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Can You Meditate Your Way to Better Skin?

The mind-body connection is real
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There are plenty of benefits to a mindfulness practice: stress reduction, calmer mental state, the ability to avoid a rage blackout when that rude coworker cuts you off yet again, etc. There are plenty of articles on the benefits of a meditative state, but one of the side benefits of going a little more Zen is strictly cosmetic: it can help reduce the conditions that lead to some skin issues.

As a matter of fact, the field of dermatology is one of the first to discover that your chill can have some pretty powerful benefits for your skin. "Dermatology is a field that is open about the mind-body connection," says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "It is one of the first fields that have shown the impact of mindfulness on actual skin diseases."

If you're wondering how meditation and mindfulness practices actually impact, say, psoriasis, rosacea or much-dreaded acne, read on.

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How Meditation Impacts Skin Conditions
Meditation can impact skin issues like acne or psoriasis by lowering the conditions that cause flare-ups, says Levin. "The skin responds to emotional stimuli and psychological influences. When we get stressed out, one of the hormones in our body that gets triggered is cortisol, which increases the amount of androgen (a testosterone) which can cause hormonal acne, especially in adult women. We know that cortisol worsens acne because androgen increases oil production as well as increasing degradation of important proteins in your skin like collagen and elastin. It can also change how your blood vessels respond, which has a huge role in skin aging and other inflammatory conditions, especially rosacea."

All of this is why dermatologists like Levin have learned how to use mindfulness as part of their therapeutic tools when dealing with some skin conditions, using what she terms "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy." But she wants to emphasize that mindfulness is used as an aspect of treatment, not as the entire treatment regimen.

"You should still get your skin checked by a licensed dermatologist and apply in-office procedures, any prescription medicines and your skin care regimen along with sunscreen. It's not just that you're only going to be mindful, meditate and that's it. But a mindfulness practice in addition to your skin care regimen not only helps you find calm in what can be a stressful situation, but it has been shown to improve your condition faster by allowing you to focus on the present moment. It eventually helps you realize that nothing is permanent and things are always changing. Ultimately, we hope that helps you to deal with life in general, but particularly your health and not being so attached to a pimple happening right now."

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How to Use Meditation as Part of Your Skin Care Regimen
For those who are looking to add a little "Om" into their home skin care regimen, Levin says relax and start slowly. "I believe that being mindful and meditation is beneficial for everyone, but not everyone is ready to incorporate it into their lifestyle. Guided meditations for someone newly interested in meditation can be helpful; it can be really hard to sit and do nothing but breathe. Apps that lead you through guided meditations like Headspace or Calm are great, as is the simple act of sitting and calmly focusing on your breath through the rise and fall of your chest or the settling of your breath on your upper lip. It also doesn't matter how long you do it. Many perfectionists feel they have to get 15-20 minutes in, when one minute is better than nothing. Don't be hard on yourself; the very practice of meditation is hard."

Inevitably, it's about reducing the chronic stress and strain that keeps flare-ups coming at a minimum, so why not throw a little mindfulness at skin conditions that can eventually cause a lot of mental anguish? "From my standpoint, my patients should incorporate mindfulness and destressing, even if it's yoga and not strictly meditation. It does help your skin overall, kind of like when you see your skin improve on vacation. I definitely see the improvement of using meditation and mindfulness as part of a treatment regimen."

Image via Getty

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