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If you’ve ever had issues with your skin, you’re probably all too familiar with the negative impact that can have on your mental health. However, it may come as a surprise that the opposite is true as well: mental health problems can lead to developing (or worsening) issues with your skin.

The good news is, when mental health and skin wellness overlap, treating one issue may also help to treat the symptoms of the other. We’ll go over how mental health can impact your skin and vice versa, then explain how different treatment options can work to address both issues.

How are mental health and skin health linked?

It’s been proven that mental illness can lead to physical illness, and that includes problems related to your skin. A person’s brain and their skin are very closely linked: not only does the skin respond to emotional stimuli like feelings of anger and shame, but it is also affected by the same hormones and neurotransmitters as the brain.

At the same time, issues with your skin can cause mental distress as a result of lowered confidence and self-esteem, negatively impacting your mental health. In fact, chronic skin conditions can cause stress responses in the body which can act as triggering factors for inflammatory, autoimmune, and allergic diseases, to name a few. 

How does mental health impact your skin?

Mental health issues can manifest in a number of ways, including stress, which can lead to elevated cortisol levels and a histamine reaction. In one study on the link between emotions and acne, 67% of the patient group reported a relation between the onset of their acne and a stress-inducing event. In this case, stress may be the cause or trigger of a chronic skin disease, or it can trigger the worsening of an existing condition.

How do skin conditions impact your mental health?

This study on the psychological burden of skin disease found a significantly higher prevalence of clinical depression, anxiety disorder, and suicidal ideation in patients with common skin conditions as compared to control subjects. When stress goes untreated, it can lead to a number of mental and physical health problems, continuing the cycle of skin problems negatively impacting mental health and vice versa.  

Treating the impacts of stress on your skin

Whether it’s mental health issues causing your skin problems or the other way around, these treatment ideas could help you find relief. 

Work on how you respond to stress

When you’re feeling stressed out, you may find that your skin suffers as a result. While it’s not always possible to avoid stress altogether, what you can do is work on changing how you respond when stressful situations arise. 
Stress itself can negatively impact your skin from the inside out, but behaviours related to stress, like touching or picking at your face, can also create issues by introducing bacteria to your skin. Stress may also lead you to neglect your regular skin-care regimen. 

A good way to combat this is by replacing your stress-related behaviour with more positive coping mechanisms. The way you massage your face when applying skin products can even activate the sympathetic nervous system and reduce your anxiety and negative mood. 
If you treat your skin-care routine as a self-care ritual, you’ll be able to benefit both your skin and mental health at the same time.

Eat healthy foods

When you’re struggling with bad mental health, you may also find yourself paying less attention to the quality of the food you consume. Many people turn to junk food to feel better, but while it may provide some temporary relief, unhealthy food can have a negative impact on your skin and other areas of health and wellness.

If you’re not sure how to choose foods that are better for you and your skin, start by paying attention to the glycemic load of the food you eat. When food contains more carbohydrates, it has a high glycemic load. 
Food with a high glycemic load can raise your blood sugar levels, heightening your risk of certain diseases, influencing hormone levels, and increasing inflammation in the body. As a result, all of these factors can increase your risk of developing acne or other skin conditions.

Get more exercise

Exercise is often recommended to people with mental health issues, since it has been proven to improve mental wellness. In addition to reducing anxiety and depression and improving self-esteem and cognitive functioning, exercise can also improve your skin.

High stress levels can lead to inflammation and skin conditions. Physical activity addresses these issues by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and lowering stress levels. Exercise can also help to keep your blood sugar level consistent, which may decrease breakouts and skin conditions.
Sweating can also push the dirt and bacteria out of your pores, improving your skin. Just remember to shower after you’ve been sweating so that the bacteria doesn’t get reabsorbed back into your skin.

Work on your mental health

Chronic mental problems can raise the body’s cortisol levels, which triggers a hormonal response that can lead to skin problems. If mental health issues are the cause of your skin problems, treating your mental health may also reduce the negative impacts of stress on your skin.

Skin conditions occur more often in people with depression or anxiety issues. When a skin problem is impacted by a person’s mental wellbeing, it is referred to as a psychocutaneous disorder. In these cases, treating the emotional factors at play can also treat the resulting skin condition.

A positive mood can reduce inflammatory skin conditions, with serotonin and dopamine having a significant role in skin diseases like psoriasis. By targeting your mental wellness by incorporating grounding practices like relaxation, meditation, or gratitude into your daily routine, you can reduce the severity of your skin issues.

If you find that you’re not able to cope with your mental health issues on your own, that’s completely normal. There is absolutely no shame in seeking out professional help and getting treatment for issues related to mental wellness. If you recognize that you need a helping hand but you’re not sure where to start, there are a ton of great mental health resources available no matter where you are.

If you’ve tried all of these techniques but you’re still experiencing problems with your skin, you may need to try prescription acne medication in order to target your issues more effectively. Start an online visit today to get a skincare treatment option that’s personalized to your needs, delivered straight to your door.

Felix Health x Consonant
Felix is an end-to-end platform where you can get prescriptions for lifestyle medications through an online visit with a licensed Canadian doctor, and have your medication shipped to you on an automated refill schedule that works for you. We've partnered with Felix Health to bring you all the tools to discover your best skin. Sometimes your skin needs a tall glass of water, a trip to the gym, or a good nights sleep. Sometimes it needs meditation, and sometimes it needs medication. Learn more about our partnership HERE.

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