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This is your ultimate guide to stress acne and how to deal with it

Published on:12 January 2021, 10:40am IST
Stress releases cortisol in the body and that’s really harmful for your skin, because you end up with stress acne. But fret not, we are here to tell you all about it, including how to get rid of it.
Geetika Sachdev
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Stress can cause major issues for your skin. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Our lives are full of successes and failures, and well… a lot of stress. It’s pretty unfortunate, but there are stressors all around us. And you might not even realise, but they keep us on edge all the time. We start our days with unread emails, we barely get any time for ourselves in the morning and jump in straight to work. And then there are pimples! Well, stress doesn’t just take a toll on your physical and mental health, it also affects your skin. But let us tell you something—you are not alone!

We are here to tell you all about stress acne. Yup, stress can be one of the causes for acne too. But before we move ahead, it’s important to clear your confusion. These are not occasional breakouts that happen right before your period or that important presentation. On the other hand, these zits are caused by long-term feelings of underlying stress, and it surely can wreak havoc on our skin.

Why does stress acne happen?

When you are stressed, your skin enters into a ‘defense mode’. Next, your hormones, including cortisol and adrenal androgens, literally indulge in a stress party to protect you. Unfortunately, these chemicals in your body also trigger and inflame the sebaceous glands, thus flaring up your skin. Hello, acne.

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Causes of acne
Yes, stress can lead to acne. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Experts suggest that stress does not directly cause acne, but it can sure as hell accelerate it. Like all types of acne, stress acne is caused by a mix of bacteria, oil, inflammation, and hormones. And if you are someone who is anyway prone to breakouts, it’s only going to make your situation worse. Some of the most common signs of stress acne include redness, itching, and an increase in the occurrence of blackheads and whiteheads, along with regular pimples.

Stress acne generally shows up on your forehead, nose or chin. You could also have a cluster of pimples at the same time. 

The good news is, even if the underlying cause of acne is that you’re stressed AF at work, the treatment is similar to the treatments for other acne breakouts.

How to get rid of stress acne

The treatment is generally similar to what you would have done if you had regular acne. Most people head to the local pharmacy and get topical spot treatments that contain topical benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. They can be easily applied, but remember that these can also cause excessive irritation and dryness.

In case there’s a major stress cyst that’s causing pain, then use a warm or cold compress on the area to reduce pain and redness. You can also use ice to calm down the stress acne. You could also try using ice cubes infused with green tea to reduce sebum production.

But in case the breakouts get worse, or the redness and itching doesn’t reduce, then it’s best to consult a dermatologist. That way you know you can prevent acne scarring on time!

Here’s how you can reduce stress to improve your skin

There are some important things to also keep in mind. To begin with, you must maintain a routine to cope with uncertainty. When we lose control of the many things in our lives, having a routine gives us a sense of control. You could also include yoga and meditation to calm your mind. And if that doesn’t float your boat, you could go for a walk outdoors. It’s sure to soothe your senses.

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Self-care is important and that’s why getting into a bubble bath from time to time can help with your stress levels. You could also plan an outing with a friend, but if you don’t have too much time to spare, having a phone conversation will help too! Maintaining a work-life balance is critical, and that’s why you must make sure that you get some down time. Your skin is going to thank you for sure!

Oh, and did we tell you sleep is equally important? That’s because it ties back to cortisol. When we are sleep-deprived, our bodies produce high amounts of cortisol, which can cause our skin to flare up. 

Stress acne is a real pain and it won’t disappear overnight. Take care of yourself, try and reduce your stress, and things might really improve! 

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Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.