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Why Your Skin Breaks Out When You’re Stressed

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Whether you’ve got an important appointment coming up or you’ve experienced a major upheaval in life, the effects of stress can take a toll on your skin in the form of breakouts. But what you may not know is that it isn’t just a coincidence. In fact, science tells us that acne can actually be triggered by emotions. (On the flip side, if you have a serious skin condition, you’re at greater risk for experiencing depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health issues.)

While scientists have made connections between the mind and body for a long time, a new specialty called Psychodermatology is revealing that this connection is much deeper than anyone thought. Specialists in this field look at how mental health can affect what’s happening on the surface and vice versa. With all of this new research available, it begs the question—Would a holistic approach to skin conditions be more effective than traditional treatments? The Dermatologists who study Psychodermatology would agree that the answer is yes!

What happens physiologically when we’re stressed?

When under stress, you may experience both physical and emotional side effects. It is believe that this happens because the body is directly impacted by the hormones released during stress, which in turn will show itself as a physical symptom. 

For example, two such hormones, glucocorticoids and adrenal androgens, are believed to worsen acne as they cause overactive oil glands. Your body releases these hormones when you’re stressed. This may worsen existing acne or lead to an acne breakout. 

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is also activated in the body during periods of stress. This hormone increases oil production, which may also increase the chances of blemishes and areas of concern on the skin.

One study published in JAMA, showed that when you’re stressed, skin lesions (a.k.a. acne) take longer to heal. And while “stress and anxiety may not only be a result of acne but can themselves exacerbate acne, little research has been undertaken to demonstrate this latter relationship.”

What to do if you think stress is making your acne worse…

For some people, a more holistic approach to acne treatment may help yield better results in clearing breakouts. So if you think your acne breakouts are related to your stress levels, don’t panic! (After all that could make it worse!) 

First, try lowering your stress levels.

Here are three tips for managing stress:

  • Tip #1: Practicing Mindfulness – Instead of immediately reacting to an upheaval in your life, take a moment to pause, collect your thoughts, and then come up with the best solution.
  • Tip #2: Moving Your Body – Exercise in any form is exponentially beneficial to reducing stress. If you’re just starting out, try taking a walk or doing some yoga.
  • Tip #3: Fueling Your Body – Think of a healthy meal as a stress-busting building block. The more you fuel your body with healthy foods, the easier it will be to combat stressors in your life.

Second, double check that you’re using the right products to treat your specific kind of acne. (Because—yes—everyone’s acne is different, and the wrong acne products can make acne worse!)

Here are three cleansers our Dermacare of Hampton Roads Experts recommend for those with acne:

  1. Dermacare of Hampton Roads’s BPO 5% cleanser
  2. Dermacare of Hampton Roads’s Clarifying Cleanser
  3. SkinMedica’s AHA/BHA exfoliating cleanser

BPO Cleansers – BPO stands for benzoyl peroxide. These kinds of cleansers are great for driving oxygen into the skin. This is important for treating acne because acne bacteria can’t survive in oxygen. However, BPO cleansers can dry out some people’s skin. So if your skin is prone to being dry, choosing the right BPO product and deciding how often to use it are important.

Salicylic Acid Cleansers – Salicylic acid (SA) is great for those who have drier skin and/or skin that may not respond well to BPO cleaners. Salicylic acid helps to unclog pores by breaking down dead skin cells and oils, such as sebum. Once broken down, dead skin and oils can more easily be released from pores and washed away.

If you need help with acne products, ask us!

If you’re someone who is doing the work to manage your stress levels but still suffering from acne breakout, we can help. Our Dermacare of Hampton Roads Experts are always available for a free consultation. During a consultation they can:

  • Help identify the kind of acne you have
  • Let you know if you’re using the right products to address your acne
  • Recommend treatments that will help address your specific kind of acne

If you need help, don’t hesitate to call us at (757) 317-3748 or book a free virtual consultation. Our Dermacare of Hampton Roads Experts will listen to your concerns and current skincare routines then recommend a course of treatment tailored to your needs.

For more information on acne treatments, check out our blog posts: Four Best Treatments to Get Rid of Acne – Summer Acne Series: Part 1 and Stop Summer Breakouts – Summer Acne Series: Part 2.

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