The Effects of Stress on Skin, Hair & Nails

Dermatologists Discuss the Effects of Stress on Skin, Hair & Nails

Recent clinical studies have proven what dermatologists have long known: mental stress can lead to physical problems with the hair, skin and nails.

With the entire country – and especially residents of New York City – reeling from the unprecedented stress of the current COVID-19 crisis, many individuals may be experiencing conditions such as acne, eczema flare-ups, brittle nails, and even hair loss.

In this article board certified dermatologist Dr. Gary Goldenberg discusses some of the most common effects that stress can have on the skin, hair and nails.

Dermatologists Discuss the Effect of Stress on the Skin

When an individual experiences a stressful situation, their body’s level of the hormone “cortisol” rises. The increase in this “stress hormone” in turn causes increased production of oil by the skin. Not only can this cause acne to “flare-up” in patients with acne, it can also lead to the development of temporary “stress-related acne” in people who are otherwise not affected by acne.

Additionally, a study in the medical publication Archives of Dermatology found that stress negatively impact’s the skin’s ability to act as a “barrier” – which results in water loss, causing dryness and cracking of the skin, as well as decreased ability of the skin to repair itself.

So, while psychological stress adversely affects the normal functions of the skin in people without pre-existing conditions – it also even more profoundly impacts individuals with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

And, unfortunately, because stress interferes with the body’s cellular repair mechanisms, it also leads to the development of increased lines, furrows and wrinkles in skin.

The dermatologists at Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City offer telehealth video consultations in which they can diagnose and prescribe treatments for many skin conditions, including stress-related acne and eczema. And after social distancing has ended – they also offer a wide variety of skin restoration and antiaging treatments, including: laser treatments, Botox and dermal fillers, chemical peels, and more.

Dermatologists Discuss the Effect of Stress on the Hair

The causes of hair loss are complex and diverse – from heredity to aging to medical conditions. But stress is a very common cause of unexplained hair loss. Hair follicles produce hair in a continual cycle of “phases” – from the resting phase, to the growth phase, to the fallout phase. But when a person is under excessive stress, hair can go suddenly go into (and remain) in the “telogen” fall-out phase.

Hair loss related to physical or psychological stress is called “telogen effluvium” (TE). While very common, the resulting hair loss can occur up to three months after the stressful situation. Hair typically grows back in six to nine months after TE hair loss.

However, the dermatologists at Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City also offer many effective treatments to combat hair loss caused by stress, or other conditions. These state-of-the-art hair loss treatments include: PRP and stem cell hair restoration, as well as pharmaceutical and nutritional support for hair re-growth.

Dermatologists Discuss the Effects of Stress on Nails

Fingernails are also subject to stress-related damage – both from stress-triggered “habits,” and from changes in body chemistry. During times of extreme stress – such as the COVID-19 situation, many individuals develop “nervous habits” such as biting their fingernails, picking at their cuticles, or even rubbing their fingers over their thumbnail. These habits can cause many problems, including: a distortion of the nail plate, raised ridges in the middle of the nail, and nailbed infection.

Obviously, the stress-related habit of nail biting or skin picking is also very dangerous in terms of germ and virus transmission – especially during a pandemic.

The changes in the body chemistry caused by stress can also result in physical changes to fingernails. Patients under extreme duress have been known to develop white horizontal lines across the nails. Brittle, peeling nails also are a common side effect of stress.

The dermatologists at Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City also offer nutritional supplements that are clinically proven to support fingernail health and growth.

Dealing with COVID-19 Stress

While it may sound cliché, continuing to eat right, staying mentally and physically active, exercising, meditating, listening to music, and getting plenty of sleep are all tools that can help minimize the effects that COVID-19 stress will have on your body – including your skin, hair and nails.

And, dermatologists also advise avoiding very hot showers or baths, using detergent-free soaps on your body, and moisturizing often – especially as soon as possible after bathing or washing hands. And, when you venture outdoors to get some exercise and fresh air, don’t forget to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to protect your skin.

New York City Dermatologists

The dermatologists at Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City care deeply about their patients – in good times, as well as during this time of great stress. We are here to help you with your skin, hair and nail concerns at all times – including via video consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many conditions can be diagnosed and treated via telehealth video consultation. And, after social distancing is over, we will continue to offer the latest and most advanced medical and aesthetic treatments to restore health, beauty and youthfulness to your skin, nails and hair.

New York City Dermatologists: 212-405-8202