Mental Health And Skin Health
The interconnection between mental health and skin health is known as the mind-skin connection. It works like a cycle—just as what's happening with our mental health can impact our skin, our skin conditions can in turn impact our mental health.
Thankfully, this topic is becoming more recognized, studied, and an entire field has emerged to study the link between skin and mental health: psychodermatology. This specialty aligns with our esthetician's point of view that taking care of the skin is a holistic effort, benefitting not just from topical products, but also other lifestyle practices and treatments—from meditation to therapy.
“The skin is part of our immune system. What you see on the skin is a direct result of something that is happening in one of the other systems; it’s a way of a particular system letting you know something is wrong,” says Shea Amiruddin, Heyday Director of Skincare Education.
"What you see on the skin is a direct result of something that is happening in one of the other systems."
Essentially, anything that triggers an inflammatory response in the body can cause inflammation in the skin—which exacerbates many skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, and eczema. And on the flip side, skin conditions have been shown to have a psychological impact—from lower self-esteem to depression. But just as vicious as this cycle can be, handling it holistically can also be positively reciprocal: treating psychological problems can improve skin problems and vice versa.
Skincare Routine Edits For Stressed Skin
- Barrier-supporting balms are key to building back resilience. Stress can cause your skin to weaken and your skin barrier to thin.
- A hard-working moisturizer plus gentle, but effective spot treatments will help heal and hydrate stress-induced breakouts.
- A gua sha + inflammation-reducing facial oil is the perfect power duo when you need some me-time. Sit back, relax, breathe deep, and massage out your clenched jaw, furrowed eyebrows, and other points of tension.
Lifestyle Practices for Skin & Mental Well-Being
- Studies show that mediative and mindfulness practices decrease oxidative stress (a major role in skin's aging process) and may help promote wound healing and reduce TEWL (Trans-epidermal water loss, or the loss of water from the skin) so the skin barrier is stronger and more moisturized.
- Work with a dermatologist who specializes in psychodermatology, or has experience with the psychological effects of skin conditions—combining traditional medicine with other recommendations such as acupuncture, psychotherapy, and hypnosis.
- Getting a good night's sleep (7-9 hours) promotes healthier, glowier skin plus improved mood and less risk of developing depression.
Tips From A Therapist
To get some more insights and coping mechanisms, we spoke with Naiylah Warren, LMFT, and staff therapist at a therapy concept called Real. You can follow her at @naoinlife, and begin working with her and the whole Real team here.
What Are Some Helpful Coping Mechanisms?
Naiylah: Something that I work with a lot of clients on is social forecasting. Social forecasting means building things into your schedule that you can look forward to. These are things that help connect you with other people, but this process also takes the pressure off of always having to be in contact with people, too. You can do this by setting up a social calendar. What can you build into your schedule to get that connection?
Connecting with community is a tool that people can use when they see an increase in symptoms. I’ve noticed that my clients who usually engage in individual therapy have benefited from group therapy; this really helps to bring in a social component. For anyone who is looking for different types of support, you can always join Real, because there are so many ways to get support.
Also, just focusing on basic self-care activities. When we’re in that state of feeling down and low, we may not do the things that keep us afloat—things like showering, getting up and eating breakfast, taking a walk, or getting our blood moving. Work on creating routine around those basic functions before trying to level up on the self-care
Will Someone Who Has “Zoom Burnout” Still Benefit From Virtual Therapy?
N: The therapy experience — from the relationships to the overall energy — is very different. In therapy, it’s a space to not perform. It’s a space where you don’t have to be “on” in that way.
Therapy is a place and time for you to be introspective and really question some of your own thoughts, feelings, and how you process things. It won’t always be easy, but know that in this space, you have true control. You’re empowered to emote and discuss, or not discuss, as much as you want.
What Self-Care Rituals Have You Personally Found Helpful During This Time?
N: I really do love self-care—even the most basic versions. I think it’s really important that we’re intentional about stress management.
"One thing that has gotten me through this time is a skincare routine. For me, it’s about, yes, having good skin, but also about ritual. It’s something that grounds me and connects me to my body."
Also, I’ve been taking a lot of nature walks as a way to get out of my apartment. These things have all helped to shift my perspective and to give me something to hold onto.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, please consult your primary physician and call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you are in immediate distress.