EE very individual will face unique challenges due to more than just their natural skin type. While both age and genetics play a role, Harry Dao Jr., MD, chair of dermatology for Loma Linda University Health, says body and life changes can also heavily affect what happens to the skin.
Dao breaks down common influencers on skin health and how they manifest:
Stress can make diseases appear worse and treatments less effective. “Many symptoms can arise or be perpetuated by stress, such as pain,” Dao says. This is relevant in skin-related diseases and can best be managed with holistic, multidisciplinary care, he adds. “I often tell my patients stress can make almost anything worse, including acne flares or symptoms of eczema, and the practice of dermatology can achieve optimal outcomes when collaborating with our colleagues in primary care and other specialties.”
There are numerous skin-related issues associated with pregnancy, including eczema, blistering diseases, or changes in pigmentation. “Due to changes in your hormones and blood flow, as well as changing body shape, pregnancy can cause stretch marks, acne, and other complex skin changes,” Dao says.
“A decrease in estrogen in the body can potentially lead to thinner, more fragile skin,” Dao says. An increase in estrogen during pregnancy or being on estrogen-based medications can also cause the onset or flare of melasma, a condition characterized by brown patches of skin, classically involving areas of the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip. This is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.”
It is easy to overlook slow skin health changes, such as long-term sun exposure, but Dao says these gradual changes can include solar lentigines—or brown spots from the sun—and increased skin wrinkling. “Prolonged sun exposure leads to overall weaker skin that is more prone to bruising or tearing.”
To combat the negative influences on the skin, Dao also recommends maintaining skin health in general.
Stay dedicated to photoprotection by reducing exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can induce skin cancers and damage. “Many people do not apply enough sunscreen, and many also forget to reapply every two hours since sunscreen also wears out,” Dao says. Photoprotective clothing is recommended as well. Dao also says wearing white cotton shirts provides UV protection from the sun’s rays, reducing the sun’s impact on your skin by roughly 10%, even on a cloudy winter day.
“We can’t go back in time to undo skin changes related to sun exposure, but we can be diligent with photoprotection to give us the best future possible,” Dao says.
Skin complications can also affect self-esteem. According to Dao’s research, psychiatric disturbances have been reported in at least 30% of patients with dermatologic disorders.
“I often advise my patients to look [sic] the bright side of things,” Dao says. “Accruing photodamage over a lifetime often means that one was healthy enough to enjoy life and explore the outdoors. In my patients who are dealing with major self-esteem issues, a multidisciplinary team, including a strong support base, may be needed. This team can include psychologists, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians.”
If you have a concern about a skin-related issue, Dao recommends scheduling a visit with a dermatologist.