Stress and skin problems: how do you reduce the impact?

Skin problems can be present, especially with stress – a ubiquitous aspect of our modern lives. But did you know that stress not only affects your mental well-being, but also the condition of your skin? In this dermatological blog we take a closer look at the complex relationship between stress and skin problems. In addition, we will discuss how diet and specific supplements can play a vital role in soothing your skin, even during stressful times.

Stress and skin: An unexpected connection

Skin Problems Stress

Stress can trigger a complex series of physiological reactions in your body and skin. It starts with the activation of your stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol. These hormones can then have different effects on your skin.

The stress response is triggered by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. The hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland, another gland in the brain. The pituitary gland then sends a signal to the adrenal glands, two glands located above the kidneys. The adrenal glands then release hormones, including cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a number of important functions in the body. It helps to protect your body from stress and damage. However, cortisol can also have negative effects on your skin.

Skin problems and stress

One of the possible consequences is increased sebum production. Under the influence of stress hormones, your body can produce more sebum, which can lead to clogged pores and the development of acne. It is well known that stress-related acne can often be stubborn and difficult to treat. More about Acne

In addition, stress can weaken the barrier function of your skin. The skin barrier is essential to retain moisture and keep harmful substances out. When this barrier weakens, your skin can lose more moisture, making it dry and sensitive. In addition, the weakened barrier can promote inflammation, which can result in redness and irritation.

Cortisol can also promote inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to damage However, with chronic stress, cortisol can exacerbate the inflammatory response in the skin. It can also speed up cell division in the skin. This can lead to an accelerated growth of skin cells, which can result in flaking and itching.

The exact way in which cortisol has these effects on the skin is not yet fully known. What is clear is that cortisol modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is a system of hormones involved in the stress response. Cortisol can disrupt the HPA axis, which can lead to an increased inflammatory response in the skin.

In addition, cortisol can release neuropeptides, neurotrophins, lymphokinin and other chemical mediators from nerve endings and skin cells. These mediators may also contribute to the inflammatory response in the skin.

Read also: Prolonged stress has a negative impact on your skin

  1. Eczema: Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by itching, redness, and scaling. Stress can make eczema worse by weakening the skin barrier and promoting inflammation. More on Eczema
  2. Rosacea:This is a skin condition characterized by redness, pimples and inflammation on the face. Stress can make rosacea worse by dilating blood vessels in the skin and promoting inflammation. More about Rosacea
  3. Psoriasis: Is a chronic skin condition characterized by scaly, red patches of skin. Stress can make psoriasis worse by speeding up cell division in the skin. More about Psoriasis
  4. Wound healing: Stress can slow wound healing . This is because stress suppresses the immune system.
  5. Pruritus: Is the medical term for itching. Itching can be a symptom of a number of skin conditions, but it can also be caused by other factors, such as dry skin, insect bites, or certain medications. More on itching
  6. Alopecia areata: Is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks hair follicles. This can lead to bald spots on the head, face or other parts of the body. There is no clear evidence that stress is the sole cause of alopecia areata. However, there are many studies that have shown that stress may play a role in the development or worsening of the condition. A 2023 study found that people with alopecia areata were more likely to experience anxiety and depression than those without alopecia areata. More on hair loss, recognize the different forms
  7. Lichen planus: Lichen planus is a skin condition characterized by small, red, itchy bumps on the skin. The bumps can also appear on the mucous membranes, such as in the mouth or vagina.
  8. Seborrhoeic Dermatitis: Is a chronic skin condition characterized by scaling and redness of the skin, particularly on the head, face and chest. The condition is caused by an excessive production of sebum. More about Seborrhoeic eczema
  9. Urticaria: Also called hives, it is an allergic reaction characterized by itchy, red bumps on the skin. The bumps can vary in size and may be accompanied by swelling.

It is important to note that the exact response to stress and the severity of skin problems vary from person to person. Some people may be more prone to stress-related skin problems than others. Thus, managing stress levels is critical not only for your mental well-being, but also for maintaining healthy, glowing skin.

Nutrition as a means to healthy skin

Although stress cannot always be avoided, we can influence what we put into our bodies. A balanced diet with nutrients that support the skin can help mitigate the effects of stress. Consider the following foods and supplements:

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish such as salmon and walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These can reduce inflammation and strengthen the skin barrier.
  2. Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Fruits and vegetables packed with antioxidants, such as vitamin C (oranges, strawberries) and vitamin E (almonds, spinach), can help fight free radicals and promote healthy skin.
  3. Probiotica:A healthy intestinal flora can reduce skin problems. Consider probiotic foods such as yogurt or supplements.
  4. Collagen: Collagen supplements can promote skin elasticity and hydration.

Here are the 5 nutritional supplements against stress:

  1. Magnesium plays a vital role in supporting the body in stress reduction and promoting healthy nervous system function. Magnesium helps relax muscles and can contribute to reducing feelings of fear and anxiety. For those looking to use magnesium to reduce fear and anxiety, choosing a highly absorbable form is crucial. Magnesium L-Threonate stands out as a particularly effective form of magnesium for the brain. This mineral not only contributes to the general benefits of magnesium, such as muscle relaxation and nervous system support, but is also specifically aimed at improving brain function and reducing stress. Magnesium L-Threonate is unique in that it can cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can work directly on the brain to improve cognitive functions and reduce stress and anxiety. In addition to Magnesium L-Threonate, there are other easily absorbable forms of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate, magnesium taurate, magnesium malate, and magnesium glycinate. These forms are also effective in supporting the body in dealing with stress, but Magnesium L-Threonate is particularly recommended for those looking for a magnesium supplement specifically aimed at improving mental health and cognitive functions.
  2. Vitamine B5 (pantothenic acid) plays a crucial role in the body, especially because it is essential for energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition, vitamin B5 is involved in the synthesis of cortisol, an important stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Although vitamin B5 does not directly reduce stress, it helps protect the body against the negative effects that stress can have. This is due to its role in the production of cortisol, which plays an important role in the body’s stress response.
  3. Vitamin B6 is indispensable for the production of energy and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, making it an essential nutrient for the body. In addition, it plays an important role in the synthesis of cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which makes it involved in our stress response. Another important aspect of vitamin B6 is that it contributes to the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is essential for a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is crucial for stress reduction. Vitamin B6 plays a key role here; it can indirectly help reduce stress by regulating the body clock and promoting healthy sleep. This makes vitamin B6 a valuable nutrient that not only supports our ability to cope with stress, but also contributes to the maintenance of overall body balance.
  4. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage. It can also help improve immune function, which is important for resisting stress.
  5. Valerian has been known for centuries for its natural calming properties. This powerful herb is valued for its ability to promote sleep quality and effectively reduce feelings of anxiety and restlessness. By acting on the nervous system, valerian helps relax the body and calm the mind, making it an excellent natural remedy for those struggling with sleep problems or stress-related issues. The soothing effects of valerian root make it a popular choice not only for improving sleep, but also for creating a sense of inner peace and calm during times of increased stress.

These supplements are not able to completely eliminate stress, but they can help reduce the negative effects of stress.

Adaptogens against stress

An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to stress. Stress is the body’s natural response to challenges or threats. However, it can also have negative effects on your health, both physically and mentally. Adaptogens can help reduce or prevent the negative effects of stress.

Adaptogens work in different ways. They can help reduce levels of stress hormones, improve mood, increase energy and improve performance.

There are many different adaptogens, including herbs, plants and mushrooms.

  1. Ashwagandha isan herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It helps to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Ashwagandha can also help improve sleep, increase energy and reduce anxiety and depression.
  2. Rhodiola rosea is an herb that helps improve the body’s stress capacity. Rhodiola can also help improve mood, enhance cognitive function and improve performance.
  3. Ginseng is an herb that helps increase energy and reduce stress. Ginseng can also help boost the immune system and improve performance.
  4. Maca is a tuber that helps increase energy, improve mood and enhance sexual performance. Maca can also help reduce stress and improve the body’s stress capacity in postmenopausal women.
  5. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a mushroom that helps reduce stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and strengthen the immune system. Reishi can also help improve sleep and enhance performance.

These adaptogens all work in different ways, but they all have the same goal: to help the body adapt to stress. They can help reduce levels of stress hormones, improve mood, increase energy and improve performance.

Other stress-relieving habits

In addition to diet and supplements, there are other stress-relieving habits you can consider:

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise can improve blood circulation and reduce stress.
  2. Meditation and Breathing Exercises: These can help lower stress levels.
  3. Sufficient Sleep: A good night’s sleep is essential for healthy skin and body.
  4. Skincare: A careful skincare routine with mild products can help soothe the skin.

Marconi Union’s song “Weightless” is often cited as the most relaxing song ever made. Research has shown that the song can lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.

One study showed that people who listened to “Weightless” experienced a significant decrease in stress. The study participants had lower heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels after listening to the song.

The researchers believe that the calming effects of “Weightless” are due to a number of factors, including:

  • The Tempo: The song has a tempo of 60 beats per minute, which is comparable to the pace of the heartbeat in a relaxed state.
  • The frequency: the song contains frequencies that occur in nature, such as waves and rain. These frequencies can have a calming effect on the brain.
  • The Instruments: The song features a mix of instruments including harps, strings and chimes. These instruments can create a relaxing and meditative atmosphere.

It is important to note that not everyone responds to music the same. What is relaxing for one person may be stressful for another. It is therefore advisable to try different songs to see what works best for you.

Skin care ingredients

A careful skincare routine with mild products can indeed help soothe the skin, especially if you suffer from stress-related skin problems. Here are some ingredients found in skin care products that can help soothe the skin:

  1. Aloe Vera: Has anti-inflammatory properties and can moisturize and soften the skin.
  2. Chamomile: The extracts have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Oatmeal extract: Oatmeal is known for its soothing properties and can reduce irritation.
  4. Green Tea Extract: It contains antioxidants that can soothe and protect the skin from free radical damage.
  5. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Niacinamide can strengthen the skin barrier and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  6. Panthenol (Vitamin B5): It has moisturizing properties and can help reduce redness.
  7. Ceramides: Ceramides help restore the skin barrier and reduce moisture loss.
  8. Hyaluronic acid: Is an excellent moisturizer that can hydrate and soothe the skin.
  9. Shea Butter: Shea butter has soothing properties and can help soothe dry skin.
  10. Allantoin: Allantoin is an organic compound found naturally in certain plants, such as comfrey, wheat germ and mustard seed. It is also often produced synthetically and added to skin care products because of its beneficial effects on the skin.
  11. Marshmallow Root (Holly Root): This is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce skin irritation and soften the skin.
  12. Ectoin: Ectoin is a natural amino acid that can protect the skin from harmful environmental influences and reduce irritation. It helps strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture.

When choosing skin care products, it is important to look for those products that contain these soothing ingredients and are free of harsh ingredients, such as fruit acids or alcohol, which can further irritate the skin.

Remember, everyone reacts differently to stress and skin problems can be complex. If you experience severe skin problems, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist for professional advice. Stress will always be a part of our lives, but with the right approach, you can minimize its effects on your skin and keep your skin glowing, even during stressful times.

Take care of yourself both inside and out!

Iconic Elements Calming Cream

One of the stars of this soothing formula is Marshmallow Root. This natural ingredient is known for its soothing properties and has been used for centuries for skin care. It helps soothe and moisturize irritated skin.

Skin Problems Calming Cream
Webshop: Calming cream

Avena Sativa, also known as oat extract, is another ingredient in Calming Cream. It is known for its ability to soothe and moisturize the skin, and it is particularly effective in relieving itching and irritation.

Ectoin is the third ally in this soothing blend. It is a natural substance that helps protect the skin from harmful environmental factors, such as UV radiation and air pollution.

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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