People often assume that stress only causes emotional distress or mental health issues; little do they know external appearance can also be adversely affected. Stress can easily affect overall health, including skin, nails, and hair. In addition to putting an individual at risk for high blood pressure, ulcers, and mood disorders, stress can also cause unwanted skin conditions. But how are stress and skin related?
Stress results in the production of a chemical response which makes skin sensitive and highly reactive, leading to such conditions as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and more.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, appears as a red rash on the body. There is no known cure for eczema, but clients are able to control symptoms with medication. Stress is known to trigger breakouts or worsen the condition. The six types of eczema include nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and dyshidrotic eczema. All the listed types have similar symptoms, which include: red and inflamed skin, itching, dark-colored skin patches, leathery, rough or scaly skin patches, crusting or oozing, and swelling.
Just like eczema, psoriasis has no known cure, but treatment can help in controlling symptoms. This skin condition speeds up the skin cells’ lifecycle, which results in buildup on the skin’s surface. The additional cells form scale-like patches that could be itchy or painful at times. Stress and poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, are known to worsen the condition. There are different types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, nail, inverse, pustular, erythrodermic, and scalp. The symptoms for psoriasis differ from client to client, but common occurrences include: red patchy skin, scaling skin spots, cracked skin that bleeds at times, constant itching and burning sensations on skin, thick and ridged nails, and stiff and swollen joints.
Acne is one of the most common stress-triggered skin conditions. Statistics show that 65 percent of all acne outbreaks are stress-related. With acne, the hormone cortisol is the determining factor. When stressed, cortisol is produced in excess. The resulting effect is increased oil production in the skin glands, which causes acne breakouts. The good news is there is a cure for acne. Over-the-counter prescriptions and skin care routines are the known solutions for this skin condition. There are three types of acne: acne vulgaris, acne rosacea, and cystic acne.
This condition is characterized by blackheads, papules, nodules, and non-inflammatory pustules. It often appears on the chest, face, arms, back, or shoulders. It can also feature other symptoms including skin redness and pain.
This acne is characterised by red and bumpy rashes that appear only on the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin. It often makes blood vessels on the face visible and could turn the nose bulbous and red.
Cystic acne is characterised by painful, boil-like swellings that trap hair follicles and dead skin underneath. It is considered to be the most severe form of acne.
This skin condition causes discolored patches on the skin of the victim and is mostly visible in darker-skinned people. The disease is often confused for albinism due to the skin discoloration; however, they are two different conditions. This skin condition can affect individuals of any age and the initial symptoms are hard to detect. Vitiligo can also affect eyes, hair, and the inside of the mouth of the person who has it. The affected area can spread, but the extent is not easy to determine. The affected area also becomes more photosensitive. There is no known cure for the condition. However, there are different ways of controlling the condition, one of which involves managing stress levels.
Fever blisters and cold sores are caused by a virus-herpes simplex virus type 1. It can spread from one individual to another through skin contact or saliva. The symptoms are characterized by painful blisters that appear on the lips. When first infected, the herpes virus lingers in the body for months or even years before any symptoms appear. Eight out of 10 people have the cold sore herpes type. The blisters can be cured by over-the-counter medicine, but they can easily recur, especially if the individual is under stress. Stress weakens the body’s natural defense, which leads to outbreaks.
Ichthyosis is probably the least-known skin condition in this list. It is a genetic skin disorder that is often characterized by scaly, dry skin, which can either be thick or very thin. This condition usually appears first at birth or within the first few months of a child’s existence. Adults of all ages and races can also contract the condition. Once contracted, doctors advise patients to steer clear from stress-causing factors, as stress can easily worsen the condition. The main symptoms include: flakes on the scalp; scales on the skin that are often polygon-shaped; itchy skin; brown or gray scales on the skin; dry skin; and thickened or thinned skin.
Hives are common and can be caused by numerous triggers. There are two forms of hives –mild and chronic. Some of the most common triggers for the mild type include allergies to foods, medicine, or different elements and insect bites. Chronic hives skin condition is triggered by alcohol abuse, extreme exercise, or excessively hot environments. The most common trigger, however, is stress. It can start an outbreak and worsen the condition.
Reducing stress promotes health both internally and externally. As individuals identify and work to eliminate stress triggers around them, they will see an improvement in overall skin health.
Sandy Getzky is the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping over 100 million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus. Getzky is also a registered herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.