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Recognizing Stress Acne and How to Beat It

Gabrielle Applebury
woman inspecting her skin

Stress and acne seem to go hand in hand with an increased stress level being directly linked to acne severity. While acne can flare during high levels of stress, there are simple tools you can use to decrease your stress level and reduce acne severity.

How Can Stress Cause Pimples?

Increased levels of stress stimulate the body's production of various hormones, including cortisol, prolactin, and adrenaline. These hormones trigger different changes in the skin, such as increased oil and sebum production. Excess oil and sebum can easily clog pores, leading to pimples or inflamed acne outbreaks and other skin conditions. Stress related acne can intensify due to:

  • Epidemics and pandemics that create global stress and anxiety
  • Relational issues
  • Work or school related deadlines
  • Feeling overwhelmed with a specific project, exam, or upcoming workload
  • Loss of a loved one or pet
  • Financial situations

What to Avoid Doing if You Have an Outbreak

If you've noticed a stress-induced acne outbreak, there are a few behaviors to avoid engaging in as they could exacerbate the situation. These include:

  • Picking your face or attempting to lance your acne
  • Being in an overly humid or hot climate
  • Using makeup and oil-based products
  • Using topical corticosteroids

While some of these aggravators may not be optional for you, there are still ways to decrease stress pimples. Being mindful of other contributing factors that impact stress related acne can help you in selecting the treatment that's best for your needs.

How to Manage Pimples Caused by Stress

Stress induced acne can appear anywhere on your face and body where there are oil glands. While some pimples are perfectly normal, you can minimize stress-induced acne by taking simple steps to manage this type of acne. Some helpful shifts and treatments include:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Get plenty of sleep to avoid burnout and exhaustion that can lead to more stress.
  • Explore different stress management techniques and continue to use the ones you find most helpful.
  • Consider learning how to meditate.
  • Practice other stress relievers like progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques.
  • Wash your face at the end of the day and gently pat dry.
  • Check the ingredients of your makeup and/or skincare to ensure that they are gentle and non-aggravating.
  • If possible, visit a dermatologist and/or facialist if your acne continues even after your stress has decreased.

Is My Acne Stress-Related?

Keep track of your acne and note on a scale of zero to 10 how intense your stress level is. Staying connected to yourself and understanding your stress can directly help you decrease your stress-related acne. While some acne is normal, you can determine if your pimples are caused by stress if you track your triggers and note whether your acne changes at that time. To track your acne outbreaks, take note of your stress level, what triggered your stress, and the severity of the pimples. These notes can then be compared to the times when you're feeling most stressed and least stressed to see if there's a consistent pattern of acne breakouts.

Understanding Stress Related Acne

Stress pimples can be resolved by employing stress reducing techniques. It's also a good idea to keep track of your triggers and the subsequent severity of your acne so you can better understand your body's reaction and find healthy ways to mitigate your stress.

Recognizing Stress Acne and How to Beat It