Does Stress Cause Acne? A Definitive Answer
With the crazy-busy lives we all live, stress is seriously inevitable. Even when you try to zen out and indulge in things like self-care activities or just well-deserved R&R, stressors always find a way to sneak in and take over. Whether it’s something about work or your personal life, it’s hard to gain complete control over your mind and let go of worry. It’s almost like feeling stress is ingrained in the human psyche or something—everyone’s been there.
Unfortunately, stress doesn’t only affect our minds. Has something ever bothered you and consumed your mind all day and then you wake up the next morning with a breakout? Same. Not only does it make you more stressed out because pimples are the worst, but it also makes you wonder where that blemish even came from. You're left wondering Does stress cause acne? Unfortunately, yes.
We tapped two registered dermatologists who confirmed that stress and acne certainly have a connection. Essentially, to keep our skin in tip-top shape, we have to be more mindful of our stress levels. These facts will make you reconsider stressing out so hard about things that may or may not be in your control. Read on for all the ways stress affects acne.
Stress Activates Your Oil Glands
“Stress causes your body to make hormones like cortisol, which tells glands in your skin to make more oil,” explains certified dermatologist Margarita Lolis, MD. “When we’re stressed and in fight-or-flight mode, our adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating stress, are in action mode. These adrenal glands stimulate sebaceous glands leading to more oil (sebum) production.”
Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser and Skin Care and associate clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center, agrees and points out other areas of the face stress can affect. “Stress causes an increase in hormones like cortisol, which inflames the skin and causes acne, sallowness, and dark under-eye circles,” she says.
Stress and Acne Create a Vicious Cycle
“It’s a cycle of stress causing acne and then acne causing more stress,” explains Dr. Lolis. “Let’s say you’re stressed out at work and then you break out along your jawline. Then the stress of the breakout leads you to squeeze and pick. Then the stress leads to low levels of thyroid hormones causing inflammation.”
Stress Has Different Impacts on Various Skin Types
“If your skin is already oily, stress only produces more oil leading to clogged pores, bacteria, and breakouts,” explains Lolis. “Stress damages collagen by hardening it, and this causes wrinkles. When the stress hormone cortisol is released, our natural production of hyaluronic acid is lowered, making it difficult for your skin to remain hydrated. It’s as if our skin loses its ability to protect itself when we’re stressed.”
Tanzi continues, “Chronic stress can reduce the skin barrier function, so the skin can get more irritated by products and environmental exposure than it typically does.”
There Are Ways to Lower Your Risk of Stress Acne
“The key is getting to the core issue and managing the stress,” says Lolis. “Things like daily meditation and practicing mindful assessments of stressful triggers can help. Also managing work schedules, allowing time for self-care, exercise, plus sticking to a regular bedtime and wake time helps.”
Tanzi notes that certain skin products can also help. “Usually stress acne is in the same category as dry-skin acne,” she explains. “In general, I would choose acne treatments made for sensitive skin because they won’t dry out the skin or be too irritating.”
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