The way we have expressions like “laugh lines” or “frown lines” already indicate that emotions affect our skin’s behavior. Psychodermatology is “therapy for you skin” and looks into the “different ways of dealing with the connection between the mind and the skin,” according to The Cut. In simpler terms, your breakouts might just be an indication of stress and not that you need some salicylic acid.
Before you revamp your skin routine or book a vacation in the ruse of “getting your skin back to its youthful state,” we’ve compiled a few facts of this growing science. Keep an eye on it, we say, it might just be the treatment you need.
In the United States, there are only half a dozen clinics that practice pscychodermatology. For everyday skin problems, it’s still best to see your dermatologist first. Clinical therapist Matt Traube tells The Cut that psychodermatology steps in only if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for from your derma.
Though the science is relatively young, it is still routed in old observations. The relationship between psychology and skin concerns manifests in habits such as hair-pulling, skin picking, and delusions involving insects crawling all over the skin. It is also linked as to why peeling a scar can be satisfying for some even if it’s painful. These are commonly called body-focused repetitive behaviors, the explanations of which are slowly being uncovered.
Pyschodermatology finds that stress is a main factor for skin conditions. Medical research on people with psoriasis confirms that stress is a contributing factor in making things worst. “A couple of recent studies have corroborated this, with one finding that most people with psoriasis named emotional stress—not diet, not the weather, not medications or infections—as the number one trigger for their symptoms.” How exactly? There are suspicions that it’s about how our hormones, which also regulate our skin’s condition, behave differently under stress.
Other than this, I bet you are familiar with how stress can make you form habits that are damaging to the skin. Late nights spent at your job cause under-eye bags, dry skin, and acne. So perhaps the next time you decide to revamp your skincare routine, all you might need to do is clock in a few hours of sleep or spend some time away from the stressful situation.
Hormones are the first suspect when it comes to situations like these but psychodermatology is trying to find out how immune cells might be in on it as well. When stressed, our immune system compensates through cells. These cells then can make your skin do certain things. “Take something called Langerhans cells, for instance, which are in the upper layers of the skin, and act as a go-between for the nervous system and the immune system. In psoriasis patients, those scaly skin patches that are symptomatic of the condition tend to form when Langerhans cells leave the upper layer of the skin — and research has suggested that stress may be involved in causing this movement of those cells.”
Given these hints, there is a suggestion that your mind might just be your best cure next to your trusted serum. Think about this situation: You’re stressed because of a pimple on your cheek that you feel people are staring at or feel disgusted by (although that is usually not the case). The stress causes the imperfection to get worst, making you more stressed, then a cycle is born. Try to then think of the opposite. As Matt told The Cut, “If we can somehow get in the middle of that and work with those thoughts that are not necessarily always accurate, like this idea that everyone is somehow staring at them and their skin imperfection, we can reduce the stress, and we can reduce flare-ups.”
Art by Lara Intong
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