My name is Dr Alia Ahmed, I am a Consultant Dermatologist with a specialist interest in the psychological impact of skin disease, otherwise known as a Psychodermatologist.

Psychodermatology considers the mind and skin together when seeing a patient with a skin problem. This includes looking at lifestyle management, including diet, exercise, fluid intake, stress and relationships. Many people do not realise how reactive their skin is to lifestyle choices. I often say to my patients: stress causes skin disease, and skin disease causes stress.

In this time of a global pandemic and uncertainty, the effect of stress on the body cannot be underestimated, here I’ve tried to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that I’m receiving linked to stress & skin.

what is the impact of stress on our skin?

The brain has a stress-activated pathway that causes the release of various chemicals and hormones that drive inflammation both in the body and in the skin.

Feelings of emotional distress can lead to the release of the stress hormone (cortisol), and this is known to affect the immune system and makes the skin less able to defend itself. It can also drive allergic responses, delay healing and disrupt the skin’s natural barrier.

The effects that we see on the skin are things like dryness or itching as well as the formation of wrinkles, lines, signs of pigmentation, premature ageing, and dull skin.

what are the key skincare ingredients to look for when treating stressed skin?

Stressed skin benefits from care and attention – not just in terms of the topical treatments we apply to our skin but also through balancing the mind.  

  • Natural fragrances like Lavender and Ylang can assist in calming the mind
  • Hyaluronic acid helps to maintain the natural moisture of the skin
  • Omega oils have been linked to maintaining the normal processes of the skin and dealing

with skin problems

what impact has the global pandemic had?

We’ve been living a very different life during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I have seen an increase in my patients reporting stress-related skin complaints.

I’m also seeing that there are new onset skin conditions. Some of these are related to hand hygiene - for instance having to wash your hands more than usual and then developing an irritant hand eczema, or an allergic contact dermatitis to certain external factors. Other things are related to the masks that we’re wearing, so we hear a lot about maskne and the changes in your facial skin due to wearing a mask often and for a number of hours during the day. 

what are your top tips for caring for stressed skin?

  1. A basic step for maintaining our skin’s health starts with consistent hand hygiene, i.e., regular washing or use of sanitisers and applying moisturiser afterwards to help repair the skin barrier
  2. Take some ‘time out’ regularly during the day - create a positive environment around you and consider the use of calming scents.
  3. Address issues such as dehydration and inflammation with targeted ingredients such as Hyaluronic acid, CBD, Niacinamide, Omega Oils
  4. Try to maintain a healthy sleep routine, for example set your bedtime and stick to it, avoid screens at least an hour before bed, consider incorporating sleep promoting scents into your evening routine.

my stress check tip

I like to manage the environment around me, especially the environment that I’m working in. I will make sure that I’m working in a comfortable environment with the things that I like - this can be scents, it can be using the right type of cushion in my chair, it can be some relaxing music in the background if I’m working from home. And what we know is that research shows that a positive environment makes your mood much better and you’re more able to cope with the stress that you would experience during the day.