Stress and the skin
Stress is a natural protective reaction occurring in the body in response to changes in the surrounding environment. When we feel threatened by these changes (regardless of whether the danger is real or we just perceive it as such) our whole being mobilizes, in order to overcome them.
As a consequence of this mobilization, our brain begins to secrete specific hormones that trigger hundreds of endogenous processes. Each of us is "immune" to a certain amount of stress and these processes do not have any negative effects in his or her body. But when we are forced to defend our living and our health on a daily basis, sooner or later we are confronted with actual health problems.
It turns out that more than half of the physical illnesses, known to modern medicine, are triggered by stress. Some of them develop secretly, affecting internal organs, while others are quite obvious, like the ones striking the outer shell of the body. There is now a whole branch of dermatology, called "psychosomatic dermatology", which deals with the relationship between psychological factors (including stress) and the condition of the skin.
It has been shown that some of the most common skin problems can be aggravated and even caused by prolonged or intense stress. Here are their symptoms:
- Grayish complexion, lifeless and dry facial skin, dark circles and bags under the eyes.
During long periods of physical or mental exhaustion, surface microcirculation slows down and the largest human organ does not receive enough nutrients. And as a result of this starvation, the skin loses its original freshness and brilliance.
- Appearance of pale, dry or greasy flakes in the scalp, accompanied by mild or severe itching.
High levels of stress weaken the immune system, favoring the development of pathogenic micro-organisms on body’s surface. Thus, the spread of the fungus Malassezia Globosa is accelerated, causing the scalp to emit visible to the naked eye dead cells, the so called dandruff.
- Appearance of red spots covered with silvery scales on the knees, elbows, scalp and other body parts. Dry chapped skin, itching, burning, pain.
Stress is responsible for the mutation of skin cells and their rapid multiplication within 3-4 days, instead of the usual 28-30 days, a condition known as psoriasis.
- Skin irritation, characterized by redness, swelling, burning, itching, pain, cracking and bleeding.
Behind these symptoms often lies dermatitis. Typically, this disease manifests / aggravates after a direct contact with an irritant or an allergen, but can be activate by other factors, too.
- Appearance of open and closed comedones, swellings (pustules) filled with yellowish pus, nodules, painful cysts and pustules etc. in different parts of the body (most often on the face, back and breasts).
Nervous tension unleashes a powerful wave of androgens, which increase sebum secretion and thicken the epidermis. Both effects lead to blockage of pores and occurrence of the above symptoms of acne.
- Presence of fine or more pronounced permanent wrinkles on the face, arms, etc.
The stress hormone cortisol damages the collagen fibers that keep skin smooth and firm and facilitates the formation of wrinkles.
How to assist your skin?
Usually, with the elimination of stress the adverse effects on the skin disappear, as well. Some skin conditions, however, require an additional cosmetic care (revitalizing face masks, anti-dandruff shampoo, smoothing creams, etc.) and / or medications. After coping with a particular problem, it is best to focus on improving your mental stability (with sports, yoga, massage, etc.), to prevent recurrence and development of more serious diseases.