Ask an Expert: How Do Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Impact Skin Conditions?

This article is part of Health Divide: Skin Conditions and Darker Skin, a destination in our Health Divide series.

photo of Dr. Woolery-Lloyd

Julie Bang / Verywell

Verywell Health: How do environmental and lifestyle factors impact skin conditions?

Dr. Woolery-Lloyd: One of the biggest environmental factors for skin disease is stress. This is especially true for inflammatory skin diseases that have flares, like psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and even certain types of hair loss. So, although stress doesn't cause any of these skin conditions, stress can make them worse and exacerbate symptoms like itching.

Other factors, like diet, can play a role in skin disease, but it really depends on the specific condition.

For acne, the greatest environmental factors are diet and stress. There’s significant data to show that high-sugar diets, dairy, and whey may influence or exacerbate acne.

There are also many studies that show that stress influences acne. One of the more famous studies looked at pimples in students throughout a college semester and found that acne lesions increased during exam times, like midterms and finals. This association between stress and acne has been repeated in multiple studies.

Eczema also gets worse with stress, particularly the symptom of itching.

For psoriasis, obesity is a risk factor. In terms of caloric intake, some studies have looked at calorie-restricted diets in patients who have psoriasis and found a significant improvement in their disease.

For aging skin, research shows that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish is associated with younger-looking skin. Diets high in vitamin C and linoleic acid are also associated with younger-looking skin. On the other hand, diets high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with older-looking skin.

And, of course, excessive sun exposure can significantly accelerate aging skin.

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6 Sources
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