In our day to day lives we constantly encounter stress triggers. These stressors cause both physical and mental responses in our body. From impending final exams to relationship woes, stress is a facet of life that everyone encounters at one point or another, some more frequently than others.
If you find yourself frequently stressed to the max and at your wit’s end, you very well may also encounter some bumps and breakouts on your skin, as there is likely a direct link between stress and acne flare ups.
It makes sense, if you think about it.
Can Stress Cause Acne Breakouts?
Stress can cause everything from headaches and fatigue to gastrointestinal issues and nausea. Being under pressure can impact literally every inch of your body, from your heart to your joints.
Since the body is a series of systems working together like a well oiled machine, it is only rational that when one system is not functioning as it usually does the whole system can be thrown for a loop. This is especially true when something, like stress, makes its first impact on the brain, aka the control center of every other system in the body.
When you feel stressed out, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol comes from the adrenal glands and is released as part of your body’s “fight or flight” system. This hormone causes your skin to produce more oil which can lead to more clogged pores, creating acne.
Bacteria can also travel more easily when your skin has a film of excess oil, allowing the bumps to spread and multiply rapidly. Once you notice your skin breaking out, the stress and acne become a vicious cycle.
You are getting acne because you are stressed then you are stressed because you are getting acne. It can feel like an inescapable mental trap, especially since cortisol can also cause the skin to have a sickly, sallow appearance and enhance dark circles too.
Stress can also lower your immune system’s ability to function. Think about it: when you are stressed out you also usually end up feeling stuffy, sniffly, or have an upset stomach. This is because your body is so focused on the stressors that it cannot keep your immune system properly matinenced, allowing germs to attack.
When your immune system is down, you are more likely to experience acne breakouts. In fact, the severity of your breakouts and the duration of the flare can actually be much worse than usual. If you are going through a stressful time, be proactive and give your immune system a boost through eating healthy, staying hydrated, and maybe supplementing with some vitamin C powder or get it naturally.
It can be difficult to sleep well when you are stressed but try to do so, as lack of sleep can also lower your immune system even further.
Speaking of sleep, you need a lot of it. Eight hours a day for adults is the recommended amount, though a bit more certainly will not hurt when you are feeling stressed. Stressful situations can keep you up at night; anxiety can cause restlessness and insomnia.
Not sleeping properly can leave your skin looking dull and, due to the lowered immune system function, acne can really flare up. It is important to allow your body to rest and heal. If you feel you are not sleeping enough or that your resting periods are not fulfilling, talk to your doctor.
Medications and small changes to your daily routine can really help you to sleep through the night and feel better upon waking. Stress does not have to keep you up all night, let your body get in some hours of relaxation!
Your diet is an incredibly important factor to consider when you think about your own acne triggers. Some people find themselves sensitive to everyday food components like dairy, gluten, or sugar. When you are stressed, you may find yourself craving unhealthy foods like chips and cookies.
Your body is craving a big dose of dopamine and getting some naughty snacking feels like just what the doctor ordered. You also likely are feeling some intense pressure, be it through deadlines at work or the whirlwind of social life drama, which can leave you feeling pretty unmotivated to cook or put much effort into your everyday meals.
Take a deep breath and put the debit card away, because the quick fix taco bell habit we sometimes all seem to get sucked into could be a big part of what is irritating your skin. Fast food and processed snacks contain tons of salt, sugar, and other things that, while fine in moderation, are not really good for our bodies.
Getting caught up in a cycle of eating these types of foods regularly can irritate everything from your gastrointestinal system to your brain function, which, in turn, causes your skin to freak out. It is hard but maintaining a healthy, nutrient rich diet can make all the difference when trying to clear up your skin.
When you are experiencing a breakout, it is important not to get into the habit of picking at your pimples. Popping zits seems to make them go away and is incredibly tempting. Everyone gets the urge to squeeze a whitehead, especially with the popularity of channels like Dr. Pimple Popper.
Please understand that these channels are run by dermatologists who can safely extract pimples and blackheads. Trying to DIY extractions can lead to infections, scabbing, and permanent scarring.
If you find yourself using your pimples as an outlet for your stress by picking at them subconsciously, it may be a good idea to visit a psychiatrist to help get to the root of your stressors. Some people become addicted to popping spots or do so without really thinking about it, which can be a hard habit to break.
Popping pimples does more harm than good and can actually allow acne to spread so keep your hands off and give some of beneficial tricks a try instead!