You can use all the best products, have the most thorough skincare routine and still get blemishes. Yep, that’s right. Pimples, dry, itchy skin and chronic conditions can still flare up, regardless of how well you treat your skin. Sometimes, these annoying and even painful imperfections are a result of diet, genetics, or environmental factors. However, if you’re unable to determine the cause, anxiety might have something to do with it. 

How does anxiety affect your skin?

anxiety and words to describe anxietyAnxiety can do a number on your skin. The most obvious and immediate effects include lines from frowning or furrowing your brow. However, some people might also develop behavioral problems like excessive itching and skin picking, which can damage the skin and even cause infections. Breaking these habits often requires the help of a medical professional or psychiatrist. 

Meanwhile, those with chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema may experience disease flare-ups when dealing with high anxiety. These episodes can be incredibly debilitating and affect their self-esteem, which only causes more stress and anxiety.  

Of course, most people are likely to experience more common symptoms like oily skin and acne when anxiety levels rise. That’s because anxiety and emotional distress trigger your body into releasing cortisol. This stress hormone delays healing and disrupts your skin’s natural barrier, leaving it more susceptible to bruises, wrinkles, pigmentation, dullness and other issues. 

Cortisol also increases oil production, which can clog up your pores and cause pimples. While applying medicated cleansers and serums may help you heal quicker, managing your anxiety is a much more effective way to prevent future breakouts.  

A vicious cycle 

Today’s society would have you believe that you need flawless skin to be worthy of admiration — or thousands of Instagram followers. Only perfect faces end up on the cover of magazines, right? Well, not exactly. Now that everyone has access to face filters and editing tools, anyone can alter their body and remove blemishes. This only contributes to unrealistic expectations and impossible standards, which can leave you feeling inadequate and, quite frankly, a little ugly. 

split image of unretouched vs retouched photoNow, when you experience a breakout or flare-up, you’ll likely encounter even higher levels of anxiety because you don’t fit social media’s perfect mold of what you’re “supposed” to look like. As your stress levels rise, your symptoms may worsen and leave your skin in even worse condition. This vicious cycle will continue indefinitely until you let go of impossible expectations and fully embrace who you are, acne and all. 

Of course, this is much easier said than done, so if you need help realigning your standards with reality, talk to a licensed therapist or other mental health professional. They’ll be able to pinpoint the root cause of your insecurities so you can work on letting them go. More importantly, they’ll help you find ways to manage your anxiety so you can finally fall in love with the skin you’re in. 

3 ways to manage anxiety 

Are you ready to kick your worries — and blemishes — to the curb? Minimize breakouts and banish flare-ups with these three tips for managing anxiety. 

1. Break the cycle

You’ll probably feel less anxious if you aren’t so worried about your skin, and deleting social media can certainly help with that. Break the cycle and kiss fake beauty standards goodbye by signing off or logging out. Alternatively, you can unfollow anyone who makes you feel inadequate or frequently posts edited selfies. Replace those accounts with body-positive ones that encourage you to adopt positive self-talk and a healthier self-image. 

2. Nourish your body

assorted vegetablesYour diet plays an important role in how you feel and, if you have anxiety, there are a few foods you should avoid, including refined cereals, fried food and high-fat dairy products. These items can exacerbate your symptoms and even cause skin problems all by themselves. You might also consider giving up alcohol. While it may seem to reduce stress, the effects are temporary and, once they wear off, your anxiety will return with a vengeance. 

3. Get your beauty sleep

Anxiety can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. At the same time, getting less shuteye can lead to more breakouts and even mounting stress, which doesn’t do your skin or your anxiety any favors. Break the cycle by developing a nighttime routine that helps you wind down and fall asleep. Melatonin supplements and other natural sleep aids may also prove useful–be sure to consult with your healthcare professional about that. You should notice differences in your sleep and skin a few weeks after implementing these coping mechanisms. 

When to find a professional 

Sometimes, it’s impossible to manage anxiety on your own. In this case, it may be best to consult a licensed physician or therapist. They can prescribe medication or coping mechanisms that are specific to your particular skin conditions and mental health symptoms. These tools are your best bet for lowering stress levels and clearing up your skin.

What do you do if you suspect your client is struggling with anxiety?

It’s not within the scope of practice for aestheticians, health coaches, nutritionists, or other skin wellness practitioners who are not licensed medical or mental health providers to diagnose or treat anxiety–or any other health condition. However, because many skin wellness practitioners create safe, intimate environments for their clients, many clients feel safe to express certain struggles during sessions. While this is generally a good thing, sometimes professional and scope of practice boundaries may become blurred if one party construes helpful advice as a professional recommendation.

If you feel that a conversation, or advice that you are being asked to provide is uncomfortable, inappropriate, or out of your scope–then it probably is. It’s one thing to empathize with the client, and another to offer advice that might not be appropriate to offer. If you find yourself in this situation, you can change the subject, validate the client’s concern by saying something like “it sounds like this is challenging for you–do you feel like you have enough support?” If the client says no, then it might be a good idea to refer them to a mental health professional.

In our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® (CNAP) Training Program, we address scope of practice situations that might come up like this, and educate you on how to safely handle them. We also teach you about the importance of establishing a strong referral network, and discuss how and when it is right to refer.

Learn more about the CNAP Training Program HERE.

Kara ReynoldsAbout the author:

Kara Reynolds is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.