Your friends say it. Your mom says it. Teen magazines and ads for acne control products say it. “Stress causes breakouts.” But is this statement really true or is it just yet another rumor related to the causes of acne? At Academic & Aesthetic Dermatology Consultants, we want you to know the truth about what’s causing your acne, so here’s a quick look at how stress can actually affect your skin.
Stress and Your Hormones
Stress can have a significant impact on your body. When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can run rampant in your system. It can increase your blood pressure, elevate your heart rate, and lead to dozens of other side effects such as overeating, sleeplessness, and headaches.
Cortisol and Your Skin
But how does cortisol impact your skin? In addition to all the other ways in which it can wreak havoc on your body, cortisol also causes skin to produce more oil, or sebum. And, as most people with acne know, oily skin leads to more frequent breakouts.
However, stress’s impact on your skin goes far beyond simple oil production. It also leads to collagen breakdown, which makes it harder for your skin to repair itself naturally. In other words, it also makes it harder for your skin to recover from the very breakouts caused by the cortisol in the first place.
Your Immune System and Your Skin
You’ve also likely heard people say that stress can make you more prone to illness. This, too, is true. High levels of stress can weaken your immune system, and whether you know it or not, your skin relies on your immune system to stay healthy as well. Stress diminishes your skin’s ability to protect itself against germs, making it easier for bacteria and other particles to penetrate the outer dermis.
This can lead to a host of skin conditions, including dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, rashes, and yes, acne. If you develop any of these other skin conditions, you may also find yourself itching to relieve the discomfort they cause. Doing so can break the surface of the skin, allowing even more harmful bacteria to get beneath it and cause more breakouts.
The Vicious Cycle of Stress
One of the greatest ironies of stress-induced acne is that it can cause additional stress. When you break out, you become more self-conscious about your appearance and may become stressed about concealing your breakout from those around you. And, of course, stress about your breakouts can make it extremely difficult for those breakouts to ever clear up.
Dealing with Stress-Induced Acne
If you struggle with stress-induced acne breakouts, it’s typically best to try to deal with both the stress and the acne itself. The latter should be done with the assistance of dermatology specialists. For dealing with your stress, consider the following ideas:
- Learn to recognize when you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, and take steps to alleviate those feelings before they grow.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, four days a week; exercise is a natural stress reliever.
- Schedule downtime for yourself, whether it’s for meditation or simply to take a bubble bath.
- Delegate tasks if you have too much on your plate.
- See a therapist if your feelings of stress escalate to anxiety.
To deal with your acne troubles, whether stress-induced or otherwise, contact Academic & Aesthetic Dermatology Consultants to speak to an experienced dermatologist in San Diego, CA.