The Mind-Skin Connection



If you haven’t already noticed, your skin takes a hit when you’re stressed.  Anecdotally we’ve known this for centuries, but western science is just starting to discover the reasons behind the mind-body connection. From what we know now, a lot of it has to do with hormones. Yes, those sensitive, sometimes pesky, not-so-little things that run everything in your body.

Depending on who you are, chronic stress can cause or exacerbate: acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and other skin conditions. It can also lead to blotchiness, dehydration,  and increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Worse still, when we experience these flare-ups, we stress over them, creating a new source of stress and a potentially unhealthy cycle. This is particularly true for people who experience extreme cases of certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, as they are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression.

The Connection

When we get stressed out, our body releases hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. Our heart beat also picks up, so more blood is pumping through our bodies. Again, based on your unique self, here are a few things that can happen.

  • The adrenaline redirects blood flow from your skin to support your heart and muscles. Blood brings nutrients to our organs (skin is your largest). As a result of the decreased blood flow under stress, your skin gets less nutrients and you can end up looking washed out.
  • Cortisol: decreases your ability to hold onto water (potentially dehydrating skin); increases your blood sugar (damaging collagen); increases your blood flow (if you don’t get washed out, you could get increased redness); inhibits new skin cell growth.
  • Cytokines are also released and can increase inflammation. Hello breakouts!
  • And chronic stress in general can throw off your sleep cycle. This can just wreck everything, including increasing appearance of lines and wrinkles, and bringing dark circles and puffiness to your eye area.

Last but not least, some research shows that chronic stress can negatively affect our skin’s ability to heal itself and can negatively affect your skin’s role as a protective barrier. Your skin acts, or should act, as a barrier between you and the outside environment. If the permeability barrier is weakened, harmful substances can get in.

So What Do You Do?

Obviously, you want to learn to manage your stress, not only for your skin but for your overall wellbeing. Stress has ripple effects throughout your body, mind, and relationships. There are a number of techniques you can try to improve your reaction to the stresses of daily life.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Meditation (I love the Daily Calm app)
  • Exercise
  • Counted Breathing (also called box breathing)

Additionally, you will want to topically treat and correct these skin conditions. Full disclosure, I’m biased as to what you should try to treat and correct–I have my own Rodan+Fields skincare business and have seen these products work miracles!

What you want are products that treat your specific condition: be it acne, signs of aging, and/or redness from flare-ups or flushing. You also want to make sure your body and skin are hydrated; dry skin acts like old skin. This DermRF post addresses products to look for. It does suggest Rodan+Fields products (which of course I’m happy to hook you up with!). But it also describes what you should be generally looking for.


Using products that both cleanse and correct in combination with stress-management techniques will help you tackle these skin conditions in both the short- and long-run. And boost your overall wellbeing and confidence! Let me know if I can help you!

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