How Stress Affects Our Skin & Hair – Don’t Let Stress Get the Best of You
How does stress affect the skin? Stress can have a significant impact on the body and mind – our skin is no exception.
When stress begins to impact the mind, the central nervous system releases hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) into the body. The results of these hormones can be accounted for signs that stress has impacted the skin. A few common signs that stress has affected the skin include:
- Clogged pores and acne breakouts
- Chronic inflammation (eczema, psoriasis, etc.)
It is possible to experience any combination of stress effects on skin. Such effects can have detrimental consequences on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. This article will cover the causes, signs, and treatments for stressed-out skin based on Traditional Chinese Medicine ( TCM ).
Psoriasis Caused By Stress
Like many other chronic skin diseases, psoriasis causes an itchy, scaly rash on the skin. Many people experience psoriasis on the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp. The disease can be painful and detrimental to a person’s sleep and concentration. Most people experience cycles of psoriasis. Cycles are often triggered by infections, medications, and lifestyle factors like stress.
There has also been much clinical evidence showing that the seasons impact the flare ups of psoriasis. Such evidence shows that exposure to sunlight in the summer improved psoriasis lesions, while stress and the winter season showed significantly poorer clinical results.
In TCM, psoriasis is said to be caused due to excess heat in the body, this heat results from pathogenic wind entering the body and invading yin and blood. This excess heat is what causes the redness, itching and in some cases pain. The more intense the heat that is present in the body the more symptoms will be experienced. As the skin condition develops further blood stasis, and blood dryness can occurs. In TCM blood dryness is associated with symptoms such as itching and blood stasis with scaly skin and plaques.
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Eczema Caused by Stress
Similar to psoriasis, eczema is a condition that causes itchy, dry, and inflamed areas of skin. Eczema is common in children but impacts all ages. Common causes of the skin condition include food allergies, hay fever, and stress.
Eczema can be a long-lasting condition and is what is referred to as atopic dermatitis. One clinical study found that flareups of atopic dermatitis are often caused by stress. Specifically, the study found that psychic stress can be attributed as a major aggravating factor in 50% of two thirds of patients.
In Chinese medicine, any skin condition indicates an underlying imbalance of Yin and Yang in the body. External factors such as Wind, Damp, Heat, and Dryness are traditional TCM terms that illustrate the internal disharmony that can cause eczema.
According to TCM your skin is directly linked to the organ of the Lung. The health of our skin therefore is a direct reflection of the strength of our Lung Qi. When there is an imbalance in this organ – or indeed any other organs, this can cause our skin to malfunction – resulting in the distressing symptoms of eczema.
Learn more about Chinese Medicine and eczema here.
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One of the most commonly experienced stress effects on skin is acne. It can impact all ages but is especially common in young people.
According to TCM, our emotions are governed by the liver, thus being in a stressful situation can also cause acne to break out on the left side of the lower cheeks. Acne is viewed as being caused by a pathogenic influence of damp heat and heat on specific meridians in the body. Treatment that is targeted toward these specific meridians has been known to have positive results.
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Bags Under the Eyes
Both short and long-term stress have been known to cause bags under the eyes. This can be traced back to the fear hormones of cortisol and adrenaline that are released when a person expects oncoming psychological changes.
In TCM, the excessive fear of psychological changes is known to damage the kidney Qi and essence. Causes of a depletion of Qi can include aging, overworking, and most commonly, stress. Chronic, long-term stress can be especially damaging to kidney Qi and often shows itself through the bags under a person’s eyes.
Dry skin is often associated with external factors, such as environment or behavioural elements. For example, many people sum up their dry skin as simply being “winter skin.” However, TCM can offer a more in-depth explanation for such problems.
As it is the case with under-eye bags, in TCM, dry skin can be traced back to internal imbalances in Qi. The causation of dry skin and other disorders also often include imbalances in blood flow, yin, and yang, alongside blockages of different energy pathways within the body.
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Similar to dry skin and under-eye bags, rashes can also be caused by disturbances in the flow of Qi. Such a disturbance can cause the formation of various toxins and pathogens through symptoms of stress. Common rashes are best delt with by addressing the specific causes of the disturbance of flow in both Qi and blood.
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Another long-term stress effect on the skin, wrinkles can be explained through examinations of the flow of vital energy in the body. Experts in TCM believe that an imbalance in the flow of vital energy – also known as Qi – may be the cause of many cases of accelerated skin aging.
To restore life to the skin, it is necessary to restore balance in the flow of Qi. In doing this, patients can hope to rejuvenate their skin, combat signs of accelerated aging, and improve overall skin health. Discover the benefits of facial acupuncture here.
Graying Hair and/or Hair Loss
In common folklore, gray hair has long been associated with stress. Recently, however, scientists have put any misconceptions about this to rest.
A recent study showed that when the sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones, it can also cause the stem cells that create melanocytes to disappear. Melanocytes are the cells that give hair it’s natural color. Once these cells disappear, hair may lose its color.
Furthermore, chronic stress can result in the disruption of hair’s growing cycle. This will ultimately lead to a condition called telogen effluvium, which can cause hair to fall out rather rapidly.
According to Chinese Medicine our health is visible through the light in our eyes and the vitality that shines in our skin, hair and nails. When we live in balance our Qi flows freely and strongly along pathways known as Meridians. Our Qi is the force that moves our blood and the condition of our hair is one way that we can assess the health of our blood: good blood flow results in strong hair. Chinese Medicine works to stimulate the production of abundant healthy blood. When this happens the follicles that produce the hairs will be sufficiently nourished and this will lead to the production of strong and healthy hair. Learn more about Chinese Medicine and hair loss here.
Treatments for Skin and Hair Conditions Caused by Stress
The following treatments have been known to positively impact skin and hair conditions that are commonly caused by stress.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture can be used to address the root cause of any skin condition. A gentle technique to activate the body’s natural healing process is through acupuncture. These reactions include endorphin release, which lowers stress and pain levels, and immune system activation (which is called to action because it is responding to an injury).
Acupuncture specialists are able to target specific meridians in the body. In doing this, they can access blockages in the flow of blood and Qi, helping to restore the flow of vital energy in the body. Acupuncture can provide relief not just from the symptoms but also get cause of the skin condition.
- Herbs: Skin diseases that Western medicine finds challenging to help may frequently be resolved using Chinese medicine, which is a very successful therapy for skin issues. The regular use of herbs has also been known to regulate the imbalance of hormones. During times of stress, hormone levels of cortisol and adrenaline are high. Chinese herbs and herbal supplements have been known to suppress stress hormones and aid in restoring balance in the body.
- Relaxing Activities: Scheduled time for relaxing activities can help tremendously in mitigating day-to-day stress. This can be especially useful for individuals experiencing stress related to certain aspects of a heavy schedule (work, family, etc.).
- Good Lifestyle Habits: A healthy diet and quality sleep go a long way in keeping away stress.
- Exercise: Alongside sleep and diet, exercise is one of the most important factors that influence stress levels. Studies have shown that regular exercise can significantly lower stress hormones over time.
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: Regular use of drugs and alcohol can have many negative impacts on overall health, including reduced focus, problems with weight control, and higher amounts of stress.
In answering the question, “how does stress affect the skin?” it can be seen that stress has a wide array of detrimental effects on skin health. This is especially true in situations of chronic conditions of eczema or psoriasis. However, with the right diagnosis and treatments, it is more than possible to find relief from stress-induced skin conditions.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.