It’s a rule of thumb: you stress out, you break out. You stress out because your breaking out and, well, you get the picture. It turns into a vicious hard to beat, never ending cycle. And what’s worse, the more you stress, the worse your breakouts become. Keeping a clear open mind is vital to radiant glowing skin. So, go ahead and say it with me, namaste. For the longest time I believed that the acne stress link was nothing more than a myth, boy was I wrong.
Stress has such a huge impact on your overall wellbeing, from your mood, immune system, and appetite, to even your skin! Stress is a huge factor when it comes to the development of acne. HUGE. It can be the determining factor between a few white heads or a face covered in cysts. I can not emphasize enough the importance of stress when it comes to our skin, it’s like a window to the soul!
What do we really know about the science behind the acne fueled madness? How does the pimple form? And what hormones cause skin to flare up? In this article I want to talk all about how stress can be the fire that fuels the pimple and what you can do to manage it.
how does stress affect my skin?
Physical and physiological stress can have a negative affect on your skin (and overall health for that matter). Both types of stress are known to cause a release of cortisol, a stress hormone found naturally in our bodies. Usually cortisol can be managed naturally but when under extreme amounts of stress for a prolonged period of time, cortisol can sky rocket, further triggering breakouts.
Have you ever noticed a surge of breakouts around exams, moving houses, or preparing for a job interview- if so, cortisol may be to blame. High stress leads to high cortisol levels, creating a taxed immune system and excess inflammation. Acne is an inflammatory disease and stress causes widespread inflammation throughout your entire body so it only makes sense that stress can be to blame for acne flare ups.
It’s interesting actually stress causes acne in three ways. One is that the brain AND the skin both create the same stress related hormone (cortisol) that causes inflammation. The second way seems to be by interfering with the thyroid hormone. Low levels of thyroid hormones can leave the skin more susceptible to inflammation.
Surprisingly medications that contain vitamin A, like accutane or retin A, raise thyroid hormone levels when they heal the skin. And finally, the third way stresses causes acne is by increasing testosterone and prolactin, two sex related hormones. When these hormones are balanced the skin is naturally clear but when they sky rocket, well, so do your pimples!
Dermatologist at Stanford University recruited students to study their skin during two periods of time, once during exam week and the other time during a relatively stress free period. They also gave the students questions to fill out to measure their levels of stress. The results positively concluded that “changes of acne severity correlate highly with increasing stress.”
Another study done at a university in Singapore, yielded the same results. However, they suspect that the main qualifying factor for acne production is not sebum alone. Acne severity differed between high and low stress situations (being worse with higher stress and better with lowered stress), however sebum quantity did not. Because of this, Acne severity associated with high stress is thought to be related to other factors unrelated to sebum quality.
Acne causes stress and stress causes acne! But fear not, there are plenty of ways to positively manage stress and turn it into good positive energy. Below are some of my favorite ways to kick stress in the rear!
- Run a long bubble bath
- Go for a hike
- Do yoga
- Go for a long run
- Build something!
- Plant a garden
- Bake a new dessert
- Organize something (closet, living area, makeup, etc.)
- Remove yourself from the stressful situation (if possible)
- Put your phone in a basket for a few hours and focus on the task at hand
- Create a painting
- Go shopping! ( you don’t have to buy anything sometimes just looking can be relaxing)
- Dance it off
- Give yourself a “spa night”
What are some of your favorite ways to deal with stress? Comment below and let me know!
Kali Kushner, known as the Instagram alias myfacestory, is a natural beauty advocate in the greater Cincinnati area who is passionate about using organic skincare and holistic remedies to heal acne from the inside out. Her dedication lies in her own chronic acne struggles as she continues to restore herself while helping those around her.