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Stress and Acne

Does stress cause acne?

Stress can pop up at any time and for many reasons, and events of recent years put most of us to the test. So, it’s not surprising that now more than ever, people are worrying about stress acne and wondering if it’s really a concern. Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. The real question: Can you get acne from stress? The answer is yes, stress and acne go hand-in-hand.

Even if you don’t usually break out, stressful situations or events can spark stress acne. Those who are genetically predisposed are more likely to experience a breakout when they’re stressed out. Why does this happen, and what can you do about it? The answers lie ahead.

Why do we get stress related acne?

Many of us have experienced a breakout when we’re stressed out. But why do pimples develop when we’re under pressure? Why does stress cause acne? The answer is simple. Stress hormones (like cortisol) increase oil production and overall inflammation, which causes acne flare-ups. With that in mind, it’s vital to improve your overall mental well-being so you can prevent stress acne.

Where do you get stress acne?

Breakouts show up on our faces in different places for different reasons. For example, women experiencing hormonal issues are likely to have acne on their jawline. However, stress-related acne typically pops up on your forehead, nose, and chin — just like when you were a teenager — because these are the oiliest parts of your face. Stress pimples can be a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and pus-filled pimples. One way to tell you have acne that’s stress induced is if a batch of pimples appears all at once, whereas hormonal acne typically appears gradually.

How to stop stress acne

Are you wondering how to reduce stress acne or how to prevent them in the first place? The most straightforward answer is to control your stress levels and adjust your lifestyle as best you can. Here are some places to start.

Practice mindfulness

Being mindful of your actions and feelings can help you control your stress levels. If you’re new to the practice of mindfulness, here are some ways you can incorporate it into your lifestyle:

  • Take time to eat each meal (no wolfing down lunch at your desk)
  • Spend time in nature
  • Meditate
  • Exercise or engage in an activity that gets you up and moving (like dancing to your favorite song)
  • Cook a new recipe
  • Practice breathing exercises
  • Try out a new hobby
  • Focus on one task at a time (don’t multitask!)

Get a massage

A massage is also a great stress-buster that releases all the tension you’re holding throughout your body. However, if you have body acne, you should avoid the massage oils traditionally used because many clog pores. Instead, bring your own non-comedogenic moisturizer for the therapist to use on your body. It’s also best to avoid having your face massaged, since rubbing can further inflame irritated skin.

Get enough sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is vital if you want to reduce stress-related breakouts. Sleep deprivation has been known to contribute to hormonal imbalances that trigger oil production and lead to breakouts. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally while you sleep and is also associated with stimulating your immune system and protecting against bacterial infections, which helps fight acne.

Need a little assistance powering down or staying asleep? Evening rituals, like a warm bath, herbal tea, or relaxation before bedtime, encourage a good night’s rest. Once you are in bed, make sure you’re sleeping on clean sheets and pillowcases (this is one of the places where dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil can collect and then re-clog your pores).

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

A clear skin diet should exclude foods high on the glycemic index — things like white pasta, rice, bread, and sweets — because they spike sugar, which can also increase oil-producing hormones. The best diet for healthy skin includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown reduce inflammation and help with mood regulation (among other benefits). So make sure to add omega-3-rich foods like salmon, avocado, flaxseed oil, and walnuts to your grocery list.

How to treat stress-related acne

If you’re experiencing stress acne, you may have to tweak your skincare routine a bit — especially if you’re not used to getting breakouts. For example, swap your cleanser out for a formula with an acne-fighting ingredient like salicylic acid. Use a spot treatment that incorporates bacteria busting benzoyl peroxide. But whatever you do, don’t ditch your moisturizer just because you’re experiencing more oil. The trick is to use a lighter formula that keeps your skin balanced, not greasy. Stripping the skin of its natural oils will only cause it to produce even more sebum, which can exacerbate breakouts.

All of our multi-step skincare routines harness the power of the best over-the-counter acne-fighting ingredients you can find. When it comes to salicylic acid, why not give our Proactiv + Complete Kit or Blackhead Dissolving Gel a try? For more stubborn stress acne, ProactivMD Adapalene Gel — the first over-the-counter retinoid approved by the FDA — prevents and treats stubborn breakouts while reducing the redness and inflammation associated with acne.

While only you can control your stress levels, we can help you manage the breakouts that come along for the ride.

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