Written by: Sarah Ban
I don’t understand it, either, but I’m not complaining.
As a freelance writer, I often have chaotic periods where I have tons of projects and deadlines going on at once. A few months ago, I had multiple assignments with some big names in beauty, and I was feeling excited (getting work is always good when you’re a freelancer) and anxious at the same time. A never-ending checklist whizzed through my mind day and night—especially at night when my head hit the pillow. After five straight weeks of relentless tossing and turning, I was ready to try anything to get to sleep. I’d tried taking hot baths, taking sleep supplements, and applying lavender balm on my temples, but nothing worked. I spent hours every night staring at my bedroom ceiling, analyzing every detail of my life. And so, in a last-resort attempt to quiet my overactive mind, I ended up on a hypnotist’s chair.
There is some science behind using hypnosis for sleep-related issues. A 2018 review of 24 studies that looked at hypnosis for sleep, for example, found that 58 percent of the studies reported a benefit on sleep from hypnosis (although, it should be noted, the authors found that 29 percent of the studies reported no benefit at all, and they acknowledged that their findings were limited by the number of studies available, small sample sizes, and low methodological quality). But, to be honest, I was ready to try anything at this point, and hypnotherapy seemed like a low-risk method to investigate.
To my surprise, I started noticing a huge difference once I committed to a hypnotherapy regimen. After four sessions spread over eight weeks, and armed with mantras and iPhone recordings of my hypnotherapist’s soothing voice that I used at home, I slowly began to doze off quicker and stay snoozing longer.
I also noticed an unexpected and very welcome change in another arena: clearer skin. My combination skin, usually dehydrated yet still oily around my forehead, looked more even textured and hydrated. My entire face was no longer peppered with stubborn pimples that lasted for several months. Did my visits to the hypnotist to deal with my sleep issues have a spillover effect onto my combination skin? I set out to find out.
First, let’s talk about what hypnosis actually is.
The goal of hypnosis is to get you into a relaxed and engrossed state without your conscious mind butting in—similar to how you absorb yourself into a story while reading a book instead of thinking about your litany of responsibilities. While hypnosis proponents recommend the therapy for lots of different ailments, a review of meta-analyses suggested that hypnosis may work in certain conditions, like chronic pain, while finding mixed or no benefit in others. Hypnosis for sleep and sleep-related conditions, as I mentioned before, is one of the more-studied fields that shows promising results. Even so, hypnosis is not standard care for any condition, and is instead used as a complementary or alternative option to more established treatments.
My first hypnotherapy session started with 45 minutes of chatting, just like you would with a regular therapist. For the hypnosis piece, I lay down on a reclining leather couch and was instructed to close my eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on my hypnotherapist’s words as she guided me into a deep state of relaxation. From there, she instructed me to envision myself in various environments, like a serene lake veiled with fog.
After my first session, I started to notice the things that usually got me riled up—the shower water turning ice-cold, unexpected traffic, a curt customer service rep—didn’t seem quite as unbearable. I’d close my eyes, picture my misty lake, and repeat my anxiety-reducing mantras rather than cursing under my breath. After the full four sessions, I was enjoying the benefits of a calmer mind in bed, ruminating less, and falling asleep within ten minutes flat (which is major compared to the usual five to six hours)—and staying asleep to boot. Plus that whole clearer-skin thing.
While I sought hypnotherapy for an anxiety-related sleep issue, there is a link between your psychological state and your skin.
“Even if you think about something as simple as blushing, when you have an intense emotional reaction, your skin reacts perhaps even before you realize you’re embarrassed,” Josie Howard, M.D., tells SELF. “There’s that biological link.” Dr. Howard is a board-certified psychiatrist who practices psychodermatology, a specialty in which doctors treat skin problems by addressing the underlying psychological aspects as well as the physiological ones. While there is no specific degree or license to practice psychodermatology, professionals who offer these services come from varied backgrounds. Some are both credentialed dermatologists and clinical psychologists who offer standard dermatological treatments along with psychological therapy, while others are therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists who are trained to use these same techniques and are referred by dermatologists.
Psychodermatologists use various therapy techniques, including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and, yes, hypnosis, to treat acne, eczema, hair loss, warts, psoriasis, and other visible skin issues.
However, the evidence on whether hypnosis works for skin conditions—and how—isn’t quite there.
In psychodermatology, studies have shown hypnosis may be used to ease conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis as part of a holistic treatment regimen, but the evidence is mixed. “I see it as a way to increase therapeutic results; it’s not an end all be all,” acknowledges Matthew Traube, M.F.T., a licensed psychotherapist.
The mechanism behind hypnosis as a treatment for various skin conditions is hard to pin down, mainly because there are several factors that could be playing a role. For starters, Dr. Howard says skin improvements after hypnosis could be due to the simple fact that there’s been a shift in behavior. For instance, encouragement during hypnosis could make someone with psoriasis or acne become more diligent with the skin-care routine prescribed by their dermatologist. Or, hypnosis may help break down your mental defense mechanisms, making you more receptive to other treatments you hadn’t previously tried. In other words, if you’ve agreed to be hypnotized, you’re a lot more likely to agree to a treatment plan and follow through, or believe that you’ll eventually find a solution, which can definitely be part of the battle for some people.
Of course, Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, points out there’s also the possibility of the placebo effect, where a patient perceives improvement even though they haven’t received any legitimate treatment, being the real reason why someone supposedly sees results from hypnosis.
There’s also the stress factor: If hypnosis can help reduce stress, then it could, conceivably, also help with the pesky skin issues that come with it.
There is evidence that hypnosis works as a tool for stress reduction (though a recent systematic review found there is a high level of bias in the research on this topic), so it’s possible that as I learned to manage my stress with techniques I learned during my hypnotherapy sessions, my skin saw the benefit.
It’s already been well established that stress triggers hormonal changes that cause your skin to act up (uh, hello, pimples that appeared right before my wedding). “When someone feels stress, the body naturally releases [the stress hormone] cortisol to aid in the ‘fight or flight’ response. In the short-term, this is normal and necessary. However, long-term stress can result in chronic cortisol release, leading to many harmful effects on the body, including the skin,” says Jashin Joaquin Wu, M.D., director of dermatology research at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “[This] can cause the skin to release more oil, which in turn can aggravate or induce acne. Many common skin rashes such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), rosacea, and hives can worsen from stress.”
Stress exacerbates skin issues, and vice versa. For instance, someone with eczema may experience flare-ups when they’re stressed, which can cause them to lose sleep and become more stressed, which can make the itch even worse. It can be a frustrating cycle, says dermatologist Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., director of the Northwestern Medicine Eczema Center. Because stress can intensify skin flare-ups, Dr. Silverberg does tell some patients with eczema to engage in stress-relief exercises and explore meditation apps. “But it’s just a coping mechanism—it doesn’t take away the root cause,” he underscores.
And that’s an important distinction: While stress-relieving coping mechanisms—including hypnosis—may help alleviate symptoms of certain skin conditions, it likely won’t address any other underlying causes that aren’t stress-related (like genetics, hormonal issues, or problems with your immune system).
Finally, for someone using hypnosis for better sleep, that increased rest could result in skin improvements, too.
Sleep plays a significant part in the appearance of skin, and it goes beyond dark circles under the eyes. Insomnia, sleep deprivation, and interrupted REM sleep can all have long-term effects on the skin. “When the body is sleep deprived, it goes into a high-stress state and releases a steroid called cortisol. When steroid production is higher, the skin breaks down faster and inflammatory cells increase—acne, rosacea, and eczema are high-inflammatory diseases,” says Lily Talakoub, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. Within one week of regular tossing and turning, you can see an increase in inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema, she says. Bad sleep also increases the break down of collagen, the protein that gives skin its bounce. Dr. Talakoub says within 90 days of inconsistent sleep, skin can look dehydrated, thinner, and older overall.
On the other hand, getting good sleep, where you spend consistent time in REM, is a good thing for skin. “REM sleep is necessary to restore bodily functions,” says Dr. Talakoub. “During REM the body is producing collagen to support the skin barrier and increasing growth factors to help heal wounds.” Hypnotherapy sessions that help improve sleep (like mine did) may in fact help skin, but it is likely the increased snooze time that’s the mediating factor.
Whether or not I can explain how my skin got better, I’m pretty positive that my hypnosis sessions had something to do with it.
Whichever confounding variable was responsible for the clearer skin I saw after my hypnotherapy sessions (stress reduction, better sleep, placebo effect, or all of the above), I’m just thrilled to have seen results at all.
I was finally able to get my racing mind under control with the help of hypnosis. That meant I went from getting maybe two measly hours of sleep a night to a solid eight hours, which is a massive improvement for me. When I’m well-rested during the day, I’m more equipped to handle hectic situations, which means my stress levels are more under control, and I’m pretty sure that’s resulting in a newly clear complexion. My skin still breaks out when I’m frazzled, but it seems a lot happier overall. And so am I.
Article Source: Self.com