Mind Your Skin!

It’s a safe bet. If I am too busy, stressed or have slept badly, then in no time I can see it in my skin. I get spots and my skin becomes more dry and dull. I suspect that there are many other people who recognise this too. Even so, the effects of emotions on the skin have long been dismissed as “nonsense”, “vague” or “unscientific”. Well, now it is no longer “unscientific”. There is enough evidence to suggest that negative emotions cause you to feel, not only figuratively speaking but also, literally bad in your skin! This is completely logical really, if you think about it, as your skin is full of nerve endings that not only detect signals from outside (cold, warm, pain), but also react to substances that are circulating around and, for example, through worry and stress, are released inside our body. What’s more, our skin is a sort of hormone factory and it’s not only stress, but also emotions such as happiness and love which have an impact on our hormone production. We can no longer deny it, skin and mind are closely related!

Stress, spots, saggy skin, wrinkles and other problems

Although much more research is still required, we already know that the main culprit is cortisol. If you are stressed you make cortisol, this cortisol makes sure that we can deal with the stress. Cortisol provides us temporarily with more energy and strength so that we can get ourselves out of the bad situation we find ourselves in. Cortisol is therefore a very useful substance, unless it remains in our body for too long. This happens, for example, if your day and night rhythm is regularly disturbed or if you suffer from chronic stress. A long term increased level of cortisol also has negative effects on our skin. Spots are caused by substances being produced in our system that cause inflammation and this in turn increases the production of sebum. But more happens; cortisol damages the skins barrier function allowing more moisture evaporation and eventually your skin (in spite of the initial increased sebum production) becomes dry and dull. What’s more, your skin can become irritated, inflamed or red. It is not for nothing that British researchers have found that the “credit crisis” has caused a considerable increase in eczema, psoriasis and other skin disorders. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, chronic (long term) stress also causes skin ageing. This is simply because the increased amount of cortisol in your body is destroying the collagen in your skin.

Loved up mice and operation “who moved my cheese”

It won’t surprise you, after all that, that wounds heal less well if you are suffering from stress. For example, researchers discovered that wounds in monogamous and ‘in love’ mice couples didn’t heal as well when they became separated from each other. If they could still smell or see each other the wounds began to heal more quickly. Although I think it is a bit of a sad experiment, it is still a romantic fact…This works in just the same way in people. Research has revealed that the healing process of wounds in people (during hospitalisation), who were in a bad relationship with difficulty communicating with each other, was poorer. It doesn’t surprise me as, during my own masters research some years ago, it was obvious that nerve damage took longer to repair in people who were suffering from stress during the period shortly after the accident. Apart from delaying the repair of wounds, stress also appears to increase the risk of skin cancer. In a study called “who moved my cheese?” it was found that mice with stress developed skin cancer more rapidly when exposed to UV light than more relaxed mice. So just breath in deeply if, the next time you get to the beach (after a three hour traffic jam and whining kids in the back), that last parking space is swiped from under your nose by someone who is driving in the wrong direction!


I’ve taken action myself after realising, from Dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexl, that apart from all of the above troubles, long term stress can also cause you to grow a moustache and hair (in places you really don’t want). I’ve wasted no time in signing up for a Yoga Workshop, have planned a weekend break, the spiritual books are downloaded and the hammock bought. Now I’ve just got to work out where I can find the time for this!

Enjoy a nice, peaceful and, mainly, relaxing weekend…

Regards Jetske

(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can also read the blogs:
Getting Older‘,
Healthy Skin’ and ‘The Effects of Stress on Skin.