Normal, everyday stress won't make your acne worse, but chronic stress can throw your body into chaos, triggering a nasty breakout.
The world of acne treatments is riddled with myths, many of which blame the acne sufferer for the condition. 'Just relax,' you might have heard, 'and your acne will get better.'
The truth is that the normal stress of everyday life is unlikely to trigger an acne flare-up, but acute stress can make your skin worse. For decades, doctors didn't have any hard proof of this fact, but a handful of new studies have established a clear correlation between acne and stress.
Does Stress Cause Acne?
Two recent studies have found that students experiencing acute stress—stress that is short-lived and caused by a specific event—are more likely to experience acne. In one study, college students reported more acne and higher stress levels at exam time. A second study arrived at a similar conclusion.
This doesn't necessarily mean that stress causes acne. Stress does change your behaviour though. People experiencing stress may eat worse, pick at their skin more, or skip washing their face before bed.
More research is needed to prove a definitive link between short-lived stress and acne. For now, though, you should assume that breakouts are more likely during stressful times and take steps to control your stress levels.
Stress, Health, and Acne
One thing is absolutely certain: stress can undermine health. Stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, autoimmune conditions, and even premature death. Chronic stress may alter hormone levels, causing your skin to overproduce oil or overreact to makeup and other products.
If you experience chronic stress—such as that associated with work, relationships, caregiving, or finances—you might notice more breakouts. Your doctor can determine whether an underlying stress-based condition, such as adrenal gland dysfunction, might be causing these breakouts.
How to Reduce the Effects of Stress on Your Skin
You can treat stress-induced acne exactly as you would any other form of acne. To speed healing time, take the following steps:
- Take a few moments to breathe deeply, meditate, or cultivate mindfulness to help reduce your stress.
- Don't pick at your skin, since doing so only makes breakouts worse.
- Remember to wash your face each day, even if you are busy and distracted.
- Avoid touching your skin excessively, since doing so can introduce bacteria and oil.
Treating Stress-Induced Acne
To treat stress-induced acne, use no more than three products during the day, since too many chemicals can dry and irritate your skin. First, wash with an acne-friendly cleanser, such as Alpha-H Triple Action Cleanser.
Don't forget to moisturise, even if your skin is oily. Excess dryness can trap oil underneath your skin, making breakouts worse. Try Alpha-H Balancing Moisturiser and Gentle Exfoliant, which removes dead skin for more effective moisturising.
To reduce the severity of breakouts, stick to cosmetics that are oil-free and non-comedogenic. Only wear makeup when you absolutely have to, and wash your face to remove all makeup as soon as you can.