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Does Stress Cause Acne?

Urvashi Pokharna
You have had a stressful week coupled with sleepless nights because you have been working so hard to meet your deadlines, plan the D-day, or prepare for the big examination. Today, when you wake up, you are greeted by two big zits on your forehead. Is acne adding to the stress, or does stress cause acne?
It does not matter whether you are 15 or 35, acne can attack anyone anytime. While it is understandable to have breakouts during adolescence, nobody wants to suffer from acne in adulthood. Interestingly, at least 90% people under stress have reported acne related-problems.
But does stress and acne really have a connection? Is it really coincidental that an acne showed up on your face right before the company meeting or a date with that hottie? For years, dermatologists around the world have debated over the likely relationship between stress and acne. However, studies have confirmed that stress aggravates acne severity.

Stress and Acne: FAQs

How is acne caused?

Any environmental changes that create hormonal imbalance in the body can cause acne.
When the skin sheds dead skin cells, they may stick to the skin's surface due to oils and trap bacteria. This causes acne. Acne is a type of skin inflammation that may spread to larger skin areas if left untreated.

What is stress doing to my body?

Stress increases the supply of adrenaline in the blood, a hormone present in both males and females. This leads to increased levels of the hormone 'cortisol' secreted in your body which disrupts its hormonal balance.
Excessive adrenaline reduces the nutrient-absorbing capacity of the body and directly attacks our largest organ, the skin.

Can I blame stress for acne breakouts?

Research proves that stress causes variations in the hormone production. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S.A., recognizes stress to be one of the reasons that can perpetuate acne
● Psychological Effect: When your body is under stress, its immunity to fight foreign bodies decreases significantly. This reduces the ability of the body to heal by 40%. The time taken for acne to clear up naturally slows down dramatically, increases the appearance of acne, and leaves the skin with unsightly blemishes.
● Physical Effect: During stress, the nervous system stimulates the production of excess sebum, containing the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which is the primary reason for hair loss, clogged pores, and oily skin. This aggravates acne problems.

So, stress has a dual effect in worsening your skin's health.

Are adults at a risk of stress-related acne too?

Yes. Since adults at a higher risk of having stress, they are also more likely to be affected by stress-related acne.

How should I deal with my acne problem?

Wash your skin with an anti-bacterial cleanser, containing benzoyl peroxide. Drink water to flush out the toxins.
Do not try to squeeze out the acne else it may lead to permanent scarring. Use clean tissues to wipe your skin and do not re-use. Plenty over-the-counter topical ointments are available, but may further irritate the skin on exposure to the harsh chemicals used in them.
Instead, you should immediately consult your dermatologist for a quick solution as he understands your skin better. Only use cosmetics that read non-comedogenic on the label as they do not increase the skin's oiliness. Avoid stress in the long term as it affects your body more than just causing different types of pimples.

Can I avoid acne caused by stress?

Keep a check on your stress levels by practicing yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and consuming a healthy diet. These activities provide mental relaxation and strengthen the body.
Follow stress-management techniques to avoid acne later. Ensure 7-8 hours of sleep everyday. Indulge in your favorite activities. You should try to stay stress free as it also causes premature aging apart from other ailments.
The appearance of acne can cause trauma in people, elevating the existing levels of stress. This further irritates the skin and worsens acne related problems. This is a vicious cycle that remains persistent unless stress levels significantly subside.