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Stress gets under your skin


Most of us are probably under more stress than normal at the moment due to the credit crunch and often the first place that stress shows is in your skin.

10 February, 2009 – 15:42

Stress affects your hormones, elevating Cortisol levels which increase oil levels in your skin. There are two kinds of stress. Emotional stress is the type of stress you experience when you loose your job, or money worries persist or when relationships go wrong. Physical stress refers to actual stresses on the body like illness, trauma from injury, pregnancy etc. Both types of stress can aggravate skin conditions such as acne,eczema and psoriasis. For those who are prone to acne, the elevated levels of Cortisol will lead to increase in acne outbreaks. It also affects nails.

When a person is stressed, they have less of a threshold of pain for coping with itching skin, as well as less focused attention and interrupted sleep patterns and so tend to scratch even more. Some people who are stressed will pick at their cuticles, which damages the nail matrix and leads to ridges in the nails. Picking at the cuticles is known as a ‘habit tic’. It causes damage to the growing part of nail, resulting in ridges in the nail that may take up to a year to grow out. If a stressed person keeps picking at their cuticles, and will end up with permanent nail changes, and ridges, that can’t be reversed.

How to keep skin strong during stressful times:

–       Don’t skip meals, poor diet will only increase symptoms of stress.

–       Cut down on caffeine, it’s a diuretic and also can make you feel even more ‘edgy’ and nervous than you do already is you are stressed. Switch to soothing teas or milky drinks.

–       Cut down on alcohol. Alcohol can make your sleep more interrupted and is also a diuretic and so can dry your skin out further at night.

–       Try and get more sleep than normal, if you are better rested you are better able to deal with stress both emotionally and physically

–       Exercise more. At least 20 minutes of raised heartbeat cardiovascular exercise with help you sleep better as well as increase circulation to your skin and hair. A bit of outdoor ‘sun’ can also help with symptoms of psoriasis.

–       Take preventative skincare action. Rather than waiting for you skin to break out to happen, recognise that you are feeling stressed and start with a preventative skincare regime that will help lessen the severity and frequency of skin outbreaks. Start using ‘treatment’ based skincare products on a daily basis designed to help your skin.

–       Have baths rather than showers. Bath help soak and soothe irritated skin. If possible also use an ‘anti-itching’ and soothing product in the bath designed for calming sensitive skin. Oats are an excellent product for soothing itchy sensitive skin and there are now specific bath products containing oats available for convenient use. In addition after a bath there is more moisture in the skin so that is an excellent time to apply any treatment creams or emollients as the damp skin will lock moisture in and make the cream more effective.

–       Avoid as many chemical or perfumed skincare and hair care products as possible. Under stress you already sensitive skin becomes even more ‘reactive’ and sensitive so avoiding products with chemicals and perfumes in will help keep your skin calmer.


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