Shortness of breath, brain fog, changes in appetite are all common symptoms of stress. But did you know that itchy skin can be another symptom of increased stress levels?
You may have noticed changes in your skin's sensitivity and overall condition in the past few months during the many lockdowns *thanks a lot Covid*. Have you caught yourself scratching your skin during this time? If so, please never Google "why is my skin itchy" , the results are terrifying!
Well, it turns out, it's unlikely that fleas are triggering this, it's most probably your brain. It has a stress-activated pathway that causes the release of various hormones and chemicals, inflaming your skin and body.
Anxiety and other forms of emotional distress lead to the release of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) causing a disruption in your skin barrier. When your skin's natural barrier is compromised, it can't effectively produce protective lipids, leaving it vulnerable to external factors, leading to dryness, increased sensitivity and that gnarly itch.
It is a normal response to the stress, but not everybody who feels stressed is itchy. It strongly depends on your skin's defensive mechanisms and its ability to repair a compromised skin barrier. It is more likely to develop an itch if you have an existing skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis. If that's you, please try to resist the urge to scratch the skin, because this will inevitably get you into and itch-scratch cycle that propagates the feeling of itch and can ultimately not only induce further stress but also damage your skin.
When your skin's natural barrier is compromised, it can't effectively produce protective lipids
What can you do to soothe your skin?
- Apply natural oils to repair and protect your skin barrier. Oils are occlusives and help seal the moisture in your skin while also creating a thin protective layer against external irritants. Our nourishing body oils are created in a way to mimic the lipid barrier of the skin and replenish the diminishing lipids.
- Apply the oils on damp skin to seal the water into the skin.
- Apply cooling gel or cold aloe vera to itchy skin to relieve the feeling of itch.
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Use lukewarm rather than hot water when you shower
- Do not scratch! If you lack the willpower to not touch your skin, just tap it or pinch it gently instead of clawing on it
- Try meditation and breathing exercises to reduce the anxiety
- Drink at least two litres of water to improve hydration
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep to give your skin the time it needs to repair itself
- If none of these works and your itch persists, seek professional help from a dermatologist.