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What’s the Relationship Between Stress and Acne?

When people think about stress, they usually think about the mental and emotional effects it brings, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. But, if you feel the same way, you have to realize that stress can also have an impact on your physical wellbeing. One of its effects is acne.

How Stress Causes Acne

It’s important to note that stress does not directly cause acne — a pimple doesn’t pop up on your forehead simply because you’re stressed about an upcoming work presentation. Rather, stress causes acne in indirect ways. 

For one thing, it can stimulate the production of more sebum or oil. Stress is regulated by the adrenal glands and, when you’re in a stressful situation, the glands produce several types of hormones like testosterone. Unfortunately, the cells that produce sebum have receptors for testosterone, which means that, when the level of this hormone increases due to stress (and other factors), your sebaceous glands produce more sebum. This makes your face oily and creates the right environment for acne to thrive. 

The adrenal glands also secrete cortisol when you’re stressed. This hormone contributes to increased sebum production and even to higher levels of inflammation, which paves the way for worse acne conditions. 

Stress doesn’t just impact the adrenal glands — it also has an effect on the thyroid gland. Specifically, it makes the gland less responsive to the thyroid stimulating hormone, which means that the thyroid doesn’t produce as much thyroid hormone as it normally would. Low levels of thyroid hormones make the skin more prone to developing inflammation, which can cause a flare-up in those with acne. 

Stress also amplifies bad habits and make you do things that aren’t really good for your health. You might eat more junk food to cope with the stress, and you might lose sleep thinking about the problems you’re facing. You might even become too tired or distracted to take off your makeup before you go to bed, which means your pores are blocked by dirt and makeup for several hours. All of these can contribute to an increase in acne. 

Keeping Your Stress Levels Down

You can’t completely remove stress from your life, but you can take some steps to reduce its effect on you and ensure it won’t trigger your acne. Mastering relaxation techniques like deep breathing and visualization can help you stay calm even in the middle of a stressful situation, and practicing meditation on a daily basis can help you start and/or end your day on a relaxed note. Eating healthy food, working out regularly, and getting enough sleep are also a must, especially during the times when you’re stressed. Of course, it can also greatly help if you use the right skincare products and stick to your skincare routine no matter how tired or busy you are.

  • May 24, 2017
  • VIVIAN LIN