Have you ever noticed how when you’re stressed, your skin starts to flare up? This might be with a breakout, rosacea or flushes… but there’s no doubt there’s a link between the mind and the skin.

Stress can aggravate any skin condition. ‘Generally, the mind and skin are very closely linked,’ explains Dr Anthony Bewley, a consultant dermatologist who specialises in psychodermatology & Chair of Psychdermatology. ‘If you get stressed, it can lead to skin problems, and skin problems, in turn, lead to stress.’

Today, we’re talking all about psychodermatology, why your skin is affected by what’s going on in your head and what you can do about it…

What is it?

Psychodermatology addresses the interaction between the mind and skin.

Psychodermatology practitioners treat skin the way a psychotherapist treats behaviour – by learning how it responds to emotional and environmental stressors and helping to moderate those responses.


Why it’s increasingly important…

It’s not a new concept but it’s definitely one that will be getting more attention. With the growing focus on wellbeing etc…it seems only logical that more of us will be exploring the mind, body and spirit connection, as we understand that it’s not enough to jump onto the latest fad to treat skin or health issues in isolation…it’s time for joined up thinking.

Your mood can affect your skin…

Let’s face it…we all know that stress is detrimental to wellbeing and it’s logical that it can aggravate skin conditions.

let's face it

Major depression is one of the main results of chronic skin disorders.

Other psychosocial side effects of skin conditions are social withdrawal, anger, frustration, and lack of confidence.

What’s going on in your skin…

Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol surge when stress of any kind is detected, setting off a string of reactions throughout the body. Cortisol has been shown to negatively affect collagen production (the protein responsible for keeping skin plump and young-looking), ramp up oil production (so, more pimples) and increase overall inflammation (the source of nearly all skin issues). – American Academy of Dermatology and other skin groups.

There is a complex interplay between skin and the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Skin responds to both endogenous and exogenous stimuli; it senses and integrates environmental cues and transmits intrinsic conditions to the outside world.” Dr Mohammad-jafferany in the Psychiatric Times.

complex skin

The main function of the epidermis is to regulate epidermal permeability and to act as a physical, chemical, and antimicrobial defence system via the actions of the outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum but that During periods of psychological stress the cutaneous homeostatic permeability barrier is disturbed, as is the integrity and protective function of the stratum corneum  Furthermore, a large number of skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, appear to be precipitated or exacerbated by psychological stress.Stress and the epidermal barrier by Andrzej Slominski.

 So… What can we do?

Well, the obvious is to get familiar with our stressors and work to manage them. Ted A Grossbart in his book Skindeep says that we get to know our emotional weak points… our triggers he says that we need to work on understanding our conflicts, needs, and fears – so that we can understand our skin’s emotional life. He sees this as the most important first step toward controlling the psychological factors that cause, trigger, or aggravate skin conditions.

Wearable tech like the ‘Apple smart watch’ and ‘Fitbit’ are constantly advancing and plan to offer more than fitness, heart rate and sleep tracking. Apparently, blood sugar monitoring is coming.

We could look at the following…

We have heard a lot about gut health in recent years and have become familiar with our gut microbiome. Many of us take probiotics to boost our gut health. But how many of us are seriously addressing the lifestyle issues like high stress levels, poor sleep, poor diet, emotional issues etc…that cause damage and lead to physical symptoms like upset stomach, bloating, headaches, fatigue, listlessness and skin conditions.

gut health

We are already using essential oils for mental health, emotional health and emotional regulation: many essential oils have dual abilities such as chamomile and lavender which have calming abilities when inhaled and can calm inflammation when used on the skin. “An example is lavender essential oil,” Jennifer Rose Goldman, founder of Essential Rose Life says. “When inhaled, it’s shown to act as a sedative, to slow down the breath and heart rate and promote relaxation and stress relief — tangible, scientific, researched benefits for the mind and emotions.” While those features alone could help assuage any brain-skin stress, the plant extract has topical benefits, too. “Applied topically, lavender is also is great for toning the skin, cleansing and soothing inflammation — so in this one oil, you have the capacity for a really holistic healing experience,” Jennifer Rose Goldman, founder of Essential Rose Life explains.

Many other essential oils exhibit similar dual-action behaviors, like chamomile (a calming agent on every level), frankincense (which promotes sleep and fights signs of aging) and rose (it relaxes the mind and the skin); all of which feature heavily in a new crop of stress-busting beauty products.

It’s wonderful that more and more products are coming into the arena that help to support our wellbeing but we still need to explore the causes…which is why I think that psycho dermatology will become increasingly popular with linkage between all elements.