthy. Many people find cooking is a great way to relax, so when you’re next in the kitchen, try whipping up a carrot-centric dish to double the benefits!
- Try knitting
Knitting has been found to reduce depression and anxiety, its repetitive movements can elicit the famous relaxation response, which is the body’s counterbalance to stress, when heart rate and blood pressure fall, breathing slows, and levels of stress hormones drop1. When you trigger the relaxation response, it can lower the inflammation of the skin, often triggered by stress. If picking up the needles isn’t for you, try other relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness hobbies like writing or painting, meditation or yoga. Talking about any pressures or stresses with family and friends can also help you to relax. This is especially important now more than ever and just because we may not be able to see them in person, we can still be sure to stay in touch through regular phone calls and video calls.
- Get moving
Exercise can help to lower stress levels by increasing levels of beta-endorphins, which fight the effects of cortisol. It can also boost energy levels and the immune system, in turn helping to improve eczema and psoriasis symptoms. However, always ensure you adapt your workout appropriately for your skin needs – for instance if you are having a flare up, opt for low-impact workouts and wear loose clothing to help reduce irritation to the skin’s surface.
In addition to this, regular exercise helps to delay the ageing process by increasing a particular organelle in our cells, called the mitochondria, which plays an important protective role in cellular ageing.
It also has almost-immediate positive effects on our skin’s thickness and elasticity – regardless of whether you’re an exercise novice or it has been part of your daily routine for years. To allow this natural process to fully work, it is really important to make sure that you cleanse your skin after your work out, simply wiping your face with a towel just won’t cut it. If you don’t do this, the dirt that has been released from your pores will still be sitting on the skin’s surface and will simply settle back into your pores again.
- Choose makeup carefully
It’s tempting to use more cosmetics to cover up irritated skin and breakouts, especially if you are already feeling stressed-out by these conditions. However, applying makeup can clog pores and further trigger inflammation. Going cold turkey isn’t always a realistic option for some people but be aware that sometimes makeup can make your skin worse due to an allergic or irritant effect. An alternative is choosing to wear mineral based makeup, which essentially means its formula is made up of natural ingredients, however this doesn’t mean it won’t irritate your skin, so when using anything new a patch test is always advised.
With many people still working from home, however, many are opting for a bit of a detox from their usual makeup routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean foregoing makeup all together, but perhaps applying a little less than you usually would, especially when it comes to items such as foundation, as this is often the biggest culprit of clogging your pores if not removed correctly.
- Light therapy
One way of treating eczema or psoriasis is through light therapy. This entirely natural skin treatment uses focused UV lights to have an impact on the immune system, which is what causes the inflammation. It’s vital that a trained dermatologist supervises the treatment to ensure the correct amount of UV light is administered. In addition to this, Photodynamic Therapy is a type of light therapy skin treatment that works by using a chemical to sensitize the skin towards light. The sensitized skin is then exposed to a special red light, causing chemical reactions to occur in the skin. This leads to the destruction of abnormal or damaged skin cells and is useful for photodamaged skin.
- Try distraction techniques
For some, a response to feeling anxious or stressed can lead to skin picking disorder (also called dermatillomania or excoriation disorder), where you repeatedly squeeze or pick at your skin. However, repeated picking can leave scars and spread further inflammation across the affected area. If you feel like you’re picking is out of control, visit your GP or dermatologist to prevent causing any lasting damage.
For more information on consultations and treatments, click here.
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