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Stress and Acne – Chill Out, Avoid the Breakout

Updated: Jan 27, 2020


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We’ve all been there, the day of a big presentation, a first date, maybe a job interview and BAM you wake up with a breakout. You cringe at the thought of your audience / date / interviewer being as distracted by that big zit on your nose as you are.

If you suffer from oily skin and acne, then chances are you’ve noticed how certain foods, products, and medications can increase or decrease your breakouts – have you ever tried addressing your acne problems by treating your stress more effectively?

Why Does Stress Affect Acne?

Sure the occasional irritating cosmetic, menstruation cycle, burst of teenage hormones and genetics are all underlying causes of acne and triggers of the dreaded breakout, but stress is a beast unto its own and can make those underlying conditions crop up more easily. Ever notice when you’re tired, upset (or ahem, hungover…) that your skin feels oilier, and other symptoms such as dark circles around your eyes, or the sudden appearance of ‘stress spots’ crop up on your skin?

Regardless of your stress levels, pimples appear on your skin when your pores are clogged, and we know acne has a variety of causes. We also know that stress has a huge influence on turning on our body’s inflammatory pathways. Your body’s reactions to stress are important, because the body responds by producing certain hormones – sadly yes, the very hormones that provoke acne flare ups.

Even though stress may be related to the presence of acne, every individual is different.

How prone your skin is to acne breakouts will be different from person to person too.

When you feel stressed, your body produces more hormones to cope, particularly androgens.

Androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. CRH, or corticotrophin-releasing hormone, is another hormone that has been linked by dermatological studies to driving up oil production in the skin – which can lead to pimples. This excess oil can mean your pores are more easily clogged, leading to a state of ‘stress acne’ flare ups. Stress can also cause the body to heal more slowly, which makes those darn pimples last longer.

Recent studies have confirmed that work-related stress and personal stress do exacerbate acne. While stress is not the sole cause of acne pimples (age, hormones, acne-producing bacteria and other factors are at work here too), it’s evident that stress can trigger breakouts and make your existing acne issues worse.

Effective Treatments for Stress Acne

So what can you do to prevent your skin from going into high drive on oil production when you get stressed out?

1) For starters, check out the labels and ingredients on your hair, makeup and skin products. Hair conditioners, gels, pomades, shaving products, cosmetics, moisturizers, sunscreens, and other products that contain oil can clog your pores and cause a breakout. Try experimenting with hair and skin products that are labelled "noncomedogenic”. Beauty and makeup products are really catching on to this demand in the marketplace and creating more and more ‘ clean’ products that don’t contain heavy oils and chemicals, which can irritate your skin more easily. Sephora has been promoting these clean product lines a lot in the last couple of years, and is supporting this movement with specific labeling on noncomedogenic products for skin care, hair and makeup brands.

2) Hands-off! We all have bad habits when it comes to touching our faces. If you pay attention you’ll notice that we often rub our nose, or rest our chin in our hands. Touching our faces too frequently can encourage the growth of bacteria and cause infection to the areas of our face most inflamed by adult acne. Hands off!

3) Don’t pick or squeeze your pimples! This can drive acne bacteria deeper into your skin, leading to more inflammation and even permanent scarring – leave the pimple popping to the pros!

4) Chill out, avoid the breakout. The hormones that your body produces when under stress can stimulate an overproduction of oil from the sebaceous glands in the skin. Try new activities such as an exercise class, or deep breathing exercises to combat your stress levels and reduce anxiety.

Take Care of Yourself

Adopt a more comprehensive approach to managing stress, such as trying out yoga and meditation practices, and see your dermatologist regularly so that you have an expert opinion and analysis of your skin type to determine what treatments are going to work best for you. Since there are a variety of culprits when it comes to breakouts and acne skin conditions, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment or product to recommend.

Most of all, rest and relax! It’s important to make time for ourselves no matter what the stresses in our life may bring our way.

At Derm Diva Pro, our mission is to help our patients have a better understanding of the skincare world so that they can make educated decisions on treatments.

Follow our blog to find weekly tips, product reviews, and learn more about new treatments!

Products To Help Beat the Breakout




Hyaluronic Acid

Pore Refiner

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