It is fairly commonly accepted that stress levels, anxiety and mood can affect skin conditions, making them flare up or break out. There is plenty of research behind it to, showing not only that it makes it worse but also that reducing stress can help skin conditions. What else is interesting is that the skin has it’s own ability to generate stress chemicals, and this feeds back into the body’s nervous system aggravating stress – it’s a vicious cycle!
When the skin becomes stressed, it secretes cortisol which inhibits the anti-microbial and protective functions of the skin barrier. This barrier is also weakened by psychological stress-induced production of system stress hormones.
A 2007 study on mice showed that stress increased the severity of a bacterial skin infection. This was accompanied by increased production of systemic anti-inflammatory chemicals which damaged skin integrity.
37 patients with psoriasis about to undergo 3 weeks of ultravoilet phototherapy were randomly assigned a meditation stress reduction technique guided by audio taped instructions during light treatment or a control. The results showed that the rate of skin clearing in patients was accelerated in those that engaged in stress reduction techniques during their sessions.
Slominski A. A nervous breakdown in the skin: stress and the epidermal barrier. J Clin Invest. 2001 Nov:117(11):3166-9
Aberg KM, et al. Psychological stress downregulates epidermal antimicrobial peptide expression and increases severity of cutaneous infections in mice. J Clin Invest. 2007 Nov; 117(11):3339-49
Kabat-Zinn J,et al. Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosom Med. 1998 Sep-Oct;60(5):625-32