Does Stress Cause Acne?

does stress cause acne

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you have an important event coming up, such as a job interview, a big test, or a family reunion, your skin starts to break out? Just your luck, right? Well, there is more going on here than just bad luck. When you feel stressed out, chemical changes in your body can have an effect on your skin, including increased oiliness and acne.

How Does Stress Cause Pimples?

When you feel stressed or worried, your body interprets that stress as a threat and releases hormones like corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), glucocorticoids, and others. This upsurge of CRH triggers a cascade effect within your body that causes the sebaceous glands in your skin to produce more sebum (oil) and become inflamed. Inflammation is the root cause of acne, in addition to excess oil on the skin, which can clog pores and trap acne-causing bacteria. Stress hormones also increase the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your bloodstream, which has also been linked to breakouts.

One study looked at 22 college students with acne-prone skin, both during exam periods and non-exam periods. Using the Perceived Stress Scale questionnaire, researchers found that the average acne severity was significantly higher during exam periods than in non-exam periods, even when accounting for changes in daily habits such as diet and sleep quality. While the students in this particular study may have been under a greater amount of stress than the general population, the results indicated a clear link between emotional stress and the severity of acne on the skin.

How to Fix Stress-Induced Acne

It is important to understand that acne occurs in an eight-week cycle. So even if you are able to eliminate the source of your stress today, your skin won’t necessarily be cleared up by tomorrow. Start by working with a board-certified dermatologist to develop a skin care regimen that is appropriate for your Baumann Skin Type®. If your skin is acne-prone, that regimen should include treatment products aimed at calming inflammation and keeping your pores clear of debris.

Retinoids and hydroxy acids can help by speeding up your skin’s natural desquamation (exfoliation) process, which removes flakes of dry, dead skin from the surface so they cannot become trapped inside your pores.

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two other common acne treatment products, but these can be drying or irritating to certain skin types, so check with your dermatologist before making them a part of your regimen.

Will Reducing Stress Get Rid of My Acne?

Managing your stress levels is an important step to not only get clearer skin but to also avoid a number of health problems associated with chronic stress. Just a few ways to reduce stress are:

  • Spend time outdoors
  • Exercise, such as yoga or jogging
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Drink enough water
  • Use aromatherapy
  • Listen to music

While stress reduction can help to prevent breakouts, it’s not likely to “cure” existing pimples and inflammation. Pair these stress-relieving tips with a customized skin care regimen for your skin type to get rid of acne and hopefully prevent new pimples from popping up later.

Bottom Line

Many studies have indicated stress as a cause or aggravator of acne, so one way to help your skin stay glowing and healthy is to rein in your daily stress. Combine healthy lifestyle habits with the right skin care regimen to clear up your skin and prevent future breakouts.

For more skincare tips and recommendations from board-certified dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


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January 5, 2019 Uncategorized