It’s pretty safe to say that, collectively, as a nation, we’re stressed. Covid-19 has left us without jobs, loved ones, and on a very basic level, human interaction. Many of us see evidence of that state of being in our sleep patterns, which have likely been disrupted, and even our levels of anxiety which may be heightened. Expected feelings of sadness and bouts of grief may have even manifested into depression. But one place we rarely think about stress showing up is our skin, but it happens. And it’s likely happening in ways you aren’t aware of.
“I’ve been seeing patients who were completely clear using their normal regimen, and they’ve been clear for a year, and now they’re flaring up,” Atlanta-based dermatologist Tiffany Clay, MD, said. “Stress can change your hormone levels and it changes the skin in general.”
Four-and-half months into the pandemic, there are three specific skin conditions that seem to be more prevalent among her patients now, Dr. Clay shared. “I’m definitely seeing a lot more acne, not necessarily mascne, just [acne] in general.”
Shutting down some of the myths about acne — like you can only get it as a teenager or only people who don’t wash their face breakout — Dr. Clay explained there’s a mixture of factors that cause acne such as bacterias, family history, and hormones, which are likely fluctuating greatly due to these highly uncertain times.
“Another one that people don’t think of is hives and just itching in general due to anxiety and stress,” Dr. Clay said of the second skin issue she’s seeing an increase of. “People tend to have more hives pop up or welts on the skin. They’re itchy in general and it keeps you up at night and you can’t sleep and then you’re even more stressed the next day.”
Among her Black patients, in particular, Dr. Clay said she’s also seeing a lot of eczema flareups. “Eczema likes to flare up, usually seasonally, when the weather cools off and also around high pollen season when allergies kick up, but now we’re in the middle of summer and pollen has gone down, but the stress is probably higher than before so I’m seeing a lot of flaring from that.”
For those experiencing flareups, Dove’s Beauty Bar is a good cleansing option because its formula is 25% moisturizing cream so it helps nourish skin as it cleanses rather than contribute to dryness, Dr. Clay said. Most patients will need a prescription medication of some sort in addition, she explained, but if you have reservations about seeing your dermatologist at this time to discuss your skin issues, you have options.
“If it’s something that needs to be checked urgently, that needs a procedure, like a surgery or a rash that I have to do a biopsy or a test on, we definitely want those people to come into the office,” she said.
For those whose skin concerns aren’t as urgent, telehealth video appointments are a helpful alternative. “If someone’s not comfortable coming in or they’re in a population that’s going to be compromised if they go out, then it’s really simple to do,” Dr. Clay explained. “I’ve done a lot of acne, rashes, and rosacea appointments in that manner.