Photo on powerofpositivity.com
For a while, doctors have speculated that stress worsens acne, but the evidence was mostly anecdotal. In the past decade, research has hinted that the doctors may be on the right track. In 2003, a Stanford University study written in the Archives of Dermatology found that college students had more acne flare-ups during exams, a period they reported more stressful, compared to times without testing. Acne severity correlated very highly with increasing stress.
Why does stress acne happen, anyway?
Understanding the cause of stress acne
If you’ve ever had a breakout after a stressful event, you can thank your hormones for that. While stress doesn’t directly trigger acne, it can exacerbate it, and if you are already acne-prone, stress can make it worse. Acne is an inflammatory ailment that can be worsened by hormones released during stress, which increases inflammation. It starts when oily secretions from the skin’s sebaceous glands clog the tiny openings known as pores or hair follicles. If the pores are large or open, the clog takes the form of a blackhead: a small, flat spot with dark tips. If the openings stay small or closed, the clogs form whiteheads: small, flesh-colored bumps. Both kinds of clogged pores can grow into swollen, tender swellings, pimples or deeper lumps and nodules. Nodules linked with severe cases of acne (cystic acne) are hard swellings below the skin that become inflamed, tender, and sometimes get infected.To break it down further, your skin goes into “defense mode” at the first indication of stress. Hormones, like cortisol, adrenal androgens, plus neuropeptides, are released to protect you. Unfortunately, this also triggers and inflames the oil glands which can cause a flare-up of skin conditions like acne. You can tell if you’re experiencing stress breakouts because they will be characterized by redness, itching, and more blackheads and whiteheads. Even if your acne is under control, you can still get them if you are going through an anxious time.
Can anxiety cause acne breakouts?
Photo on trilliumcreekohio.com
The stress caused by anxiety can have adverse effects on the body. Here are five reasons why being anxious and the stress it causes can exacerbate acne:
- Stress causes oil-producing cells to produce more oil. This increased production can easily clog hair follicles letting acne form.
- As part of the body’s emergency readiness response, stress causes blood vasoconstriction with blood flowing away from the skin and to parts of the body more essential to survival. The reduction in the blood available to the skin can cause skin problems, such as aggravating acne. Elevated stress levels can cause the blood to be continually kept away from the skin constantly depriving it of a generous supply of blood; it can be more prone to irritations, rashes, sores, and bacterial infections. This is one of the points why acne generally worsen when it is stressful.
- Stress stifles the body’s immune system, which can severely affect the body’s power to fight off intruders. This reduced capability can make it easier for germs to take hold and aggravate existing acne.
- Stress triggers an inflammatory response, which can cause the walls of pores to break. This causes the body to respond with redness around the broken pore and an influx of pus forming a zit.
- Anxious persons are more likely to ‘pick’ at their blemishes when they get overly anxious and stressed. Often picking at, squeezing, and ‘popping’ blemishes make them worse and more sensitive to irritation and infection because the body’s immune system is weakened.
Any one or a mix of the above can add to worsening acne as a result of anxiety. While addressing your anxiety issues and decreasing stress, it may not eliminate acne problems; they can help reduce them.
Getting help from a dermatologist is the ideal way to learn the best acne management plan for you. While you can’t conclusively determine whether stress is influencing your acne, try taking note of when you get stressed and when you break out over a few weeks (consider keeping a journal). Then, compare these periods to see if there are any links. If the breakouts seem to match up with the times that you are feeling stressed, there may be a connection.If the breakouts do not match up, the acne is more likely related to environmental factors. Check to see if you always get your pimples in the same spots, such as on the side of your face where you hold your phone. Also consider that the deteriorating state of your acne could be related to stress-driven habits, rather than the stress itself. For example, drinking more coffee or using additional stimulants can also lead to an increment in your production of cortisol and have an impact on your microbiome. Adult acne can also be worsened by neglecting your personal hygiene needs, altering your diet, or rushing your skincare routine; these are all things that can easily occur when you’re feeling stressed
How do you calm these kinds of flare-ups?
The good news is that although the flare-up is stress induced, the treatment is similar to that for other acne breakouts.
How do you calm these kinds of flare-ups?
Pick up some topical spot treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which are both over-the-counter meds, can be directly applied as a spot treatment to individual pimples or on the general affected area if it doesn’t result in too much dryness or irritation. If you have a painful stress cyst, holding a warm or cold compress over the area to reduce pain and redness works.
- Plain old ice can also do a lot for stress acne — consider making some ice cubes from green tea, which helps reduce sebum production, for a super-cheap DIY treatment.
- Other damage control choices include using alpha hydroxy acid solution.
- Making sure you’re staying hydrated and think about switching to a low-glycemic diet, which can help too.
Don’t skip the basics
This one may be the most critical step of all. It sounds simple, but it’s seriously important if you want a clear visage. As stated above, when we are stressed, it’s easy to forego your usual skincare routine, but you have to push on. Don’t forget to take care of your skin: remember to cleanse your face about twice a day, use sunscreen daily, exfoliate and moisturize. Cleanse as needed if you’re going to be working out and sweating a lot. Additionally, go for a cleanser that has acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide.
Photo on eucerin.co.za
If you keep breaking out, switch up your skincare routine
Make sure you’re using a pH-balanced cleanser, and a moisturizer that doesn’t clog your skin’s pores, in the morning and at night. Applying a gentler vitamin C serums, after you wash but before your moisturizer is also a good idea for combating acne and has other added perks. And if this is a really regular event, see a dermatologist for a more serious treatment regimen. The sooner you get an appointment, the better because it will stop or minimize the chances of acne scarring. Your dermatologist can give you medication to control and regulate your hormones. They can also book treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion that can help remove acne, spots, and micro needling to help lessen acne-caused scars.
Photo on thepitcher.org
Learn to manage your stress
While you can’t just completely stop engaging in stressful situations, there’s no denying that it is bad for your body. And while you might not be capable of taking a full spa day, you should perform some self-care every once in a while to help you cope. Find a method that works well for you, whether that’s yoga, meditation, a walk, talking to someone like a therapist or friend, or modification of stressors in your life. And when your schedule is too packed, remember that just taking a deep breath goes a long way.
Photo on nutrientrich.com
Consider switching up your diet
Not many believe that your diet directly correlates to acne, but there are myriad books, articles, and studies that show otherwise. Try switching from high glycemic foods (like pasta, bread, pizza, etc.) to low glycemic ones like sweet potatoes, lentils, etc., and avoid any foods that you think could be triggering your acne like n dairy and whey protein or foods you are allergic to. While it might be nearly impossible to narrow down what foods could be making your acne worse, it’s definitely worth a try to lean towards healthier food options like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean proteins like fish and chicken any time your skin flared-up.
Photo on seealternativeswellness.com
Get some quality sleep
Quit the all-nighters and staying up until the wee hours of the night on your cellphone and catch some sleep already. It is highly recommended to try and fit in a full 8 hours, and while you’re at it, use a nighttime spot treatment, which works to treat and prevent blemishes, as well as exfoliate dead skin and reduce oil production.