Your brain and your skin are connected; this we know to be true. If you’re not taking care of your mental health, your skin will suffer the consequences (as will many other parts of your body, we might add). Perhaps one of the most notable and insidious aspects of this conversation? Stress.
Yes, stress does a number on the skin—resulting in acne, inflammation, dryness, sensitivities, sallowness, loss of vibrancy, oh how the list goes on. And if you want to better understand this connection—as well as how you can care for your skin holistically—who better to talk to than someone who is an expert in both mental health and skin care? In this episode of Clean Beauty School, I spoke with Amy Wechsler, M.D., one of the small handful of medical professionals in the country who are double board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry.
In the episode, we spoke all about the brain-skin connection, as well as what she does to care for her own. Here, her go-to approach to mental and skin health:
Wechsler is not the first—nor will she be the last—expert to recommend sleep as a nonnegotiable part of her skin care routine.
“I do often sound like a broken record about sleep because it’s so important. No one wants to hear that adults need seven and a half to eight hours of sleep a night: In America, we think we can shortcut that and we’ll catch up on sleep later, or that sleep is a luxury and not a necessity, but that’s just not true,” she says. “And there’s so much data to back that up. No matter what you do for your skin, it won’t work as well if you’re not sleeping well.”
For Wechsler, this means staying active during the day, no stressful news before bed, and limiting screen time in the evening. If you want additional sleeping tips, see our guide to better sleep here.
And as for her patients with issues sleeping, she also recommends starting slow and slowly adding hours to your evening. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh get more sleep’; that’s not helpful. Instead, I encourage people to try and add 30 minutes a night [until they’ve reached that seven- to eight-hour mark]. Don’t try to add three hours at once because it’s too extreme,” she says, noting that you may need to visit a specialist if you’re really struggling.
There are many ways to manage the stress cycle, and the most important thing is to find one that you enjoy and will stick to. Stress-reduction practices are meaningless if you can’t push yourself to do them, after all.
“For me, especially this year, it’s all about getting fresh air and going outside—it reduces my stress levels,” she says. “If I don’t have an errand or destination, and the weather is bad, sometimes I have to force myself. So I just remind myself of how I felt the last time I forced myself to do it, and how it made me feel better. It always makes me feel better.”
While we’re big believers in the power of the outdoors, there are many practices to adopt: meditation, breathwork (a favorite of ours), gratitude practices, and yoga.
We so often get the impression that skin care experts and professionals must have super complicated and intricate routines. You’d be surprised just how often this isn’t the case (for yours truly included). Edited, no-fuss routines are often far more beneficial for skin than the alternative.
“I’m big into routines, and I think routines lower stress levels…very simple routines. I wear sunscreen every day since I don’t want to be caught unprotected—my skin is so fair; I need it. This way, I’m not thinking ‘Oh is today a sunscreen day or not? No. Every day is a sunscreen day!” she says. “Then it’s just a basic cleanser, a serum, and moisturizer. Once a week, I’ll use a prescription retin-A.”
We’ve always said that skin care goes far beyond the bathroom sink. It’s how you care for yourself and your body—most notably your mental health. Listen to this week’s episode to find out more.