Stress and acne go hand in hand as stress and stress-related conditions cause multiple reactions in the body that can trigger acne breakouts. While stress responses were designed to ensure survival, today, stress isn’t always due to negative situations. Does a big pimple the night before a fun event bring any memories?
Having breakouts, in and of itself can cause stress. Acne sufferers may experience embarrassment or frustration over their red bumps and pimples, which unpleasantly affects their self-esteem, sense of well-being and self-worth. This added stress triggers pore cells to become sticky, thick and clogged, which leads to even more severe breakouts. Also, just experiencing the discomfort, itching or soreness of acne can add to stress.
Overall, people with severe acne tend to have higher levels of anger, anxiety and stress.
How Does Stress Trigger Acne?
Regardless of the cause, stress adversely affects the circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems, causing a number of reactions that influence the development of acne symptoms.
Stress activates the fight or flight system and triggers an influx of stress hormones and inflammation. These hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, testosterone and CRH [corticotropin-releasing hormone]) increase the heart rate and activate the immune system. Even though modern day stressors are rarely life or death, things like eating, growing and reproducing take a back burner making the skin suffer. This influx of hormones and ensuing inflammation increases oil production, weakens and break pore walls, and leads to breakouts.
The main hormones that trigger acne are testosterone and cortisol. Testosterone increases oil production, which creates an environment that the p. acnes bacteria loves. Cortisol causes excess oil production and inflammation, and over time, this steroid hormone (corticosteroid) breaks down proteins, weakens the immune system and becomes an inflammatory response, triggering acne. When combined with stress behaviors like overeating and lack of exercise, this contributes to obesity, all of which are linked with acne. Plus, stress delays wound healing, which is needed to resolve breakouts.
Immune System, Inflammation and Acne
Stress dampens the immune system and elevates inflammation, which then contributes to acne. Inflammation causes a release of inflammatory neuropeptides, which weakens and breaks the pore walls, releasing pus into surrounding tissue and causing more inflammation.
Stress Behaviors and Acne
Stress can lead to destructive behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking, poor eating habits, inadequate rest and lack of exercise; all which trigger acne. Coincidentally, these behaviors also trigger acne on their own. Stress can also cause additional behaviors like scratching, rubbing or touching the affected areas, which may be subconscious, or a compulsive behavior.
In addition to appearing or mentioning being stressed, one may notice acne patients are fatigued yet hyper, which can affect their work and relationships. This may likely be due to an imbalance in the ph of their blood.
Stress Induced Medical Conditions
Stress can trigger gastrointestinal issues like colitis, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or ulcers, which are also linked with acne. Stress, known to reduce the inability to fight infections, also slows wound healing, making it a direct link to acne flare-ups.
Acne Stress Solutions
To help control acne, identify stressors and when possible, avoid those people, places and situations. Engaging in relaxing activities will slow oil production and balance the blood ph, which in turn help clear existing breakouts and prevent future breakouts.
Great stress-busters include deep breathing; yoga; tai chi; mediation; Qigong, exercise (especially taking a walk outside); journaling, make quality time with family and friends and a good diet. Spa is good for the soul: Schedule a deep pore-cleansing facial and conclude with a relaxing massage. For more ways to cope, see Stress Solutions.
Lastly, instead of hating one’s skin, thank the body for providing a warning (in the form of acne) of the toll stress is causing. Other stress related diseases can be fatal, whereas acne can definitely be controlled.
Photo by Lenetstan