Most of us have experienced an acne flare up when stress in on the rise. Why is it that breakouts develop when you're under pressure? We're answering all your questions surrounding why stress acne happens and the best ways to treat and prevent it.
Does stress really cause acne?
Research shows that acne from stress is directly linked. When the brain recognizes stress, it releases stress hormones (cortisol), which escalate the production of sebum, naturally produced near skin hair follicles. Acne bacteria feed off this sebum, which attracts your white blood cells to the area. This, in turn, produces an inflammatory response. "An acne blemish is basically inappropriate inflammation." says Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington university.
Sandra Lee, a board-certified dermatologist explains that stress has a general depressive effect on the body's immune system, "which may make acne worse by lowering your body's ability to fight inflammation".
The body also responds to stress by directing blood flow and oxygen to areas vital for fighting the stress, and withdraws from other areas, including the skin. The skin subsequently becomes starved of blood and oxygen, making it dehydrated, dull, lifeless, and prone to clogged pores and breakouts.
Where do you get acne from stress?
Acne from stress can appear on your face, back, or even neck and shoulders. Stress-induced acne can present as blackhead, pustules or cysts.
How do I treat acne from stress?
Topical skincare products are essential to encourage skin turnover, decongest pores, absorb excess oil and heal your current breakouts. Follow these three steps to get rid of your acne fast.
1. Take Immediate Action
The sooner you treat a pimple, that faster it will disappear. Use a fast-acting spot treatment the moment you feel a pimple forming.
Look for skin friendly products with salicylic acid, time-released benzoyl peroxide, or topical probiotics to rapidly reduce redness, inflammation and kill bacteria. Super Clear is a gentle salicylic acid acne serum that not only eliminates acne-causing bacteria, but also helps your skin naturally heal itself.
Our skin constantly sheds dead cells. Though rather than falling off, many of these dead cells stick to the skin, clogging pores and hair follicles. This cell debris coupled with the stress hormone (cortisol) causes the skin to produce excess oils—which leads to blackheads and blemishes. While face washes are good at removing oil and surface dirt, they lack the grit necessary to remove dead cell debris and dirt clogged in pores.
Exfoliating is your secret weapon for removing dead skin cells, decongesting your pores, minimizing breakouts and aiding in the skin renewal process.
3. Avoid the “Skin Diet”
Many people mistakenly believe that avoiding the moisturizer or using oil free products will prevent oily skin and clear breakouts. Not so! Drying the skin out will further stimulate the oil glands to produce more oil to compensate for the loss, whereas maintaining a balanced moisture level will keep the skin healthy.
Use a hydrating serum rich in nourishing Omega 3,6 & 9 before applying your moisturizer. This will seal in the Omega fatty acids and provide a protective, hydrating layer, resulting in a healthy, glowing complexion!
Acne Spot Treatment
Blemish Buster acne spot treatment attacks acne on 3 fronts; encapsulated salicylic acid exfoliates, active probiotics kill acne causing bacteria and silver ions reduce visible inflammation. This tinted acne spot treatment also helps repair damaged skin tissue quickly.
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Key Ingredients: Probiotics, Salicylic Acid
Blemish & Pore Clarifying Serum
Super Clear targets existing breakouts, calms visible inflammation, clears out pores and prevents future flare-ups—all without irritating, over-drying or thinning the skin. Can be used under Blemish Buster for faster healing.
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Key Ingredient: Salicylic Acid + 13 Super-Actives
Exfoliator, Peel & Mask
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How do I stop breaking out from stress?
Below are four simple strategies to maintain a clear, stress-free complexion.
1. Boost Good Bacteria
Research from the American Academy of Dermatology reveals that that acne prone skin improves with daily probiotic consumption, giving dermatologists reason to consider supplementing traditional acne therapy with a dose of this beneficial bacteria.
Stress causes toxins to be released into the bloodstream, causing inflammation throughout the body. People predisposed to acne can experience breakouts as a result of this shift in gut bacteria and subsequent inflammation. Experts recommend introducing healthy bacteria to the gut in the form of probiotics. The probiotics will line the gut and create a healthy, sealed barrier that prevents inflammation that can trigger acne or rosacea.
2. Eat For Clear Skin
We all know the importance of a well balanced diet. What many people don't realize is how it affects your complexion. Eating the right foods will help:
- Reduce system-wide inflammation, which fuels acne
- Address hormone imbalances, like too much estrogen, which aggravate skin issues
- Support your body’s natural ability to detoxify (a well-functioning liver prevents deficiencies from developing)
- Feed your body the micronutrients we often lack (deficiencies trigger breakouts)
Dark leafy greens, squash or tropical fruits (kiwi, mango), which are rich in vitamin A, E, C and fiber are essential for healthy skin. Vitamin A helps your liver detoxify from excess hormones.
"Getting your omega-3 fatty acids will give you almost instant results" says Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist and women’s hormone expert. She adds, "clearer, softer, smoother skin as well as stronger hair and nails – you can see it happen in days. They have a big picture, whole body affect, as well as results in the short term. I also advise supplementation. It is hard to overstate the importance of omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to skin health".
And, whenever possible substitute a daily snack with a nutrient rich protein shake, rich in vitamins B6, B12 (to combat stress and anxiety) zinc and biotin (to reduce oil production and inflammation) and vitamin E (for skin repair).
A lack of magnesium causes skin inflammation. Taking magnesium combined with calcium can help your body reduce inflammation. Since calcium is also part of our tissue array – bones, cells, and skin – it plays a very important role in skin cell renewal.
Avoiding processed foods will also allow your system to better purge inflammation-causing toxins. This will help balance your blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which calms your oil glands and decreases androgens levels (high levels of androgens can trigger breakouts).
3. Get More Sleep
Poor sleep or not enough sleep can lead to increased cortisol in the body, which can cause and exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis. Quality sleep, however, allows the body to repair damaged cells, reduces stress and inflammation. Want to heal your breakouts fast? Set a goal to catch more zzzs!
Beyond the acne caused from our bodies feeling stressed, the negative emotional stress associated with acne can make the skin more susceptible to inflammation and breakouts. Exercise is an instant way to reduce cortisol levels in our bodies naturally. Exercise also is the body's natural way of opening up your pores and sweating out excess sebum. That's why it's essential to exercise with clean skin.
Your mind and body are intimately connected. One of the easiest ways to improve your mood and shake off negative emotions is to get moving. The reason this works is complicated—blood flow, creation of certain biochemical, mental stimulation, physical exertion—these all play a part. But the truth is simple – it just works. To help reduce stress, inflammation and prevent future acne from stress, keep moving.