If you’ve ever noticed that your skin clears up when you’re on vacation, out of the woods from that bad fight or breakup, or when you’ve been sick (lots of sleep and forced relaxation), it’s likely not a coincidence. Stress, even the stress we have about our skin specifically, has a lot to do with how our complexion manifests. The understanding of this goes deep.
Both Dr. Byron Young, MD and psychiatrist, and Dr. Robert Bianchini, Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry and an adjunct of the American Academy of Dermatology, are researchers for Selfmade skincare and experts on this notion. They shared a term with us recently that we’d never heard before: psychodermatology. Dr. Bianchini explains, “It addresses the intersection where the coordination between the brain and the skin lives. So it’s the mind and skin axis, which means they’re interrelated. As the brain undergoes psychological impact, it manifests its condition in the skin.”
So what does this look like?
“It could look like increased acne lesions, increased inflammation and redness, increased flare-ups from eczema, or dermatitis from negative stimuli like the impact of COVID, loneliness, a breakup, a war on your reproductive rights …” to name a few.
Dr. Young clarifies that these “physical signs are kind of like the first signs that something’s going on. So understanding what your body is saying about your mind is preventative of potential larger stress patterns in the way of catching things early.”
“On the flip side,” Dr. Bianchini continues, “experiencing joy and play will trigger the brain to release endorphins and other hormones that make you feel good—pleasure sensors. They can shut down some of the problematic things that occur with skin like overproduction of sebum, so you get less acne—like a pregnant woman whose skin is glowing and looks healthy. It can make your body feel better, so it can fight the stress and return to homeostasis.”
This means that practices like mindfulness and meditation can actually have a huge, transformative effect on skin clarity, evenness, texture, and glow.
Dr. Young continues, “When someone exercises emotional intelligence, they’re better able to handle stress. In a mindful way, they can regulate where their thoughts are going and how they allow their thoughts to kind of move. Less stress means that it’s less likely to exacerbate the sympathetic nervous system and get revved up.”
But for those looking for some guidance and clinical intervention, it’s a dual kind of treatment experience: “First of all, you get the condition under control with both physical and psychological intervention. So not only is it topical or ingestible—which includes eating healthy, supplements, or medication—but it’s also doing what you need to reduce the stress. It could be emotional intervention, therapy, talking to friends, or self-care with products to spend time with yourself and pamper with self-touch.”
The focus of therapy and emotional intelligence is self-regulation and emotional management, and it has a big-time effect on skin and body. Social media and unrealistic beauty standards can compound already existing stress, actually exacerbating the exact issues we feel insecure about. Taking a break from doomscrolling and instead focusing on self-love and care has a compound effect on our skin, via our psyche and the actual modes of wellness we are replacing it with.
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