Can skincare repair your mental health?

A lady going through high frequency and vacuum steps during a facial treatment. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  •  Cleansing is the foundation of skincare.
  • .Buy an actual cleansing oil.
  • Skincare is also considered a physical expression of skin love.
  • Psychodermatology is clearly still new, a tweener as it were in terms of age.

Did you know there is an emerging field in medicine called psychodermatology? It looks at the effects of stress and trauma on your skin. One psychodermatologist asks her patients —what was happening in your life before this complaint?  These doctors are an insightful lot trained in both psychiatry and dermatology with a generous mix of psychology. What they do is what holistic health aims to do; combining mind and body healing.

Wikipedia describes it as “the treatment of skin disorders using psychological and psychiatric techniques by addressing the interaction between skin and mind.” Psychology Today, Jan 1, 2020, goes further and says, “One-third of all patients in dermatology have emotional disorders. The understanding of the relationship between the psyche and the skin is complex, fascinating, and one that puzzles many physicians.” This gives a whole new twist to skincare as self-care.

I find this doubly-fascinating because it makes skincare as self-care a little more realistic. Especially around Covid-19 times when women have been reporting skin disruptions and eruptions owing to the stress of uncertainty.


There is a rather unusual divide between women’s skins and how they are responding to these stressful times. There are women whose skin has cleared while staying indoors.

On digging further, it is revealed that they have been sleeping better, drinking more water, managing to spend more time with their loved ones and pets, making time for themselves, meditation and eating healthier, all of which are things the skin doctor ordered.

 Then again there are women who are finding themselves breaking out with everything, from rosacea flareups, eczema to acne. Part of the reason self-care works is that mind-body connection.

When you take time to sit in front of a mirror by yourself, and lay out a stash of beauty and skincare products, picking them up one at a time and merging with your skin, it changes your relationship with yourself.

It is the little things that end up making yours a routine. Say you are getting ready for bed after a day’s work. You start off by double-cleansing. Cleansing is the foundation of skincare. Don’t be dismissive of it. Double-cleansing involves first massaging cleansing oil into your skin, then rinsing it off with warm water.


This is not the time to break out your coconut or EVOO. Buy an actual cleansing oil. You can find them on Jumia or Instagram beauty stores. These are designed to rinse off and will not clog your pores. Follow this up with a cleanser that lathers and rinse that off. Every other act of skincare must come after this. What about

micellar water. Here is the unusual thing about micellar water. Skincare gurus are now advocating it not to be your sole cleanser. That instead you can swipe off all the make-up and dirt with it, but then you need to use a cleansing wash or milk afterwards. That way, there are no traces of cleanser on your face when you apply everything else.

Skincare as self-care packs a wallop when it is a soothing and relaxing routine, and when it makes you feel happier. Not when skincare itself is the enemy, triggered by vanity or a dislike of your skin where you treat it like it ought to be punished for being bad.

 This is why some of the most beloved skincare routines include facemasks, toners, serums, facials, facial steaming, aromatherapy and any other form of targeted treatment. Skincare is also considered a physical expression of skin love. It is a form of therapy that slows you down, allowing you to read your own face.


Like any other form of care, and therapy, it takes time before you can begin to see and feel the results. If you are finding yourself worried about your job, about where money will come from and being retrenched, then skincare as self-care can come across as ridiculously petty and the last thing that ought to be on your mind.

Except it is during times of upheaval that you need something to ground you; a routine; something that offers just a little more stability when you are on shifting sands; something to remind you that you are still a person capable of taking care of themselves.

There are stories of women who learnt to put themselves back together following depression and sexual assault by transforming skincare into self-care. By allowing their minds and bodies the opportunity to begin healing. Sometimes it is other things in your life that need healing so your skin writes it all over your face or body so that you must address it.

Psychodermatology is clearly still new, a tweener as it were in terms of age.

And critics say medicine is becoming holistic anyway. I say what could possibly go wrong with combining life throwing us punches and a psycho-dermatologist helping us to our feet. Do I know of any? Nary a one. But if they read this article and share their contacts, I will gladly share it with you.