How your mental health can affect your skin

How mental health can affect your skin. Image: Mike Von/ Unsplash
How mental health can affect your skin. Image: Mike Von/ Unsplash

The pandemic has been stressful for many people, causing fear and anxiety which can lead to strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, have made people feel isolated and lonely and can also increase stress and anxiety.

Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job can cause changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of mental health conditions and increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances.

All patients should be advised, as far as possible, to avoid or manage triggers, including stress, alcohol and red meat consumption
Dr Lushen Pillay, Dermatologist

Stress can sometimes cause the worsening of chronic health problems like psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease. Mental stress is the most common trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. It causes the body to release chemicals that boost the inflammatory response, which scientists suspect is the mechanism for stress-induced flare-ups.

According to Healthline, other skin conditions including eczema, acne and hives can also be worsened by mental stress. In fact, Harvard Medical School professor and clinical psychologist, Prof. Ted Grossbart estimated that at least 60% of people in the US who seek medical help for skin and hair issues also have significant mental stress. 

READ MORE | The daily realities of anxiety

“All patients should be advised, as far as possible, to avoid or manage triggers, including stress, alcohol and red meat consumption,” says specialist dermatologist, Dr Lushen Pillay.

“This is especially important as we head into the new year and worries arise about going back to work and school. To help control flare-ups, we recommend topical treatment, such as calcipotriol/betamethasone dipropionate combination gel. These topical treatments have minimal impact on one's quality of life, systemic absorption is minimal, and the risk of side effects is low.”

While a combination of medication and dermatological treatment are the obvious treatments for skin conditions, therapeutic interventions might also be something to consider. One place you could start is by managing triggers that cause you emotional stress. 

Healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. 
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organisations. 


If you do suffer from psoriasis flare-ups, ask your GP or dermatologist for more information about a new, dual-combination, topical treatment option for mild-to-moderate full body psoriasis.

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