Life can be stressful and this past year has been uniquely challenging. The COVID pandemic has caused widespread illness and loss, social isolation, and economic devastation. Our country is deeply divided politically and struggling to deal with social/racial injustice. There is growing evidence that psychological stress aggravates many common skin conditions. Some inflammatory skin conditions known to be affected by stress include psoriasis, rosacea, acne, and atopic dermatitis (eczema). The degree to which stress plays a provocative role varies by condition. For example, it is a factor in virtually 100% of patients with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) while in 0% in patients with skin cancers. Embryologically, the skin and brain originate from the same tissue, the ectoderm. While the exact mechanisms haven’t been worked out, research has revealed a brain-skin connection involving a complex interplay of neurological, hormonal, and immune systems. The bottom line is that stress may increase inflammation through the release of cytokines, proteins that are important in our immune responses in health and disease.
If you are experiencing stress and have a skin condition that is flaring, contact your dermatologist to discuss treatment strategies.