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When Stress Affects Your Skin: Natural Tips to the Rescue

You know stress can take a toll on your health, but did you know that stress has a negative impact on your skin as well? If you have one of these pre-existing skin conditions, stress can make breakouts and flare-ups of symptoms worse. Keep reading for ways to help combat stress-induced skin problems.

The following skin-related conditions can be negatively impacted by stress:

Those pesky and persistent bumps can be fueled by stress because of an increased surge of hormones that kick in and help us cope with high-pressure situations. Stress triggers an influx of androgens (male hormones present in both sexes), particularly testosterone, which is responsible for the production of sebum that can block pores and make acne more likely to develop.

To clean up your skin, try over-the-counter remedies containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that help control bacteria and clear clogged pores. Mild to moderate cases of acne are usually prescribed topical retinoids and sometimes antibiotics that help to unplug the pores and control bacteria.

If you are prone to breakouts when you’re under a lot of stress, keep your skin clean with specially formulated skin treatments to remove any excess pore-blocking sebum, and use an oil-free moisturizer on clear areas.

This is a generic term given to all flaky scalp conditions where metabolic changes -- and stress in particular -- increase shedding of the scalp, causing itchy white flakes. Bacteria occur naturally on the scalp and usually have no effect on the skin, due to a protective layer made up of sweat and sebum, an oil that acts as the skin's natural lubricant. Stress, hormonal changes and alterations in diet, such as excess sugar, salt or fat, can alter the balance of these bacteria, which in turn causes the skin to shed.

The flakes of skin absorb sebum while another secretion, skin serum, binds them together, helping these flakes to cling to the scalp and leading to bigger flakes. The result is dandruff -- oily flakes (as opposed to the popular belief that the flakes are dry), an oily scalp and dull, lifeless hair. If left untreated, dandruff can lead to seborrheic dermatitis -- more patchy scaling around the front of the hairline and often in the eyebrows, corners of the nose and middle of the chest.

There are some fairly effective anti-dandruff shampoos that contain anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ingredients. But if overused, they can cause dull or excessively greasy hair. Alternate them with a regular shampoo, which should be used just on the roots with a separate conditioner applied to the ends. For a do-it-yourself anti-flaking tonic, try equal measures of mouthwash and witch-hazel for a temporary clearing effect.

The signs of psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that affects the skin, include silvery scaled bumps, raised patches and redness on the scalp, although it often appears on other parts of the body. It occurs when skin cell mutation happens too quickly, with new cells rising from the basal layer of the skin in three to four days instead of the normal 28 to 38 days. A genetic predisposition, food allergies and long-standing infections are usually at the root of the problem, but anxiety and stress are also thought to trigger attacks.

There is no cure for psoriasis, and it can be difficult to treat. Topical medication creams available in prescription, and specially formulated shampoos and creams containing tar can slow down the cell turnover. UV rays from the sun or phototherapy can reduce the scales, and increased rubbing of the scalp through more frequent hair washing tends to remove flakes, making it more tolerable. Natural aromatic essences with relaxing benefits (such as chamomile and lavender oils) applied daily can have a soothing effect on the skin and relieve stress, thereby helping to reduce the cycle of symptoms.

Don’t let your skin get stressed out! By following the above tips and tricks, you can fight the effect that stress can have when it comes to your “outer layer.”

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