What To Do When Stress Gives You Hives
Most people associate hives the raised, puffy welts on your skin that spread when scratched with an allergic reaction, but there are a number of factors that can cause them. One of these factors is stress, and if you find yourself breaking out in hives without another likely cause, its possible that stress is to blame. We spoke to Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone, to learn more about what causes stress hives, and what to do and what not to do if you have them.
What do stress hives look like?Stress hives can look a little like bug bites: both are red, puffy, and itchy, and may appear initially as individual bumps, says Stevenson. However, hives are more often irregular in shape and can join together in larger patches, especially if you scratch them. A bad case of hives may appear as a single large patch of puffy, raised skin.
Why do I have hives?If youre noticing hives or a rashlike reaction, its wise to do a survey of your last few days to look for possible causes before deciding stress is to blame, says Stevenson. Maybe you changed your laundry detergent that week, or you ate all these new foods or started a new medication, she says. Unlike stress, many of these are factors that can be easily eliminated.
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Dont use acne products made for teens.
Were not as oily as adults so dont go for those super drying brands that worked for you as a teen, explains Dr. Annie Chiu, an Orange County, CA based dermatologist I interviewed a few years ago.
Dont be afraid to use concealer to cover breakouts.
Most makeup wont give you acne or make your current acne worse, unless youre an actor or someone who wears heavy, layered makeup for most of the day. Side note, a lot of hi-definition makeup also contains talc, which is great for the camera but terrible for acne!
The It Cosmetics Bye Bye Breakout Concealeractually has sulfur in the formula ! Im also really loving the new Shiseido Synchro Skin Self Refreshing Concealer this one is great once the breakouts start to heal and you just need to cover up the dark spot.
Dont over-wash your face.
Should you wash your face more often or with harsh scrubs? NO WAY. According to Chiu, unless youre an athlete, you dont wash more than two times a day. Dont over-strip your skin or youll end up producing more oil and, in turn, you could breakout more.
Find a good moisturizer.
One of the biggest acne myths is that you should be using oil-free moisturizers only. Personally, when I had cystic acne back in the day, I found that using a really simple, hydrating moisturizer with good quality ingredients worked best.
How Does Stress Cause Acne
Having symptoms of acne later in life isnt as typical, but it still happens in an estimated
Right now, its not exactly clear how stress causes acne, but several theories exist.
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Apply Green Tea To Your Skin
Green tea is very high in antioxidants, and drinking it can promote good health.
It may also help reduce acne. This is likely because the polyphenols in green tea help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation, which are two main causes of acne .
There isnt much research exploring the benefits of drinking green tea when it comes to acne, and more studies are needed.
In one small study with 80 women, participants took 1,500 mg of green tea extract daily for 4 weeks. By the end of the study, women who took the extract had less acne on their noses, chins, and around their mouths .
Research has also found that drinking green tea may lower blood sugar and insulin levels, which are factors that can contribute to the development of acne .
Many studies also indicate that applying green tea directly to the skin may help with acne.
Research shows that the main antioxidant in green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate reduces sebum production, fights inflammation, and inhibits the growth of P. acnes in individuals with acne-prone skin .
Multiple studies have found that applying green tea extract to the skin significantly reduces sebum production and pimples in those with acne .
You can buy creams and lotions that contain green tea, but its just as easy to make your own mixture at home.
How Can You Keep Oily Skin Under Control
Since high cortisol levels kick start the skins oil glands, you might find your face is oilier than usual. If you find yourself looking super shiny, Dr. Shamban suggests using exfoliating pads once a day like the ones from her product line AVA MD. Swipe the pad over a clean face starting once a week and move up to two or three times at night before bed, she says. Theyre made with pure 5% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid. These are the best basic ingredients for acne prone skin and they help banish blemishes with regular usage.
For a quick fix, both dermatologists are fans of oil-blotting papers because no matter how many times you gently dab one of these sheets on your face, theyre not going to make breakouts any worse.
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Other Causes Of Adult Acne
Though stress can often exacerbate the presence of adult acne, there are other common causes that can trigger an acne flare-up. Hormonal acne is a common experience for adult women, and tends to occur around the chin or jawline on a monthly basis. Additionally, changes in daily skincare routine, lifestyle, hygiene, and diet can all contribute to the development of pimples and blemishes. If youre frustrated by continued adult acne, a simple curated treatment plan from Dr. Green that considers both your current skin health and medical history can make a world of difference.
Causes & Prevention Of Stress Acne
First things first: What causes stress acne? Stress, of course, but it’s a little bit deeper than that. According to a 2017 research review in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology titled “Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne,” a self-administered, dermatologist-validated questionnaire of 3,305 women ages 25 to 40 years in France revealed adult-onset acne was reported by 41 percent of the women, and that “stress was listed as a precipitating factor for acne in half of the women surveyed.”
So, how does stress actually relate to the cause of blemishes on your face? Thats where things get a little more complicated. “Emotional stress triggers an increased release of the stress hormone cortisol,” Vaidian explains. According to the Mayo Clinic, when increased, cortisol triggers a systemic response within the body that has the potential to “alter immune system responses and the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes.”
Cortisol is key in causing stress acne breakouts as well. “When cortisol levels rise, they disrupt levels of hormones that regulate sebum balance and result in clogged pores and development of acne, Vaidian explains. In other words: More oil production means more clogged pores, and more clogged pores mean more breakouts.
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Why Does Stress Acne Happen Anyway
If youve ever experienced a breakout after a performance review or the night before a Bumble date, you can thank your trusty ol hormones for that. Zari S, et al. . The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Thanks, hormones.
To break it down further, your skin basically goes into defense mode at the first sign of stress. Your body releases hormones, including cortisol and adrenal androgens, to protect you, as well as neuropeptides.
These hormones hearken back to the old days when stress prepared us to escape from a mammoth or forage harder for food rather than to fret about which font to use in a PowerPoint presentation.
Unfortunately, this flurry of protective chemicals also triggers and inflames the sebaceous glands yep, those oily ones that cause flare-ups of skin conditions .
While stress does not directly cause acne, it can exacerbate it, and if you are already acne-prone, stress can make your acne worse, says Green. Acne is an inflammatory disease that can be exacerbated by hormones released during stress, which increase inflammation.
I see a lot of stress breakouts, she says. In adult patients, if they are going through a difficult time at home or work, this can cause their once-controlled acne to flare. And final exams tend to cause breakouts in students too.
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3. Consider your diet.
Since stress acne is tied to inflammation, Idriss also suggests looking at what you’ve been eating more critically. She recommends avoiding milk , as well as anything sugary, like candy. “Refined sugars and simple carbohydrates can also lead to worsening of your body’s inflammatory response,” she says.
4. Keep your hands off.
When you’re stressed, you might be more tempted than ever to pick at your face or pop a pimple on your own. But you know what we’re going to say here, right? Don’t. Doing so can actually spread the infection in your skin and can potentially leave a scar. Instead, slap on a pimple patch to help keep your hands off. Bonus: Certain patches will also help your acne heal faster.
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Treatment Of Stress Acne
If you work with your skin, the results will be there one step at a time, Green says. For treatment options, she recommends a topical spot treatment, something like salicylic acid, which can be found over-the-counter.
We like Murad’s salicylic acid acne spot treatment to target acne, reduce blemish size and redness, and soothe skin.
If its something deepera stress cyst, something under-the-skin, perhaps”just hold a warm or cold compress over the affected area to decrease the pain and/or redness. This should be done for a few minutes twice a day until the spot is minimized.
If stress acne seems to happen often, then try switching your skincare routine. Find products that work with your skin, not against it, Green recommends. Vaidian also suggests taking care to ensure your stress levels are managed as well. Drink plenty of fluids, eat a healthy diet, and do things to manage your stress such as get more sleep and do things to relax, she says.
If you suspect that your acne may be due to stress or hormonal-related reasons, talk to your dermatologist about your immediate skin care options to help speed up your recovery.
Bottom Line: Stress Breakouts Affect Your Skin And Well
Breakouts can have a detrimental impact on a persons self-image. It is why a balance of physical and emotional interventions is needed to keep your skin, mind, and heart-healthy.
Bash Sarmiento is a writer and an educator from Manila. He writes laconic pieces in the education, lifestyle, and health realms. His academic background and extensive experience in teaching, textbook evaluation, business management, and traveling are translated into his works.
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Moisturize With Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a tropical plant whose leaves produce a clear gel. The gel is often added to lotions, creams, ointments, and soaps.
Its commonly used to treat abrasions, rashes, burns, and other skin conditions. When applied to the skin, aloe vera gel can help heal wounds, treat burns, and fight inflammation .
Aloe vera contains salicylic acid and sulfur, which are both used extensively in the treatment of acne. Research has found that applying salicylic acid to the skin reduces acne (
While research shows promise, the anti-acne benefits of aloe vera itself require further scientific research.
Stress Leads To Poor Dietary And Lifestyle Choices
According to Dr. Rhonda Q. Klein, a dermatologist from Modern Dermatology in Westport, CT, stress can affect how patients eat, which in turn influences acne. She explains, We do think high carb, high sugar, and high dairy diets can worsen acne, and when people are stressed, they often do not eat as healthy as normal, so this is one confounder as well.
In response to stress, patients may also deviate from their normal routines and turn to bad habits. In particular, they may not keep up with regular bathing and skin care routines. Sleep quality and sleep quantity too could suffer. These behaviors may lead to further physical stress, feeding back into the cycle of stress and acne.
In a holistic sense, excess stress often causes people to eat unhealthily , which can lead to breakouts, confirms physician and health consultant Dr. Erin Stair. It also affects peoples sleep patterns, and poor sleep wont allow the skin to heal itself optimally.
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Is Hormonal Acne Caused By Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, hormonal fluctuations can cause acne. Often, acne gets better as your pregnancy progresses. There are several treatments that you should avoid during pregnancy, including topical retinoids, salicylic acid and isotretinoin. Ask your healthcare provider about the safest acne treatment for you to reduce and eliminate breakouts during pregnancy.
The Best Topical Treatments To Treat Stress Acne
When it does spring up, stress pimples respond best to a few specific topicals: salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol, Marchbein and Vega explain. Each ingredient works in different ways to combat breakouts. Salicylic acid can unclog pores, benzoyl peroxide is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and retinol increases skin cell turnover rate.
That doesn’t mean that you should use all three at once, however. Instead, Vega recommends using retinol as a long-term solution, and keeping either a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide product in your medicine cabinet to use as a spot treatment as needed.
Pimple patches can also be used as a spot treatment for acne, Marchbein suggests. “These are hydrocolloid adhesive stickers that contain certain active ingredients such as salicylic acid and/or tea tree oil, which are delivered to the pimple while its in place,” she explains. “By occluding the pimple, these active ingredients are able to penetrate the skin more deeply allowing them to potentially work better.”
For large, painful acne, “I would typically recommend heading to your dermatologist for a steroid injection to reduce the pain and inflammation of cystic breakouts,” Marchbein explains, however, “at this point, medical visits should be for true emergencies only.”
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Get A Sound Sleep Every Day
The National Sleep Foundation states that 7-8 hours of sleep is required for a healthy adult. Proper sleep helps in the process to repair and rejuvenate our body which automatically leads to acne prevention. Improper sleep raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which ultimately results in acne. On the other hand, inadequate sleep brings many other skin woes such as dark circles under the eyes, wrinkle formation, and sagging skin.
Stress And Acne Is There A Connection
Though stress has been often thought to accelerate the breakout of acne, there were no scientific evidences to support it for a very long time. However, in 2003 Stanford University conducted a study wherein they observed that during the exam time, students faced major acne flare-ups. During this period, the students stress levels were much higher than during a normal time. This study established that there is a definitive connection between stress and acne.
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Notice What Accompanies It
While acne encompasses various skin issues , regular breakouts typically involve just one or two symptoms. Pimples caused by stress, on the other hand, are generally accompanied by coarse and oily skin, blackheads, and whiteheads. Such pimples are also defined by their red and inflamed appearance.
While differentiating between acne formed due to stress and regular breakouts is easy, getting rid of stress pimples is hard. Or is it? We have listed in the next section the different ways you can get rid of stress pimples.
How Long Does Stress Acne Take To Develop And Go Away
Stress acne can develop in anticipation of a known stressor and then become more severe as you are experiencing the stressor itself. Or, the breakout could come days, weeks, or even months after the stressor.
If you’re under chronic stress, Dr. Lamb says it might be more difficult to get the acne under control because of the frequent flare ups that happen over time. But if the breakout is from more of an acute stressor, like the death or illness of a family member, she estimates that the acne could take about four to six weeks to clear up.
Over The Counter Treatments
Fortunately, even though the underlying cause of stress acne is stress, topical treatments that work for other types of acne breakouts typically work here too. Topical benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be applied directly on individual pimple or blemish as a spot treatment, or over an entire affected area as long as you do not experience dryness or irritation. They work to remove dead skin cells, clear away sebum, and kill bacteria.
Other OTC stress acne options include applying an alpha hydroxy acid solution to particular problem areas to clear away dead skin cells and reduce pore size, thereby reducing your chances of an acne-causing buildup on your skin.
You might even try including green tea compresses into your skin care routine, as it green tea has been shown to help reduce sebum production.