TikTok is full of tips and tricks for manifesting clear skin — it may sound like wishful thinking, but there’s actually some science behind it
Under the hashtag #manifestingclearskin (which has over 6.9 million views) there is a whole host of videos explaining how to change your skin using just the power of your mind. Some recommend repeat affirmations – “I have beautiful glowing skin” – while others suggest visualize yourself with your dream skin. Manifesting itself has questionable scientific credentials, but often these users – especially those advocating meditation or breathwork – is psychodermatology.
Psychodermatology is an emerging field of research that treats the skin using psychological techniques to address the brain-skin connection. It recognizes techniques such as meditation, mindfulness and therapy to calm the skin from within. “Most people don’t realize the impact of psychological health on the skin,” says Dr Alia Ahmed, a consultant dermatologist specializing in psychodermatology. “Psychodermatology allows patients to recognize and manage this, while simultaneously treating their skin condition.”
dr. Ahmed sees patients with skin conditions such as eczema and acne, patients suffering the psychological consequences of low self-esteem and anxiety caused by skin conditions, as well as patients with skin problems rooted in psychiatric or psychological problems, such as skin picking. The mind-skin connection can be seen most clearly through reactions such as blushing, when mental shame appears physically on your skin. But feelings of emotional distress can also trigger the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can wreak havoc on the skin.
“Cortisol is known to affect the immune system (making the skin less able to defend itself), trigger allergic reactions, delay healing, and disrupt the skin’s natural barrier,” explains Dr. Ahmed out. Temporary symptoms such as itching or hot flashes can be caused by cortisol, but in the longer term, the body can also enter a “permanent ‘stress response’ state, which can exacerbate existing skin problems due to a poor natural immune response and persistent inflammation.”
Psychodermatology takes a holistic approach to skin care, looking at the root of problem skin rather than just trying to improve the symptoms. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, breathwork, or even seeking therapy can help relieve stress and anxiety, lower cortisol levels, and possibly help your skin. A recent study by the University of Edinburgh found that all schools of meditative practice, from mindfulness to transcendental and zen meditation, helped lower cortisol levels, especially for those going through a stressful time in their lives. It’s no wonder that a 2014 study in Psychodermatology found that of patients who completed psychodermatological therapies, 94 percent reported less stress, 92 percent reported greater confidence, and 90 percent reported better understanding of their skin condition.
The beauty of techniques such as meditation and breathwork is that it offers a solution for which you do not have to buy anything. They are completely free and accessible to everyone. However, that hasn’t stopped the industry from trying to get involved in the mind-skin connection campaign. An increasing number of skin care brands have started incorporating stress relief into their lines. Murad skin care has an app those daily confirmations from Dr. Murad self-broadcasts (“let the unique you bloom”), while Alicia Keys’ skincare line, Keys Soulcare, offers a selection of rituals containing certain combinations of products (including candles and facial rollers) with intentions, affirmations, and “shifting awareness” to help you “master self-care.”
Stress relief and ritual are also key elements of Cosmoss, Kate Moss’ new wellness and skincare line. Separated into “dawn, day and twilight”, a thrice-daily skin care routine (with accompanying day and night teas) is suggested to calm the mind and body, instill a sense of inner peace and emotional balance. “As Kate started looking at more harmony with her health, she found that rituals were really helpful,” says Victoria Young, Kate Moss’ personal homeopath who advises on the brand. “It takes the emotion out of the decision; you decide it’s part of your morning and you build it into your day.”
Taking a more holistic view of skin care and practicing self-care is never a bad thing, but psychodermatology is about using practices such as therapy and meditation, not just lighting a candle or drinking tea. While brands like Cosmoss, Murad and Keys Soulcare are a step in the right direction encouraging consumers to consider mind-skin connection and a more 360-degree approach to skincare, they still propagate the idea that achieving inner peace requires a credit card.
One brand that does things a little differently is: Wild Source, a skincare range that also offers free guided meditations on its website, for both clients and non-clients. The brand started in 2017, when founder Kate Roath found herself burnt out from a severe eczema flare-up and took an oath to commit to ten minutes of meditation a day. “I would cleanse my face, apply oil, and meditate,” she says. The new habit immediately made her feel calmer and more focused, but to her surprise there was another benefit: her skin cleared up and her eczema calmed down.
“Stress affects every organ in our body, but the skin is the one we see. So we get stressed, have a flare-up, get even more stressed about the flare-up and fall into a vicious circle,” says Roath. She decided to incorporate meditation into her business and make it tangible for clients by “piling it on top of their existing skincare routine and packaging it almost like another skincare product.” The idea is to educate people about psychodermatology and the mental tools they have at their fingertips, to use alongside the brand’s buyable products.
In an era of ten-step skincare routines, skincare refrigerators, and a seemingly endless supply of new celebrity skincare lines, the science behind psychodermatology offers something rare in the beauty industry: skincare that doesn’t require you to buy anything. As brands increasingly incorporate the mind-skin connection into their product offerings, meditations and mindfulness to reduce stress in the mind and body can be done for free, doing both your bank balance and the planet a favor.
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