A bad skin day can have a tremendous impact on a person's self-esteem.
Although cause and effect can be challenging to nail down, there is no denying an intimate and intricate brain-skin connection.
Aside from being derived from the same embryologic tissue, the ectoderm, the bond between the brain and skin is complex, fascinating, and is the focus of areas in both dermatology and medicine—known as psychodermatology and psychoneuroimmunology: the interplay between the mind, skin, and our immune system.
In plain English, this just means that what we think, feel, and see can play a significant role in what shows up on our skin. But did you know that this also works vice versa?
The condition of our skin can affect our mental health in quite surprising ways, experts say. That is why dermatologists have long endorsed the benefits of a daily skincare routine. And those benefits might go beyond appearances. Keep reading to learn about them.
When distress comes in
As humans, we are conditioned to look at outward expressions of the people we meet — our skin is commonly identified as the outward expression of beauty, psychologists explain. From childhood to adulthood, we gather beliefs about ourselves based on others' opinions. These beliefs then shape how we feel about ourselves and how we behave.
A study found that a whopping 76% of the women surveyed said they felt good about themselves if they thought their skin looked good, regardless of age. While their specific concerns varied, depending on how old or young they were, there's no question that the overall appearance of their skin played a vital role when it came to their confidence — and both mental health professionals and dermatologists agree.
A bad skin day can have a tremendous impact on a person's self-esteem, they share. In some cases, an especially severe breakout can even stop them from going to school or work.
Having a skin problem can prompt intense distress. People with these conditions, particularly ones that are visible and potentially that are disfiguring, tend to show higher levels of depression. For example, there’s growing evidence that acne itself can cause depression, a connection that some dermatologists and psychiatrists alike are paying increased attention to.
In a vicious circle, stress, depression and other kinds of psychological problems can exacerbate skin problems. The key, psychodermatologists say, is to give patients a sense of control over their conditions and their reactions to them.
The power of skincare
That's where the importance of skincare comes in, which the experts describe as "life-changing" for many. Not only in the sense that these products can help to treat the physical condition, but also because it helps to form self-care routines — both of which work together to improve mental health.
It’s a form of self-love, self-acceptance, and healing, psychologists say. There are certain points on the body that promotes relaxation, and the face is one of them.
Using skin-to-skin contact, fingers to face, allows the blood to flow while also allowing the muscles in the face to relax. This alone sends a signal to the brain that you are in a state of relaxation putting you in a peaceful mindset. And that's regardless of the outcome of the products.
What takedowns of skincare regimens often fail to acknowledge is an important health aspect: any act of skincare can be considered self-care. That can be an important step to possibly improving your mental health, according to dermatologists. It doesn’t matter if it’s taking a few minutes to don a face mask or adding a dollop of moisturizer to your cheeks.
While not everyone begins a skincare regimen for beauty reasons, the very act of looking out for your skin, no matter the purpose, is comforting and soothing by nature.
When you do a skincare routine, you’re usually alone, in your bathroom or somewhere quiet, and it’s just you and the mirror. There’s something slightly meditative about just sitting there and taking that 10 minutes just for you.
Psychodermatologists encourage their patients to take the self-care practice a step further and listen to relaxing music or a guided mediation app during the process.
Self-care is often a process of trial and error, with people endeavoring to discover what reduces their stress and makes them feel good. If taking the time to look after your skin is what alleviates some of the day’s stresses or helps you feel calmer overall, then there’s a benefit.
Every little helps
If you've noticed that your skin is having a negative effect on your mental health, we advise that the first step to healing is realizing that your feelings are valid, and shared with many others — being upset that your skin does not look how you want it to is not an "overreaction".
Seeing a board-certified dermatologist you trust is vital when it comes to figuring out an effective treatment plan to guide you to reach your skincare goals, which in turn will help to clear your mind.
It's also important to remember that regardless of what your skincare journey looks like, taking the time to take care of yourself can do wonders for improving your mental health. Being confident in oneself despite having acne or any other skin condition takes time and patience.
Seeing the mental health benefits of a skincare routine doesn’t require fancy products or a lot of work. Whether you prefer to use a face mask or just old-fashioned soap and water, it’s the action of taking that time for you that counts.