Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the print edition of the 2022 spring-summer issue of Luxus+ Mag. Click here to see the full issue.
As the language of our inner self, the skin is very often the reflection of the emotions we feel in our innermost being. And their translation is visible through the appearance of sudden skin problems. This article highlights the lively connection between the brain and the epidermis.
To understand the relationship between the brain and the skin, we have to go back to the embryonic stage. During the first three months of intrauterine life, the skin and the nervous system become one, forming what is known as the “ectoderm”. And since this process, there is a constant flow of communication between the skin, between neuro-mediators and nerve endings, the latter being located on the skin!
Thus, thanks to these endings, the skin is able to transmit a very large number of messages to the brain and vice versa. In simple terms, when we feel bad or have an overflow of emotions, our skin will feel it directly and can be damaged by the appearance of skin problems.
Although it is a common misconception that a person’s sensitivity makes his or her skin sensitive, there is no denying that many skin problems are caused by emotions. Indeed, psychological stress is one of the most common emotions in humans and a primary cause of skin disorders. When cortisol, the stress hormone, is released in excessive quantities in acute or chronic stress situations, it generates the appearance of pimples or inflammation via neurotransmitters. Stress can also promote the appearance of eczema or psoriasis or activate these pre-existing problems. In this case, stress only acts as an activator of an inflammatory skin condition. Other psychosomatic factors such as anxiety and depression can also trigger skin disorders.
“The brain produces neuromediators that inform the whole body, and in particular the skin, that we are in a state of stress. This message does not create an inflammatory state, but rather promotes one that may already exist,” explains Professor Laurent Misery, head of the dermatology department at Brest University Hospital.
Less well known at first glance but just as visible on the skin, the digestive system can also give rise to skin problems, as the nervous system and emotions are intimately linked to the organs, particularly the intestines. Several French studies conducted by the Pasteur Institute, Inserm and the CNRS tend to show that when the intestinal microbiota is unbalanced, it has a direct influence on mental health.
Indeed, as the guarantor of our immune system and the proper functioning of our brain, this “second brain” can sometimes be the mirror of epidermal disturbances. Inflammatory bowel disease, for example, leads to an increased risk of inflammatory skin diseases. Poor digestion in relation to what we eat, an unbalanced diet or an abuse of certain foods (too fatty, sweet, salty, alcohol abuse etc.) can all have a direct and unsuspected effect on our skin.
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