The winter months bring cooler weather and a number of stressful, seemingly back-to-back holidays with them each year. Holiday stress is undeniably very real, but can it really change your skin?
Thanksgiving starts off an avalanche of holiday planning that doesn’t end until the year’s over. Whether you’re hosting the holidays, traveling, visiting in-laws, or staying in, organizing your winter months can be a little much. You’ve heard that stress can negatively impact your skin, but how bad can it really be? Are you really going to notice holiday stress in your complexion? Bad news first: yes, stress can absolutely change your skin for the worse. The good news? There’s plenty you can do about it this holiday season to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when the skin overproduces sebum. Sebum, or oil, is necessary for protecting the skin, but when there’s too much, the pores that produce sebum can be blocked. When they clog, the sebum keeps coming and eventually fills to form acne. What does stress have to do with acne? Acne is an inflammatory condition, and stress causes the body to produce more androgens -- a type of hormone that can help the body better react in fight or flight scenarios. Unfortunately, surging androgens in turn cause the body to produce even more sebum. And there you have it, an acne breakout just in time for your holiday party.
Treating acne, whether it’s from stress or other factors, is not always easy. Isolating what’s causing acne can be difficult, but if you do narrow it down to stress, the most obvious solution is controlling that stress. When mindfulness, meditation, and yoga aren’t putting a dent in planning the perfect Christmas vacation, turn to other solutions. Your dermatologist can prescribe topical or oral treatments that help reduce the amount of oil your skin produces. For mild breakouts, over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid can give your stressed out skin the boost it needs to clear acne out.
Acne isn’t the only problem that stress poses for your skin this holiday. Some skin conditions that already mark winter as a trigger may also be made worse by stress. Take psoriasis for example. Psoriasis is a persistent skin condition that causes itchy, dry patches of skin to develop. The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by scaly, raised patches of itchy skin. Dry winter air makes psoriasis worse in many cases, and you can add stress to the pile of things that make psoriasis harder to handle. One aspect of sustained stress is inflammation. The inflammatory response can in turn cause a psoriasis flare up or intensify an ongoing flare up. Reducing stress isn’t always easy, but it should really be a goal if you suspect it’s a trigger for your psoriasis. Treating psoriasis should be done with the help of a dermatologist. A doctor can prescribe the necessary medications to reduce inflammation, and if symptoms are severe enough, you may also begin light therapy. Ultraviolet light can actually be very helpful to your skin in a controlled setting. Your dermatologist may use an artificial light in tandem with oral or topical medications to treat your psoriasis.
The holiday season should be fun, but responsibilities pile up and mean that sometimes we’re also under a fair amount of pressure. Don’t let stress get to your skin this winter. Want to learn more? Give us a call at Northeast Dermatology Associates; we can help.
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