7 Proven ways to treat stress-related skin problems
Have you ever noticed that breakouts tend to pop up during the most stressful times of your life? Or that your skin is so sensitive when you’re stressed out that even products you’ve used for years suddenly start making you itchy and red? Stress-related skin problems are a very common problem. That’s because stress and our skin are more closely connected than we might think.
Stress affects everything! Your mental health, physical wellbeing, sleep patterns, energy levels – and yes, your skin too. In fact, stress can cause so many different issues with your skin that it would probably be easier to list what stress doesn’t affect.
Different ways to treat stress-related skin problems
Apply an ice pack.
An ice pack or cold compress can help reduce inflammation that causes skin flare-ups.
Using an ice pack on areas where you have a stress-related skin problem, like acne, may help reduce inflammation which can make it look better and feel more comfortable. If you don't have an ice pack, wrap a bag of frozen peas or another frozen vegetable in a towel and apply it to the affected area. Make sure the towel is thick enough so that the ice doesn't touch your skin directly. Always use care when applying any cold therapy to avoid frostbite.
Take an oatmeal bath.
People with sensitive skin should avoid using hot water to rinse off after showering. Instead, opt for lukewarm water, which will wash away dirt and grime without being too harsh on the skin.
If you're dealing with an itchy, dry rash that's making your skin look red and inflamed, taking an oatmeal bath is a great way to find relief from your discomfort. Oats are packed full of powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the skin and reduce swelling. People have been using oatmeal for centuries as a treatment for psoriasis, a common dermatological condition that causes itchy, scaly patches of skin to form on the body.
As it turns out, stress-related skin conditions aren't the only thing that can be addressed by reducing sun exposure. Sunscreen has been proven to protect you against the harmful effects of UV rays, which can damage your skin and even cause cancer. In fact, studies suggest that sunscreens are crucial for everyone to use all year round.
According to a report from Harvard Health Publishing, “When used as directed, sunscreen decreases the risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) by 50%.” Even if your body isn’t being ravaged by acute bouts with stress-related skin conditions, applying sunscreen every day should be a priority—regardless of whether or not it's sunny outside.
Treat your acne.
First, you'll definitely want to address any acne you're experiencing, since acne is the most common skin condition that flare-ups and worsens during times of stress.
Use a hydrocortisone cream to treat acne. The active ingredient in this type of cream is a steroid that reduces inflammation and itchiness. Hydrocortisone can also be used to treat insect bites and other bumpy rashes. However, it's not recommended for sensitive areas like the face; only use it on thicker-skinned areas such as your back or chest.
Soothe dry skin.
If you’re experiencing dryness, flakiness, or roughness, try an oil-based moisturizer. You’ll want to replenish your skin’s natural moisture barrier with products that contain ingredients like ceramides and glycerin.
Avoid common triggers.
While avoiding a trigger may seem obvious, knowing what your triggers are can be difficult. Your triggers will depend on your circumstances and personality type. Do you have a job that is extremely demanding? Are you struggling with relationships? Is it the holidays? All of these things can be sources of stress, which could cause skin problems to flare up or worsen.
Common stressors include:
- Work or school
- Health (including body image)
- Sleep issues
It's important for you to set boundaries for yourself to avoid these common stressors as much as possible. If you feel overwhelmed by your schedule, don't be afraid to say no! This might mean saying no to going out with friends when all you want is a night in watching Netflix. It might also mean saying no to taking on a new project at work if you're working more than 40 hours per week already and really need some time off.
Start a meditation practice.
Meditation can be the most effective stress-busting tool you have on hand. The practice asks that you find a quiet space to sit, close your eyes, and become aware of your breathing. Meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace are great tools for beginners looking to establish a consistent practice, or just get started (meditation is especially challenging for newbies). Consistent meditation can calm the mind and body—and eventually, it may help prevent skin issues down the road.
Stress management can help you prevent stress-related skin problems
- Try not to isolate yourself. Talk to your friends and family, about whether or not the source of your stress is related to them. Talking with someone can help you feel less alone and vulnerable, even if they can't solve your problem.
- Do something you enjoy. Take up a hobby or activity that isn't focused on work or personal issues. Consider starting an exercise routine if you don't already have one, or trying out something new like painting or journaling.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you sort through them in a way that might be harder to do verbally with others. It's also a good way to relieve stress at the moment by getting things off your chest without having to talk about them aloud.
- Talk to a professional counselor if self-help strategies aren't working for you. A professional will be able to give advice on managing your stress and diagnose any underlying problems that might need separate treatment as well (such as depression).