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.
Why Do We Get Stress Related Acne
Many of us have experienced a breakout when were stressed out. But why do pimples develop when were under pressure? Why does stress cause acne? The answer is simple. Stress hormones increase oil production and overall inflammation, which causes acne flare-ups. With that in mind, its vital to improve your overall mental well-being so you can prevent stress acne.
Things To Try When Acne Wont Clear
The following tips from dermatologists can help you get started.
1. Give an acne treatment at least 4 weeks to work.Using a new acne product every few days may seem useful, but that approach can worsen acne. Acne treatment needs time to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts.
If a treatment works for you, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. It can take two to three months or longer to see clearing.
If you notice improvement, keep using the treatment. Even when you see clearing, you’ll want to keep using the acne treatment. This helps to prevent new breakouts.
When to see a dermatologist about acne?
Seeing a dermatologist can help prevent acne from worsening. You can benefit from seeing a dermatologist when acne:
Causes acne cysts and nodules
Hasnt cleared with treatment you can buy without a prescription
Makes you feel uncomfortable, and you want clearer skin
2. Attack the different causes of acne.If you dont see improvement after 4 to 6 weeks, add a second acne product to your treatment plan.
This approach can help attack the different causes of acne. Bacteria, clogged pores, oil, and inflammation can all cause acne.
Benzoyl peroxide decreases P. acnes bacteria
Retinoids, such as adapalene gel, unclog pores and reduce oiliness
Salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores
Won’t clog pores
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Tips For Reducing Stress Acne
Self-care may also be one way to get closer to achieving clear skin. Studies show that 77% of people in the United States reported regularly feeling physical symptoms caused by stress .
Unfortunately, the things that most people are stressed aboutlike work, the future of our nation, money, and the political climatearent temporary . That means managing stress, instead of waiting for it to pass, is the best way forward.
Managing stress involves leading a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. But its also about your mental health. If you feel like you still need help managing stress after following a healthy lifestyle, reach out to a healthcare provider.
What Causes Stress Acne
Well, yes, stress. It’s been long established by researchers, like those from a study published nearly two decades ago in JAMA Dermatology, that there is a connection between increased stress and increased acne severity. But why does stress cause acne to flare or worsen? It’s an answer that researchers are still trying to pin down.
There are a variety of factors that might have an effect, but an increase in specific hormones is one of the most widely agreed upon causes. The Cleveland Clinic reports that one of those hormones is cortisolthe “fight-or-flight” hormone. Other hormones that our bodies increase production of in response to stress are androgens. “These hormones stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, which can lead to acne,” according to the AAD. “This explains why acne can be an ongoing problem when we find ourselves under constant stress.”
Read Also: How Does Stress Affect Your Period
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.
How Does Stress Cause Acne
Stress makes the skin age faster
- Severe stress can make you look older than you are. You may feel that your skin is drier or you may be seeing more fine lines, wrinkles and have a generally dull appearance. This happens because of the decrease in collagen and hyaluronic acid synthesis in the skin. These changes may occur due to elevations in cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which goes into overdrive after long or excessive bouts of stress.
- Stress can also accelerate the aging process of the skin by increasing the formation of harmful chemical species called free radicals.
- Abandoning healthy habits when under stress, such as working longer hours, disruptions in sleep patterns, not following a healthy and balanced diet, consuming too much caffeine and alcohol or smoking can give you dark or puffy areas under the eyes, causing you to have a tired appearance. Skin affected by acne also loses its former shine and looks pale and dull.
Stress dries the skin out
Stress ramps up oil production
Researchers found that stress can trigger a variety of chemical responses within the body, which may cause breakouts. Then, if you nervously pick at your skin when you are under a lot of stress, you could exacerbate the problem because this may cause infection and scarring.
Also Check: Can Stress Make You Sleep More
What Are The Best Acne Treatments
Mild or moderate acne can often be treated at home. Home treatments to prevent or treat acne include:
- Wash twice daily and after sweating and rinse with lukewarm water
- Use gentle, non-abrasive cleanser and apply with fingertips
- Dont scrub the skin and avoid washcloths or sponges that can irritate the skin
Acne medications and treatments depend on the type of breakout you have.
Reduce Your Stress And Reduce Your Acne
The best thing to do when you get acne is to try not to worry about it, and to take measures that will improve the quality of your life and reduce your chances of having acne: eat well, get a good nights sleep and reduce your level of stress.
Meditation has been shown to be reduce acne. Another good path to pursue is to try cognitive restructuring. Take a look at the reasons that your acne is causing you anxiety, and challenge their validity. Perhaps you let those reasons go and stop believing them.
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How To Reduce And Manage Stress
Learning to reduce and manage your stress can be important in the treatment of your acne since stress can make your acne worse. Even if your environment or job isnt stressful to you, sometimes an acne breakout can cause emotional stress.
Some simple steps you can take to reduce stress include:
- taking a few deep breaths
- practicing meditation or yoga
- getting a good nights sleep
- maintaining a healthy diet
Gaining Control Over Stress Acne
Stress acne is a clear sign that the mind-body connection is real. Your physical health depends on your mental health, and vice versa. By working to manage your stress while taking care of your body, and talking with a healthcare provider if needed, you can get a handle on your acne and feel better in the end.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer With Ceramides
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.
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.
Read Also: Why Do We Have Stress
How To Handle Stress
If you and your dermatologist already have an acne treatment plan in place, you should continue to maintain your daily routine during stress-related flareups. If you notice that the breakout is severe, very painful, or not clearing up, you should consider contacting the U.S. Dermatology Partners team to schedule an in-office appointment or a teledermatology appointment or to discuss your concerns and make adjustments to your treatment plan. If youre experiencing a breakout caused by stress but you dont usually have acne-prone skin, you may need to make some pretty significant changes to your daily skincare routine. Namely, you need to incorporate the three ingredients that help to combat breakouts salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinols.
- Salicylic Acid unclogs pores and reduces oil buildup
- Benzoyl Peroxide anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial to combat increased inflammation and bacterial infection
- Retinols accelerates cellular turnover
You dont necessarily need to use all three products at once or even every day. Instead, retinols are usually good everyday skincare products for cellular renewal that have numerous benefits, including helping with acne breakouts. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide products can be used only during breakouts or as spot treatments.
How Can I Prevent And Treat Stress Acne
All in all, the way you address stress acne is similar to how you would any other type. Stress acne is related to oily skin and breakouts that occur because of increased sebum production so you can treat it just like you would regular teenage acne, Dr. Massick says. Like most pimples, these stress-induced breakouts will improve, but it may take time and in a different timeframe than you think . Here are some important steps to consider.
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Try To Manage Your Stress
Regulating your stress levels will help reduce stress-induced acne. While its unrealistic to cut out all the stressors in your life, there are things you can do to help reduce them. Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Massick suggest exercise, yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques that can decrease cortisol levels.
Dr. Massick and Dr. Marcus point to a number of behavioral patterns that can help as well. Try to get enough sleep, drink a lot of water, and sugar or pro-inflammatory foods, Dr. Marcus says.
And maintain a consistent skincare routine, even when youre super busy or feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork. Keep up with a consistent simple skin care regimen start with a good facial cleanser, use moisturizer, and sun protection, Dr. Massick advises.
Is Aloe Good For Acne
Aloe vera has antibacterial properties that can help control and reduce acne-causing bacteria. Two other ingredients that have been studied and found to have this same effect are cinnamon and honey. By combining all three for an at-home spa treatment, youll be upping your chances at smooth skin thats acne-free.
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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.
Where Do You Get Stress Acne
Breakouts show up on our faces in different places for different reasons. For example, women experiencing hormonal issues are likely to have acne on their jawline. However, stress-related acne typically pops up on your forehead, nose, and chin just like when you were a teenager because these are the oiliest parts of your face. Stress pimples can be a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and pus-filled pimples. One way to tell you have acne thats stress induced is if a batch of pimples appears all at once, whereas hormonal acne typically appears gradually.
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How To Get Rid Of Stress Acne
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I entered quarantine with one silver lining: the hope I’d emerge with crystal-clear skin. But nine weeks in, it’s apparent all I’m getting out of this is stress acne. In normal times I usually deal with adult acne, thanks to a winning combination of hormones and genetics. But even despite the fact that I gave up makeup two months ago and have more downtime for my skin-care routine than ever before, every day I’m still greeted by a brand-new pimple.
A quick scroll through Twitter reveals I’m not alone. Women who haven’t had acne since high school are suddenly battling a face full of it, or they’re seeing clusters of acne breakouts instead of the usual period zit. Sure, there are probably plenty of reasonsface mask irritation, changes in all of our routinesbut there’s also a really simple explantation: We’re all stressed the eff out. Acne may seem small compared with what’s going on in the world, but when the only face you see in a dayor at least focus onis your own, it can affect your whole mood.