You might never have heard of Psycho-Dermatology, a sub-speciality within Dermatology, but this little-known science can transform your skin.
That’s because Psycho-Dermatology deals with link between the mind and the skin. And that relationship is fundamental to how skin looks and feels because the mind and the skin are hard-wired together (developing in the same cell embryologically) meaning our skin feels our stress probably more than any other organ in our body.
We partnered with Dr. Francisco Tausk, Professor of Dermatology, Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Rochester and one of the world’s leading Psycho-Dermatologists, to create the LOUM line of skincare products. Here he is to explain more about Psycho-Dermatology and his role in the creation of our patent-pending, skin-calming complex Tri∙Serene:
“This field of dermatology deals with the relationship between the central nervous system or the brain, the mind and the skin,” explains Tausk, adding that the conditions Psycho-Dermatology tends to focus on can be divided into somatopsychic (relating to the effects of the body on the mind) or psychosomatic. “The latter means that the origin of the disease is the psyche and it manifests itself on the skin,” says Tausk. “There are certain diseases in dermatology that are much more prone to be affected by emotions and the mind, such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis, for example. And often these are diseases that get worse with stress.”
“The stress response” says Tausk “has developed through hundreds of thousands of years as a survival mechanism (fight or flight); thus, enabling our ancestors to avoid short-lived deadly encounters. However, modern life has developed novel forms of stressors to which our bodies have not yet adapted. I am talking about sustained stress for which the archaic escape mechanisms don’t help. Confronting a lion during lunch break is not very common these days, however chronic stressors such as poverty, a toxic relationship, adverse work conditions, crowding, etc, are not resolved by fight or flight responses; actually these responses eventually lead to a marked susceptibility to succumb to illness. This requires the development of new strategies to cope and resolve modern life stressors and reduce the deleterious effects of these on our health.”
While the field is still relatively small, particularly in the US where there is very little space in the modern health system for it, the Psycho-Dermatologists practicing will rely on a wide array of treatments because each patient is very different. Tausk has used everything from cognitive behavioural therapy to yoga to mindfulness meditation to hypnosis, which he was trained in in med school and has found continued success with. When using it on patients for skin-related issues he will tape a hypnosis session in his office and then have them listen to it on a daily basis at home. Tausk has published his findings on psoriasis, which he treated with hypnosis, with marked improvement of the physical findings.
LOUM’s signature complex Tri∙Serene is reflective of the brain skin connection that Tausk has spent his career navigating. “The skin shares the same molecules as the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal), so it’s like we have a little brain there that’s producing the same molecules,” says Tausk. The question was, how can these molecules be calmed by the product? Tausk worked closely with the LOUM team first to understand the full impact of chronic stress on skin, leveraging the learnings of 30 years of Psycho-Dermatology research. “We found that stress is really a triple threat to skin” he says. First comes the effect of adrenaline, which triggers the release of signalling markers called cytokines which then cause a pro-inflammatory response, leading to dryness, redness and sensitivity. But that’s just one of three pathways in the skin activated when we’re stressed. The second is linked to our peripheral sensory nervous system. When we’re stressed our central nervous system releases neuropeptides such as Substance P, CGRP and NGF which induce inflammation, and also increases the production of sebum and enlarges our pores, leading to oily skin and breakouts. Finally, the third pathway, cortisol. Cortisol is our ‘fight or flight’ hormone that keeps us safe in times of stress but it’s also a collagen killer, meaning when our cortisol levels spike it reduces collagen and elastic fibers, damaging the cellular matrix, leading to fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness.
Once they had identified the full impact of stress on the skin, the challenge was how to undo it. Tausk and the LOUM team embarked on a global search to identify nature’s most powerful stress-relieving actives, looking for ingredients that could actively dial down the stress markers they had identified within the skin. “With the Marine Micro-Algae and Wild Indigo there was a marked decrease in the production of cortisol and it increased endorphin production,” he says. “It also induced a lot of antioxidant genes that are considered anti-stress and reduced redness, which would be produced by the neuro peptides that are seated in the nerves.” Then there have been a number of good studies on Hemp Extract and its ability to decrease both inflammation and sebum production.
Combining these ingredients together in Tri∙Serene was, says Tausk “the most effective pathway to create a complete solution to the effects of stress on skin”. “Our goal”, he says, is that “there will always be stress, but now your skin doesn’t have to feel it”.
As awareness grows between the importance of taking a holistic approach encompassing mind, body and beauty, we believe this is just the start in understanding what Psycho-Dermatology, and undoing the effects of stress, can do for both your skin and your psyche.