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Ask an expert: how can your mind and body affect your dry skin condition?

Knowing how to treat dry skin or eczema can feel like a minefield – especially if you’re still working out the cause. The problem is that so many different things can trigger your symptoms. Senior clinical psychologist Dr Reena Shah is an expert in the link between mind and skin. We caught up with her to discuss her thoughts on self-care and how focusing on feeling your best on the inside can be as important as any dry skin products you apply on the outside.  

The mind and body connection.

“It’s all linked,” says Dr Reena, “anxiety, depression, stress – all different types of mental health problems have a huge impact on skin and vice versa.” It’s a vicious cycle – part biological, part psychological. The biological link: when you are stressed the 'stress axis' is activated in your body, releasing the 'stress hormone' cortisol. “High levels of this hormone in your body can trigger flare-ups. The psychological part of the cycle is then introduced – as well as increasing worry, the flare-up can exacerbate psychological difficulty like anxiety or depression,” she explains.

Do a bit of detective work.  

If you think your flare-ups are caused by your emotions or stress, the first thing to do is keep a diary, so you know exactly when they are triggered. “Record what’s happening” says Dr Reena, “ask yourself if anything has changed – such as difficulties or stress at work or difficulties in a relationship. You’re looking for patterns.”

The next step.

If you think your symptoms are connected to your emotions, the first thing to do is see a psychologist that can do an assessment. If scratching is something you struggle with, psychologists can do a specific therapy to help you with that too. Dr Reena explains the different types of scratching: “Emotional scratching is when you scratch, even if you don’t have an itch. And habitual scratching is when you’ve been scratching for so long, that when you feel itchy you automatically scratch.” If you think you’re in the second camp try Dove DermaSeries Replenishing Body Lotion, which is specially formulated to help relieve dry, itchy and inflamed skin.