Does poor mental wellness lead to bad skin? We ask a doctor

By Natalie Fu
28 July, 2022

Of late, more spotlight has been shone on mental wellness and its impact on our relationships and productivity. But here’s one area that’s still overlooked: how it may affect the way we look.

To learn more about the impact of mental health on beauty, Daily Vanity had a chat with dermatologist Dr. Lim Ing Kien (or better known as Dr. Ingky) regarding it.


We spoke to dermatologist, Dr. Ingky.

The TLDR: there are surprising adverse effects mental health issues could have on skin.

We encourage you to read on because this can affect anyone.

Mental health has a direct correlation to physical health

Mental Health Beauty bad mental health day

According to Dr. Ingky, it has long been understood that mental health has a direct correlation with physical health, which includes the skin.

A person who is struggling with mental health usually pays little to no attention to how they look or dress and can even neglect the most basic skincare routines.

But we tend to look to habits to destress and unwind. A simple skincare routine can help reduce stress, encourage self-care, increase self-confidence and self-esteem; it can boost one’s mental health in that sense.

Stress, depression, and anxiety can release stress hormones

mental health skincare routine

Being exposed to constant stress, depression, and anxiety can trigger the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Cortisol increases sebum production leading to acne breakouts. These hormones can also trigger inflammation on the skin causing issues like eczema, psoriasis, and even hair loss.

While there are creams and medications to deal with adverse side effects caused by bad mental health, it only puts a band-aid on the current issue.

Unless your mental health starts to improve, the associated skin issues will persist, which is why you can’t leave out treating the mind while you’re treating the skin.

It’s common to see bad skin issues after major stressful events

Mental Health Beauty bad skin

Dr. Ingky has seen many patients suffering from acne breakouts or eczema flareups, often on a daily basis.

However, when digging deep into their medical history, he can usually relate the bad skin issues with a major stressful event happening in their lives such as upcoming exams, looming work deadline, wedding preparations, and more.

Often, once this has been pointed out to them, the patients would realise how their bad skin issues correlate with their stress levels.

Thus, advising them to find ways to destress, coupled with using medical creams and adopting a proper skincare routine can help solve most of their skin issues.

It’s okay to change your skincare routine during bad mental health days

mental health and skincare

In fact, it can be beneficial to keep to a simpler routine during days when you feel down, as forming a skincare habit can trigger minor spikes in happy hormones, primarily dopamine (a reward chemical) and serotonin (a mood stabiliser).

Following a simple skincare habit can be as helpful as seeking help from a therapist, which is why it’s recommended to have a routine – albeit something simple – and stick to it daily, no matter the mood.

You can shop for some easy-to-use but beneficial skincare products to pamper your skin, as retail therapy has been shown to alleviate some levels of stress, while pampering your skin can reinforce your self-worth.

At the end of a long day, cleanse your skin and remove all impurities. Dr. Ingky also recommends using a sheet mask or a gel mask on your skin.

You can refrigerate the mask too for an extra cooling effect. Then during the application of the mask, turn down the lights, switch on your favourite music, sit back, and relax. All it takes is just 15 to 20 minutes of this daily routine to improve mental health.

Featured image credit: XFrame