6 steps to heal stressed skin, inside and out
You may spend a fortune on skin creams, carefully massage oils into your face, and take vitamins to keep your complexion clear. But there’s another cornerstone of skincare you may not even be aware of – and that’s emotional wellbeing. ‘Emotional stress can be involved in lots of skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea,’ says psychodermatologist Dr Anthony Bewley. ‘We know it can trigger a condition in the first place, and is also linked to flare-ups, plus stress slows skin healing, making it harder for your skin to recover from any outbreak.’
Very unfairly, the stress-skin cycle is a vicious one. ‘Lots of people find having a skin condition can affect their self-esteem,’ says psychologist Emma Kenny. And if you’re distressed by the way your skin looks, your stress levels will remain high. ‘That prevents full healing and maintains the condition,’ says Bewley. But luckily there are some simple steps you can take to feel less stressed and look after your skin from the inside-out. Try Bewley’s and Kenny’s top tips for beautiful skin:
1 Take time to relax
‘I recommend my patients try techniques like mindfulness meditation and yoga,’ says Bewley. ‘But it’s important to find whatever works for you.’ That could mean walking in nature and even birdwatching. Kenny cautions against assuming quiet time on your own is what you need to unwind. ‘If you’re an extrovert, you may be better off spending time with friends,’ she says.
Read more: Try this 8-step happy yoga routine
2 Sleep right
‘This is a priority to help you manage stress,’ says Bewley. Try to have a regular routine, going to bed and getting up at the same times each day, and take half an hour to unwind before bed, with a cup of herbal tea and a warm bath with some relaxing essential oils. See your GP if you’re not sleeping well.’
3 Take action to sort your skin
‘There’s a lot your GP can do, so don’t assume they won’t be able to help,’ says Bewley. ‘People with skin conditions sometimes avoid going for help because they think it’s a minor problem, or that it can’t be helped. But if it’s affecting your quality of life, mental health and relationships, you deserve to get some treatment.’ Sometimes, simply starting to seek help can make you feel more in control, which can lower stress levels. Your doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory creams to help to protect the skin’s barrier function, and you may need other treatments – such as antibiotics for acne. Your GP can also refer you to a dermatologist if you need that level of care.
4 Get in balance
A generally healthy lifestyle will support skin health and help you stay on top of stress. Avoid too much caffeine, which can make you jittery – try calming herbal teas instead. Alcohol, smoking and refined sugar can all promote inflammation, says Bewley. ‘Aim for a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables,’ he advises. ‘There’s some evidence evening primrose oil and antioxidant vitamins may help your skin by soothing inflammation, so you could try these.’
5 Move it!
One of the best tips for dealing with stress? Exercise. ‘It can lower levels of stress hormones in your body and boost your mood,’ says Kenny. ‘Try to find something you enjoy, so it won’t seem like hard work, and you’ll get into a routine.’ That could mean dancing, Pilates or running. Being active can also boost circulation to your skin, adds Bewley.
Read more: 6 stress-busting Pilates moves
6 Develop a new skin relationship
It’s easy to feel frustrated with your skin when you get spots or rashes. But it may be helpful to try to see your skin condition as your body’s way of telling you something’s out of kilter in your life. ‘You notice your skin far more than other people,’ says Kenny, who recommends trying to focus on the things about your appearance you like, such as your eyes. Write a list so you can look at it whenever you’re feeling low.
Read more: 7 life-improving confidence tips