TW: Discussions centered around mental health, depression, and briefly self-harm.
The connection between mind and body
Mental health and skincare are two very important facets of our health, and we likely maintain them in largely different ways.
But did you know that stress, depression, and other psychological and emotional problems can aggravate the skin? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we want to take a moment to discuss something near and dear to our hearts: the importance of mental healthcare in the beauty / skincare space.
On one hand, skin conditions and disorders are a major cause of mental suffering; this isn’t surprising, since these conditions are shown to affect both the body and mind! It’s well known that common dermatological issues like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema all get worse with stress and anxiety. On the other hand, there are actually psychiatric disorders that manifest themselves via the skin! These disorders - such as trichotillomania, body dysmorphic disorder, and dermatitis artefacta - are called psycho-dermatological diseases, and usually include symptoms such as self-inflicted wounds on the skin.
On a societal level, it’s sadly quite clear that most skin conditions like acne, eczema, or rosacea can cause low self-esteem and self-confidence. Marketing and media have conditioned us to view signs of aging as undesirable, which can lead to a myriad of psychological effects. In teens, acne has been known to cause depression.
The relationship between the human psyche and our skin is highly complex. Unfortunately, we can never predict the gravity of a skin disorder and its psychological impact. There is a spectrum of emotions involved, and it entails a highly intimate relationship between ourselves, our bodies, and our perception of our bodies that no one else can understand! While some people seem utterly comfortable and at ease in their skin, others of us may struggle with self-image and self-worth - even from just a wrinkle or a zit.
Tips and strategies
How can we effectively take care of both our skin and our mental health, without compromising one over the other? Well, to put it concisely, the most effective strategy would be to combine mental health treatments, such as support groups, meditation, and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy with traditional dermatological treatment. When we start to feel anxious or depressed, some mind-body strategies to contemplate are meditation, yoga, and diet.
However, there are more natural perspectives and methods to consider.
The Ayurvedic perspective
Ayurveda believes that diseases and imbalances often start from the mind; essentially, the skin and mind are interconnected. That’s why the Ayurvedic goal is to bring balance to the body, mind, and soul. When the three are in equilibrium, we are better equipped to achieve a healthy and stable life.
Ayurvedically, while the energies in our body define our doshic nature - aka, the composition of doshas, or energy, in our body - the mind is characterized by two main forces: rajas and tamas. Rajas is the aspect of the mind that activates and maneuvers it. It’s all about action, movement, and change. Conditions like anxiety are said to be a result of increased rajas. Tamas, on the other hand, slows the mind down, making it more lethargic and inert. When these two aspects are balanced, a person can achieve sattva, or a state of peace and harmony. This is our desired state!
Psychological stress weakens the immune system and renders us prone to various skin disorders. This can recycle back into more anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues, which in turn ultimately make the existing skin condition worse! Management of these conditions in Ayurveda involves various therapies and lifestyle modifications that emphasize mental balance, thus leading to healthy skin. Strengthening our mind-body connection is fundamental for our mental well-being. In particular, incorporating a set routine and less distraction allows the mind to function and have some time to rest.
As Mental Health Awareness month comes to an end, we wanted to highlight the very real connection between body and soul, skin and mind. We all personally have had some degree of struggles with this connection, whether it manifests as body dysmorphia or stress-induced acne. We hope you gained some insight from this blog, and learned a few ways to cultivate and nurture this connection.
Let us know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, and what you think about this topic below! Thanks for reading and stay healthy. 💜
Sending love to you all!
1. Dermatology Times, Dermatology Times, July 2019 (Vol. 40, No. 7), Volume 40, Issue 7 2. Koo J, Lee CS. Psychocutaneous Medicine. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc; 2003.
3. Kulamarva, Kavyashree & Rao, Shrilata. (2017). Psychocutaneous disorders in Ayurveda-an appraisal. Volume 5. 61-70.