COVID-19 Updates: On-site and virtual services are available. For the latest news, click here.

The Mind-Skin Connection

How stress affects your skin—and how both dermatology and psychology can help

Woman lying in bed covering her face

Cleansing, exfoliating, treating and protecting—each step is an important part of a good skincare routine. But sometimes issues arise. Whether it’s acne, hair loss or other more serious skin conditions, you might need the help of a professional. Medcan’s dermatologists and medical aestheticians are equipped with the latest technology and products that can treat a wide range of skin issues. For example, Medcan’s CO2 laser machine is effective at improving acne scars. Platelet-rich plasma therapy can repair damaged hair follicles and encourage fuller, thicker growth.

But creams and the most advanced dermatological devices can only do so much. That’s where psychology comes in. Studies show a strong link between psychology and dermatology. If your skin issues are stress-related, seeking help from both a dermatologist and a psychologist may produce better results than you ever thought possible.

Consider the two types of stress. Acute stress refers to the short-term variety that arises before a big presentation at work, or if we hear a noise late at night. When the presentation’s over, or we check that the front door is still locked, the stress disappears.

Chronic stress sticks around for much longer—and is ultimately more harmful. It occurs in ongoing situations where we lack control over the outcome. Sound familiar? As we wonder when the pandemic will end, and if and when life will return to normal, our stress levels may climb to all-time highs. During these periods, our stress response is continually activated—and that increases levels of such hormones as prolactin, endorphins, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and insulin—all of which can have a negative impact on our skin.

That’s because the skin and the mind are intimately interconnected. Severe stress can trigger physiological skin disorders like hives, eczema, psoriasis and acne. In turn, these conditions can provoke a stress response, as their sufferers experience bouts of self-consciousness, social isolation, anxiety and depression. So what to do?

Engage in stress-relieving activities

“To reduce the effects of stress on the skin, practice relaxation strategies,” says Dr. Jack Muskat, psychology team lead at Medcan. “Take a bath, go for a walk, practice yoga, meditation or mindfulness. Do activities you enjoy, which will take your mind off the skin condition.”

Exercise also is a great stress reliever, he says—and so is sleep. “When we’re stressed, we tend to lose sleep. That’s a problem because sleep recharges us and reduces the stress response in our bodies.”

Try subtle cosmetic injections

Stress and anxiety can trigger a vicious cycle. A bad week leaves us feeling tired, sad and unhappy—which affects how we look. Someone comments about our appearance, and that leaves us feeling even worse—which can then cause us to look even more tired, sad and unhappy.

A light “dusting” of hyaluronic filler or Botox injected into various areas of the face can help patients look like their best selves and boost their confidence. Botox has also been found to be associated with the relief of depression. In a 2020 study* published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of California (San Diego) compared those who had received Botox injections for a number of different issues against people whose issues were treated in other ways. Those who had received the Botox injections at six of the eight injection sites studied reported experiencing depression 40 to 88 per cent less often than prior to receiving the injections.

Get professional help

“Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help with stress and related skincare issues,” says Dr. Muskat. “CBT helps clients look at their negative thoughts and beliefs, and how they interpret a situation, and then works to address them, and develop more effective ways of coping.” For example, if you are a perfectionist (which can be a great quality), trying to do everything in your life perfectly can cause you more stress. CBT can help clients to look at all aspects of their lives, identify a hierarchy of importance, and then focus on some aspects, while letting go of the stress associated with other, less important elements of their lives.

“At Medcan, we look at our clients’ entire health—as a whole,” says Dr. Muskat. “This is a great example of how getting psychology and dermatology to work together with a client can produce optimal results.”

For more information on how Medcan help you reach your skincare goals, contact us at 416.350.3621 or refine@medcan.com.

*https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2020-07-30-headline-news-botox-may-lessen-depression.aspx#:~:text=In%20the%20study%2C%20published%20July,treatments%20for%20the%20same%20conditions

You may also be interested in: