The Impact of Stress on the Skin

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“Thin skinned” usually refers to a person who is sensitive to criticism or quick to be insulted. There is a lot of truth to these words: Skin can be a very good clue about inner feelings. Researchers talk about a “brain-skin connection,” where stress can cause skin reactions that trigger acne, rosacea, psoriasis and other inflammatory problems.

At the same time, having a skin condition increases stress, so even if sensitivity begins as a physical problem, emotions soon become equally important. As a spa professional, you are not immune to these issues, and it’s important that you find self-care strategies that help ease stress and inflammation.

Stress and Skin

The ability to deal with stress varies from person to person, and over time. Stress activates cells in the skin known as mast cells, which are meant to bolster immunity, like helping to heal a surface-level wound, for example. But, when they are triggered by stress, they respond to immune problems that don’t exist. Signs of overactive mast cells include itchy skin and flushing, which can be severe.

When emotional, mental or external pressures are in play, stress increases the skin reaction and the skin reaction increases stress. We still don’t understand all of the mechanisms by which this cycle occurs, but some seem to be related to spikes or abrupt shifts in heart rate, blood flow and the secretion of hormones, among other physical changes affecting the integrity of the skin barrier.

Continue reading to learn more about stress and the skin and how you can treat it in our Digital Magazine...

With her unique background in medicine, neuropsychology, leadership development and coaching, Cynthia Ackrill, MD, PCC, FAIS, brings compassion and science to stress management. A certified leader in the field for more than 25 years, Dr. Ackrill ( understands the challenges and metrics unique to the spa and wellness industries.

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