The Truth About Stress-Induced Acne

While stress can be manageable, it isn’t completely avoidable. It’s time to face the reality – stress is a part of life. And at some point, it may cause some changes to our skin. To explain further, we interviewed Jamie Kim, a board-certified Dermatology Physician Assistant. 

FURTHER READING: Fungal Acne: What It Really Is and How To Treat It

How can stress lead to acne? 

Just like any other emotion, our body releases hormones when stress is encountered. “When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol causes your oil glands to secrete more oil, which can lead to clogged pores and acne,” states PA Jamie. In short, this cycle of stress and oil production is pinned as the culprit behind stress-related breakouts.

On a psychological perspective, PA Jamie explains that anxiety and nervousness can build up when we are under pressure. As a result, some individuals tend to pick at their skin. This habit should be avoided at all costs to prevent scarring or the worsening of acne. 

What are the recommended ingredients to combat stress-induced acne?

In an overview of what it means to have stress-induced acne, PA Jamie points out that skin inflammation is present, and the skin barrier is in a vulnerable state. Because of this, gentle cleansers and moisturizers should be used. 

When it comes to spot treatments, PA Jamie says that salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are excellent choices. “Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid which helps remove excess oil on the skin. Benzoyl peroxide reduces acne-causing bacteria on the skin,” she explains.

What are advisable lifestyle tips to avoid this type of acne?

Relaxing should be a priority. According to PA Jamie, it’s important to “take some time to do things that will help you relax or de-stress such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.” She also emphasizes that hydration, getting enough sleep, and healthy eating are important to help prevent stress-related breakouts. 

The bottom line

During stressful times, it’s best to take short breaks and breathe. Prioritizing one’s well-being will not only keep our bodies healthy, but will also be a factor in the state of our skin. 

About the contributor

Jamie Kim is a board-certified Dermatology Physician Assistant in Los Angeles, California. Jamie received her B.S. from U.C. Berkeley and received her Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Touro University Nevada. Jamie is trained in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. You can find her on Instagram


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