Psychoneurocutaneous Medicine might sound like a made-up name, but it is just a fancy term of dermatologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and allied health professionals dedicated to promoting the awareness of skin and mind interaction and the role of psychoneuroimmunology in skin diseases.

In conventional medicine, we used to see skin, body, mind, and soul as its own individual fields.  Your Dermatologist might not tell you that the acne on your face was linked to your gut and liver health; Endocrinologists wouldn’t typically clarify thyroid issues being linked to your head injury; Psychiatrist might not even agree the anxiety and ADHD links to autoimmune in your body; or your Psychologist wouldn’t recommend tryptophan and vitamin c which helps make happy hormone - serotonin in the gut and instead, labels you as a type of personality trait with behavioral issues. 

In recent years, incredibly well-researched insights have been showing the functions of the human mind, epigenetic, gut microbiome, cannabis, skin postbiotics, ancient Chinese, Eastern European, Ayurvedic, and energy medicines that bring Gut-Brain-Skin Axis to the table as the new mainstream. 

Psychodermatology: The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis 

Without a doubt the human body works as one system.  The skin, gut, and brain are intrinsically linked together.  They grow from the same embryonic layer in the womb, the skin is the outer layer of the digestive system, while the gut is the second brain, and how your mind alters your emotions and results shown on the skin.

Chronic stress becomes the skin's most antagonistic emotion. A surge in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline diminish collagen production, switch on fight or flight mode, increase oil production, and overpowering inflammation. Your skin has the equivalent of a nervous breakdown. When you see your skin isn’t as flawless as it normally is, your reaction to this tends to  cultivate the stress, adding to the existing one. You might then start looking for comfort foods and unable to make smart choices. It’s easy to see when one is off the track, another will likely follow the pattern. Can you see the vicious cycle forming here? 

This isn’t a new discovery or magic.  Aside from Eastern Medicines, there were early studies in Western Medicine.  According to Association of Psychoneurocutaneous Medicine of North America (APMNA) - 

“As early as 1925, Dr. Joseph Klauder, a dermatologist in Philadelphia, wrote in an early text on psychosomatic interrelationships, that “the psychological phase of certain skin disease should not be neglected in treatment.”
This was a period when much of the interest in mind and body interaction was taking place in Europe. The interest was pursued largely by psychiatrists, rather than by those in the other medical specialties.
The topic began to make its way more meaningfully into mainstream practice in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with the publication of monographs such as “Psychophysiologic Aspects of Skin Disease” by Whitlock, FA. in 1976, “Stress and Skin Disease” edited by Emihano Panconesi, in 1984, and “Psychocutaneous Disease” by Koblenzer, CS. in 1987. But despite these publications, the concept psychocutaneous interaction was not taught in Residency Programs.”

According to the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation in the US - 

“About 13% of the world's population (approximately 971 million people) suffer from some kind of or more than one mental disorder, just under 300 million people worldwide suffered from anxiety, about 160 million from major depressive disorder, another 100 million from the milder form of depression known as dysthymia.”

The emerging field of Psychoneurocutaneous acknowledges this connection, treating skin diseases using a “holistic” approach similar to Functional Medicine, while raising awareness and alternative solutions for a larger impact to skin disease.  

In Europe, The European Society for Dermatology and Psychiatry (E.S.D.a.P.) has been proactive and build up their reputation in this field.  In North America, besides Association of Psychoneurocutaneous Medicine of North America (APMNA), numerous big names like Functional Doctor Mark Hyman, Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, Board-Certified and Holistic Psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan MD, Epigenetic Pioneer Dr. Ben Lynch ND, Functional Nutritionist and Educator Andrea Nakayama, Living Proof Institute Founder Dr. Sachin Patel, as well as Practitioner of integrative and functional medicine Chris Kresser have been tuning their voices loud and proud to alter the perception in this medical world and our lens on gut-brain-skin health. 

What’s Next

As the general public gained awareness and interests in holistic approaches by mainstream media, Functional Medicine and Psychneurocutaneous Medicine.  It creates a huge step forward for beauty brands that want to tap into this area, however, they will be required to understand its fundamental functions and categories. 

There is no psychology if not meeting physiology. Psychophysiological conditions refer to skin conditions aggravated by emotional factors. Primary psychiatric is how mood affects skin as a condition developed resulting from a mental disorder, such as skin picking, acne, rosacea, or dermatitis artefacta. Secondary psychiatric refers to how skin affects mood such as obsessive emotions, vitiligo, and neurofibroma.

New product development might also require to focus on the right ingredients and delivery mechanisms along with lifestyle protocols to educate and attract consumers instead of previous symptomatic approach. Brands like Essential Rose Life use aromatherapy essential oils for emotional regulation, and Murad features affirmations on its packaging while also making an app available for daily positive reinforcement.

Big Buzz By 2023

Besides the medical field, skincare brands are also the ones that make close connections to patients and consumers on a daily basis.  According to Technavio Skincare Market Analysis - Industry Research, Trends And Forecasts-

“The global skincare market is expected to grow by $45bn USD between 2018 and 2023, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 6% over this period.”

Both Holistic approach medicines and Premium skincare brands are set for the biggest growth, as general public become more savvy about their products and streamline their wellness routines. Skincare product manufacturers are consistently increasing their R&D efforts to enhance the health and appearance of the consumers’ skin while holistic approach medical professionals continue to cultivate the education between lifestyle and gut-brain-skin axis. 

By 2023, we expect to see “The End of More”, “Less Is More”, and “Essentialism” impacting the mainstream consumerism globally. This shows the direction of living will focus on better knowledge and wiser purchasing, not more. This will also include a focus on results-driven beauty products over those that offer TikTokable, Pinnable, or Instagrammable aesthetics.

This will emerge between 2019 and 2023, which mean both wellness and skincare brands should prepare to implement now in order to be ready for when the wave hits.

Research & Resource
  1. Psychoneurocutaneous medicine: past, present and future.
  2. The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis
  3. Stress Induces Endotoxemia and Low-Grade Inflammation by Increasing Barrier Permeability
  4. Psychiatric Times : Psychodermatology - When the Mind and Skin Interact
  5. Mental illness: is there really a global epidemic?
  6. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease by Joseph V. Klauder M.D.
  7. The European Society for Dermatology and Psychiatry (E.S.D.a.P.)
  8. Association of Psychoneurocutaneous Medicine of North America
  9. Skincare Market Analysis - Industry Research, Trends And Forecasts


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