What To Do If You Have Stress Acne
When you have specific symptoms and wonder what they might mean, its a good idea to get an official diagnosis from a medical professional, especially if the symptoms are causing you mental or physical pain.
If long-lasting stress is affecting your health, you may want to let a doctor know. They may be able to figure out an underlying cause like a mental health condition that may benefit from further support.
How Is Stress Acne Different From Other Types Of Acne
Stress acne is a type of hormonal acne, just not in the way we are used to thinking, Dr. Massick explains. Stress acne is related to higher cortisol, versus the usual teenage acne in puberty related to menstrual cycles in females and increasing testosterone levels in males.
The physical appearance of stress acne might not look much different from the breakouts that occur during your period, but the distribution could be a telltale sign. Usually stress acne will show up in T-zone, or in the places that have more dense glands by nature, Dr. Marcus shares. So as opposed to hormonal acne which you would normally see around the chin and the jawline stress acne is going to be on the forehead, the nose, and the chin.
Another hint that your breakouts are stress acne could be the size of your pores. You might see an increase in oil production in those sebaceous gland-rich areas. So you could see that the pores look a little bit bigger, or that the skin looks a little shinier and oilier in those areas, Dr. Marcus explains. That would be a clue that the oil glands are in high drive.
Another indicator is the number of pimples you see pop up. Stress acne usually comes in crops, so you’ll get multiple breakouts at once, usually in areas where you have the highest number of oil glands, Dr. Massick says. Again, these areas include your forehead, nose, cheeks, and sometimes, chin.
Other Breakouts & Flareups Triggered By Stress
In addition to acne, other chronic skin conditions can be triggered by stress. You should be aware of your skin health needs, and make sure youre taking care of these issues to avoid extreme flareups. Some of the other skin conditions that may be triggered by stress include:
- Eczema The elevated immune response and hormone levels cause the production of more mast cells. These cells release histamines and immunoglobin antibodies that cause itchiness and increase eczema symptoms.
- Plaque Psoriasis the most common form of psoriasis, flareups in this skin condition are often related to stress, specifically the elevated immune response. The increase in immune function triggers the production of psoriasis plaques, the thick layers of patchy skin common during psoriasis flareups.
- Rosacea characterized by redness and inflammation that is usually most noticeable on the cheeks, rosacea flareups are commonly triggered by the spikes in cortisol and adrenaline caused by stress.
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Risks And Side Effects
While you can begin by tackling hormonal acne on your own at home, you may want to visit a dermatologist if your condition is reoccurring or worsening. Your doctor/dermatologist can help pinpoint any underlying conditions that might be contributing to our breakouts, such as PCOS, high testosterone or cortisol levels, a thyroid condition, or another hormone issue.
If the treatments above dont seem to be doing enough to reduce your breakouts, speak with your dermatologist about other options such as antiandrogen drugs, which block androgen receptors to decrease the actions and effects of testosterone, or stronger topical prescriptions to fight acne-causing bacteria.
When treating hormonal acne yourself, theres potential to experience some side effects depending on the specific products and treatments you use. Some topical products might cause dry, red, flaky, painful skin at first, so make sure to follow directions, and remember that less may be more when it comes to improving your skins appearance.
If you have sensitive skin, such as eczema, dermatitis or rosacea, some products, such as retinoids and certain cleaners, may be too harsh. Certain products are also not safe when youre pregnant, so get your doctors advice if this applies to you.
Use A Lightweight Moisturizer
Ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide tend to be drying if used too much, so it’s important to keep a lightweight moisturizer in your everyday routine. The natural tendency is to throw the kitchen sink at your face, which just leads to over-stripping the natural oils on your skin and causing irritation, Dr. Massick says.
Drugstore brand CeraVe is a dermatologists favorite, Dr. Marcus shares. She recommends their moisturizing products, which effectively protect the skin barrier and keep the skin functioning normally. But there are a number of other safe, dermatologist-recommended options.
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
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What Is Stress Acne
“In times of stress, your stress hormones rise and trigger your oil glands to produce more oil, which then triggers acne flares, Hart explains. Hormones also play a similar role, but according to Hart, the difference is timing.
If you find you mostly get breakouts around your period, you are likely experiencing hormonal acne rather than stress acne. “Hormonal changes, mainly increased androgen levels, have the same effects on oil glands, Hart says. “The main way to tell the difference is to track acne triggers, for example, after a period of stress versus more regularly with monthly menstrual cycles.”
The location of stress acne may vary. If you find youre normally breaking out in the same place around the same time of the month , you can bet that your acne is likely related to your menstrual cycle rather than your stress levels. This is especially true if the acne takes on the form of painful cysts. According to Green, these “usually appear in the same spot over and over again and become severely chronic because theyve accumulated so much oil over days or even weeks.”
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Don’t Ignore Your Hair
If you have oily hair, you may need to wash it more often than people who have dry hair. Keeping your hair clean and off of your face will help prevent breakouts on the forehead and face.
Some hair products, including pomades and gels, may worsen acne. So if you have acne on your forehead and tend to use a lot of hair product, consider avoiding it.
Headbands that cover your forehead can encourage acne, too, by keeping sweat in place.
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How Do I Know If This Is Stress Acne
Generally, acne caused by hormones, including stress acne, develops on the body’s oiliest parts. This includes the chin, jawline, and cheek area and shows up on the face and neck sides. More times than not, they present themselves as deep cysts that evolve into angry, red pimples
If you’re dealing with more breakouts than usual, you may be experiencing one result of the domino effect caused by stress. Another telltale sign that you’re facing a stress-related eruption is that you’ll notice several new pimples at once, even if you aren’t usually acne-prone.
Unfortunately, those who are predisposed to acne are likely to experience flare-ups when stressed – they may also be more susceptible to other unpleasant problems such as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, premature aging, and dark spots.
If you believe your stress influences your skin’s health, try taking note of when your stress levels are elevated and when you experience a breakout. Track this for a few weeks, then compare the times to see if there is a correlation.
Wash The Face Twice Daily
Many people prefer to use a mild cleanser and warm water. Applying an oil-free moisturizer after washing can keep the skin from becoming too dry. Overwashing the face may cause the skin to become dry, which can aggravate pimples.
However, over-washing of the face can dry the skin out, causing oil overproduction. This can result in more acne.
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How Stress May Cause Acne
In general, acne vulgaris is brought on by a combination of factors such as androgen production, sebum or oil production, the accumulation of dead skin cells , bacteria known as propionibacterium acne and inflammation.
Any one of these things, thrown out of whack, can cause an acne flare up. For example, increased androgen production in puberty or in hormonal disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome can lead to acne. Its a similar phenomenon that connects stress and acne.
Stress increases the production of adrenal androgens including the hormone known as cortisol . In turn, your sebaceous glands are stimulated to produce more oil, contributing to acne.
Its also believed this hormonal change can influence inflammatory processes, further contributing to acne and delaying wound healing, meaning your acne lesions could last longer.
All that said, its hard to say people who experience stress acne wouldnt otherwise have acne breakouts the stress-acne connection is a chicken-egg one.
Acne can cause stress. When you have a breakout or persistent acne, it can influence your mood. In fact, it may make you want to stay home and pull the covers over your head until your skin clears. And if its true that stress produces acne, you enter a vicious cycle.
Slather On Sunscreen Daily
You need to protect your skin from ultraviolet ray damage with a daily sunscreen.
âWith acne, you want to normalize your skin, which is the main barrier between you and the outside world. Protecting that barrier involves moisturizing it and protecting it from the sun. Sunscreen is a very effective way to do that,â Lee says. She usually recommends that her patients look for an oil-free, noncomedogenic formula so it won’t worsen their acne.
Choose an SPF of 30 or higher thatâs broad-spectrum, meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays. A lot of these sunscreens also help moisturize skin so it doesnât dry out. âWhen skin is too dry, your skin can sense it, and then it signals the body to create more oil … causing a negative spiral in terms of the oil production,â Lee says. Apply sunscreen daily in the morning and reapply throughout the day as needed.
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Use The Right Spot Treatment
Regularly using a spot treatment specifically designed to target and dry out acne can help you to get your clear skin back. The most common active ingredients used in these types of products are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, but you may want to discuss your options with your dermatologist before adding an acne treatment to your daily routine .
How Does Stress Contribute To Acne
When there’s an underlying medical or psychological problem happening within the body, it will often manifest on the skin. Research conducted by the University Clinic of Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine reveals a direct correlation between chronic stress and acne’s worsening. While it’s been determined that stress single-handedly cannot cause acne, it’s clear that stress can trigger unwanted activities in the body, which may lead to acne and other skin conditions
1. Stress can cause hormone imbalances
Like all acne types, stress acne is caused by an unwelcome mixture of oil, bacteria, inflammation, and possible hormone imbalances. When your brain gets the signal to enter into “stress mode,” it increases cortisol production, your body’s primary stress hormone. This causes an overproduction of oil in your skin glands and spikes in adrenaline. When your body faces spikes in certain hormones, especially those secreted from the adrenal glands, it strips moisture from the skin to prevent dehydration in other systems of the body. To reduce moisture loss, the skin then produces higher levels of sebum
leads to clogged pores and, you guessed it – breakouts. It can also contribute to redness, irritation, and dullness in your complexion.
2. Stress affects the skin barrier function
Stress also interferes with a proper skin barrier function. What is the skin barrier, you ask? Here’s a quick anatomy lesson
3. Stress results in a lower cell turnover rate
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Wash Your Workout Gear
Lee recommends washing your workout clothes at least twice a week, depending on how hard your workouts are. âI see some patients who donât want to damage their pricey workout garments so they launder them once every 2 weeks,â she says. âThatâs not hygienic and itâs not great for acne-prone skin.â
Lee prefers laundry detergents that are hypoallergenic, dye free, and fragrance free since theyâre gentler on the skin.
If you wear a sweatband or headband when you exercise, clean that, too. â it can lead to further acne along the hairline,â Lee says. Stash a few headbands in your gym bag and toss used ones in with your laundry. If you wear a hat while working out, wash that often as well.
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Between stress and hormones, my skin has been a lot more oily and acne prone than normal lately. I love this cleanser because its so naturalits literally made on a farm in Ojai, Californiaso I feel good about putting it on my skin. Its definitely cleared up my skin and given me a little glow, says entertainment and news editor Lex Goodman. Each bar contains white clay, coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter to purify the skin without drying.
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Consider Laser Skin Resurfacing
In some cases, professional laser treatment may be the most effective solution to acne and acne scars. Forever Young BBL, for instance, uses broadband light to reduce redness and discoloration while also stimulating collagen production and skin cell turnover. The result is smoother, clearer, and more even skin tone and texture.
Laser treatments can also be very effective at minimizing or eliminating the appearance of acne scars, sun spots, and other blemishes.
Stop The Effects Of Stress By Reducing Stress
While you cant just stop engaging in stressful situations , theres no denying that stress is bad for your body.
And while you may not be able to take time out for a full spa day, Evans says you should dedicate some time to self-care every once in a while doctors orders. So you go and you take that gosh-danged bubble bath.
Find the method that works best for you. You could try:
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Stress Acne Tip : Use A Retinol At Night
Dr. Puza suggests using a moisturizer with retinol in it at night, a powerful ingredient that promotes cell turnover. Retinoids nightly help to keep the pores open to reduce acne bump formation. Additionally, they help to decrease hyperpigmentation , he says. For those with sensitive skin or who find retinoids are a bit too strong for them, you can exchange retinol for a niacinamide-infused product, which is a bit gentler but delivers similar results. A daily SPF should always be part of your skin care routine, but especially so whenever youre incorporating retinol.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave
2. Swap out your moisturizer.
Using both a face wash with salicylic acid and a benzoyl peroxide treatment can be drying, so be sure to moisturize to prevent further irritation. Idriss says to swap out any thick creams or oils for lightweight lotions and to avoid vitamin E serums while your breakouts are healing, since they tend to be heavier on your skin.
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Where On Your Body Does Stress Acne Pop Up
Typically, acne that’s been brought on by stress develops in the same areas you usually get acne, Dr. Truong says. So if your acne during a non-stressful time shows up on your forehead, then you can expect your stress acne to pop up on your forehead too. Other common places stress acne appears is along the jawline and chin. Although less common, it can also develop on the chest and back.
But going back to the jawline and chin: This past year, Dr. Lamb has seen an increase in breakouts in those areas due to the “maskne,” which is acne caused by facial irritation from wearing a face mask. ” follows the pattern of stress-induced acne. So is from the mask or is that from the stress? That begs the question,” she says.