Can Stress Trigger Acne?
What is Acne?
How many of you or people you know have been affected by acne? Acne can be frustrating, disconcerting and truly impact one’s confidence. However, there are great ways to manage it. So what exactly is acne? Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, regardless of age or gender. It's often associated with adolescence, but many adults also struggle with acne. Acne can affect you well into your 40’s and even 50’s. The NIH explains how acne typically occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, which allows bacteria to grow in these follicles and cause inflammation. Hence, leading to the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. These often appear on the face, chest, back, and shoulders as noted in Healthline. Hormones, genetics, and lifestyle factors like diet can all influence the development of acne. While various factors contribute to the development of acne, one question that has intrigued individuals is whether stress plays a role in causing acne.
What is Stress?
Cleveland Clinic describes stress as a natural response to challenging situations, and it triggers the release of various hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare the body for a "fight or flight" response, increasing heart rate, and redirecting energy to essential functions. While this response can be helpful in certain situations, chronic or excessive stress can have negative effects on health.
The common myth that stress can cause acne has been around for decades, but it's essential to examine the scientific evidence. Jessica Brown talks about how stress doesn't directly cause acne if you’re not already predisposed to it, but it can make acne worse by causing levels of certain hormones to temporarily increase.
There are several ways in which it can contribute to its development or exacerbation:
Hormonal Fluctuations: When your fight-or-flight response is activated, and the body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and androgens. This increases your skin’s oil production which can clog pores and exacerbate acne.
Inflammation: Chronic stress, anxiety and fear can lead to inflammation in the body. This happens as they trigger the production of cytokines (small proteins, which are part of the immune response) that fuel inflammation, even in areas around oil-producing glands. Inflamed skin is more prone to acne lesions.
Skin Barrier Function: Stress can weaken the skin's barrier function, making it more susceptible to environmental factors and bacteria that can trigger acne.
Managing Stress and Acne
If you suspect that stress is contributing to your acne, it's crucial to address both issues. Here are some tips for managing stress and minimizing its impact on your skin:
Stress Reduction Techniques: Engage in stress-reduction practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness to help manage cortisol levels.
Skincare Routine: Maintain a simple consistent skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing and the use of non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) products.
Diet and Lifestyle: Adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoid excessive consumption of sugary and processed foods. Get regular exercise and adequate sleep, as both play a role in overall skin health.
You Got This!
While the relationship between stress and acne is complex and not fully understood, there is evidence to suggest that chronic stress can contribute to acne development or exacerbation in some individuals. However, it's essential to recognize that stress alone is unlikely to be the sole cause of acne. Genetics, hormones, and other lifestyle factors also play significant roles.
If you suspect that stress is affecting your skin, consider adopting stress management strategies while maintaining a healthy skincare routine. If your acne remains a concern, consult your doctor for advice and treatment options. When you engage in these levels of self care and see improvement in your skin, you will recover your skinfidence and feel motivated! Remember that everyone's skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another, so be patient and persistent in finding the right approach for your skin health.