Skin Panic, Skin Therapy: When Stress Shows On Your Skin

Celebrity dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, talks about disconnecting from stress for the sake of your skin.

In my practice, stress is one of the most formidable opponents. In Hollywood, stress’ heightened sense of urgency can actually be addictive for some people. Physiologically, it works like this. Once stress is triggered, your adrenal gland produces dumps cortisol into your bloodstream. The more you are stressed the more your body can’t regulate the levels of cortisol in your system, and that’s when the danger begins. Your body can start showing signs of increased sensitivity, itchiness, breakouts, and even stretchmarks!

Stress is a particularly sinister adversary because whatever your skin’s vulnerability — whether acne, rosacea, signs of aging, extremely dry skin, extremely oily skin, eczema, psoriasis, herpes, allergies or some unsavory combination of two or more of the above — stress is going to find a way to make it worse. This, in turn, causes more stress creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

Can you win? I’m here to say yes you can. The approach here is two-fold. Without question, you’re going to want to treat the condition itself, and I’ll have plenty to post about all those above and more over the next many months. Meanwhile, you’ve got to interrupt the stress cascade and break the vicious cycle on a daily basis.

I’m not going to sit and insult you by just telling you to relax (easier said than done in our busy lives, right?). What I am going to do is ask you to do some detective work. Some people dispense with stress by doing noisy things (intense cardio, sports, dancing, laughing etc.) Others respond better to a quiet, centered approach (stretching, massage, deep breathing, creative hobbies, or reading). Still others like to mix it up with both. Whatever works for you, once you’ve found your favorites, you’re on to something. Now, put your stress busters into play for at least 10 minutes at a time, three times a day and try to fit in another 30-minute continuous session if at all possible.

 (For the record, sex or food can work for you when savored, but as obsessions can be big time destructive stressors.)

Stress is inevitable, but how well you respond to it can spell the difference between illness and health and tipping the balance away from frustration and into fulfillment. So when it comes to skin problems, strategic equilibrium is your new best friend. Life happens but it doesn’t have to show on your skin.