Why The Stress Alchemy Ritual Is Not Just Good for Relaxation...

Skin care professionals, such as estheticians and dermatologists, can help minimizethe effects of stress and emotions on skin, hair and nails. This information from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) shows how proper care can aid emotional health.

In the emotional roller coaster of life, sometimes the down periods have long-lasting effects on more than just our mood. In fact, numerous studies link factors that impact our emotional well-being—such as stress, depression and anxiety—to an increase in skin, hair or nail problems. Now, dermatologists are advising patients to recognize these secondary symptoms and to seek treatment early before they cause additional stress.

Speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology’s academy, dermatologist and clinical psychologist Richard G. Fried, MD, PhD, FAAD, of Yardley, PA, discussed the reciprocal relationship between feelings and appearance, and how failing to address these concerns can affect how we look, feel and function.

“When patients are going through a rough period in their lives, negative emotions can wreak havoc on their appearance,” said Dr. Fried. “So, as a result, patients might start to notice that their hair is thinning, their skin is inflamed or their nails are brittle, which can be physical manifestations of their mental state. These unwanted physical changes can have a profoundly negative impact on how they feel. The negative emotions can trigger a vicious cycle of worsening skin, hair and nails leading to worsening of their emotional state and can lead to further worsening of the skin problem. Dermatologists can play a key role in helping patients not only alleviate these physical symptoms, but also help enhance their quality of life during a difficult time.”

Stress can manifest itself on one’s appearance in many ways, primarily by making the skin more sensitive and more reactive. For example, Dr. Fried noted that stress can make rosacea more red, result in acne lesions that are more inflamed and more persistent, cause brittle nails and ridging of the nails, cause hair loss, cause or worsen hives, and cause excessive perspiration. In addition, stress also is a known trigger or can be a worsening factor for fever blisters, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and has even been shown to impair skin barrier function and dehydrate the skin, allowing more irritants, allergens, and infectious agents to penetrate the skin and cause problems. Stressed skin often appears stressed, distressed and older.

“When it comes to treating patients who we suspect may be experiencing skin, hair or nail problems as a result of stress or other emotional factors, it is helpful to ask them whether their skin seems to look or feel worse when they are stressed,” said Dr. Fried. “Beyond the direct physiological effects of stress, patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin, lacking the energy and motivation to adhere to their skin care regimens. There also might be signs of stress-related behaviors—such as scratching, pulling or rubbing—that can exacerbate problems.”

To successfully treat stress-related dermatologic conditions, Dr. Fried recommends that traditional dermatologic therapies should be used in conjunction with appropriate stress management strategies. For example, Dr. Fried discussed how stress reduction interventions and techniques can reduce the culmination of negative events that can worsen many of these problems. To illustrate the seriousness of living with skin problems, Dr. Fried points to studies showing that people tend to be more distressed by skin, hair or nail problems since they are so visible and uncomfortable, than by other serious medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

"When dermatologists treat both the skin and stress, the skin often clears more quickly and completely as the native influences of stress are diminished,” said Dr. Fried. “Consequently, their overall anxiety level can decrease and they may start to feel better about how they look and how they’re feeling emotionally.”

Moving to the microscopic level, Dr. Fried added that stress reduction can decrease the release of pro-inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals. For example, release of neuropeptides, stress chemicals released from the nerve endings, can be reduced with stress management techniques. This often results in skin that looks and functions better. These interventions can reduce blood vessel overactivity, resulting in less blushing or flushing. Decreasing stress allows the patient to focus more positive energy on good skin care rather than negative behaviors.


Taken from Skin Inc., a trade publication for skin care therapists.

Posted: February 20, 2009

Midwinter's Day Rejuvenation

Happy December All! I'm so glad you're here.  Let's take a moment to include amongst the holiday celebration the age-old observance of Midwinter's Day.

December 22nd marks the shortest day of the year for this winter, the day when the Earth's tilt in the northern hemisphere is farthest from the Sun. In observance of this day, most every culture has created a way of incorporating its meaning.  Of the Solstices and Equinoxes, the Winter Solstice was the most important, since it marked the rebirth of the sun after the shortest day. The Roman midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, was both a gigantic fair and a festival of the home. Riotous merry-making took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees. The custom of mummers, or carolers, and yule logs burning were popular in the British Isles and Northern Europe. In Sweden, where it's known as St. Lucy's Day, young girls don white dresses and a wreath of candles and awaken their families with cakes and song.

While each culture has there own tradition, one consistent themes is the candle to represent the ever increasing return of the light. Candles are one of the most ancient ways of providing light, so they have come to be its quintessential symbol.
Luminere was, in many respects, a Midwinter's creation. The shop opened its doors not shortly before the solstice. More importantly, its meaning had deep roots for me in this holiday. What seems like a lifetime ago now, I was once both a student and a teacher in academia. As a student, I was experiencing some severe challenges one semester, mainly with what is commonly known as 'the old boy's club.' By the end of the year, I was exhausted and felt war weary. Like I'd been in a ship that'd been tossed about by a deadly storm, one I wasn't sure I'd make it out of in one piece. Almost without thinking, I became an expatriate, relinquishing all student duties to take refuge in the French department for a semester. There I found a friend, a professor who had come from the University of Chicago and was smart in many ways. She taught me some valuable lessons, most of which did not pertain to France. It was here I'd first experienced luminere, or a light-bearing journey. I delighted in the French culture, language, and sentiments. More than this, I hung low for a while, taking a respite, gathering my strength, figuring it out. And it made all the difference. By Spring, I'd found my stride again, and felt a little wiser than before.
Take time this Midwinter's Day. As a personal ritual of illumination, designate a candle as your "solstice" candle and then assign to it a prayer or wish for bringing more light and warmth into a particular area of your life. As the candle softly glows, remember also all the blessings you already have that light and warm your life. Know that your wish is granted just as so many others have been.