Do you know YOUR primary acne trigger? Still struggling with an unsure self-diagnosis?
We created a short quiz to help you Discover YOUR Complexion Triggers
Changing schools―to high school or college, to a masters or doctoral program.
Starting a new job―your very first or wanting to shine in a new environment.
Managing relationship issues―with family, friends or significant others.
Moving or relocating―packing up, leaving friends and resettling are never easy.
Each of these common life situations can be super challenging.
Some people―maybe even you―are dealing with two, three or even all four situations at once.
What a recipe for stress!
Stress that can result in mild to severe anxiety or depression. Binge eating, making poor food choices or not wanting to eat anything at all. Crazy swings in hormones. Exhaustion. Frustration. Disappointment.
And, oftentimes, these situations take time to resolve. Weeks or maybe months. And there you are, stuck, stressed and…
As if things weren’t bad enough, now your skin is breaking out like crazy, just when you need it least.
Adding to your stress. Triggering more breakouts.
But why, oh why does your acne get WORSE when you’re stressed?
First know, you’re not imagining things. Research demonstrates a pretty clear link between stress and acne breakouts, especially with regard to stress-related hormones like cortisol.
Simply put, stress activates the adrenal glands to produce extra androgen hormones, which can result in inflamed acne breakouts in acne-prone skin. The elevated androgen binds to oil glands in the skin, and tells the oil gland to produce more sebum. This excess oil combines with dead skin cells, debris and bacteria, and triggers the formation of pimples.
The stress-hormone connection is more of a problem for women because they produce most of their male hormones (androgens) in their adrenal glands. Men, on the other hand, produce most of their male hormones in the testes and only a very small amount in the adrenal glands. Men’s primary hormone is testosterone (an androgen). When they get stressed, and the body produces extra testosterone, it does not have as big of an impact as it does for women.
Women produce about one-tenth of the amount of testosterone as men do, so a sudden surge of additional testosterone can be significant.
Keep in mind―stress is NOT the cause of acne.
Instead, stress TRIGGERS acne, which is a genetic condition called retention hyperkeratosis.
Let me explain.
Every 4-to-6 weeks, a new skin cell is “born” in the deepest layer of your skin. As it moves to the skin’s surface, it’s pushed from behind by newer cells. Once it reaches the surface, this now dead, dry cell flakes off.
However, this continuous shedding process goes amiss if you have acne. Acne-prone skin produces up to 5x more dead cells than normal, and the excess dead cells stay stuck on the skin’s surface and clog your pores. The resulting plug, mixed with oil, forms a blackhead. When infected with bacteria, a blemish occurs. Essentially, your acne-prone skin is perpetually clogging itself.
And your unique blend of triggers―whether stress, diet, gut imbalance, pore-clogging ingredients and/or hormonal imbalance―can aggravate and worsen an already faulty genetic situation.
Why? Because all systems in our body are interrelated. Triggers like stress can set off a chain reaction of secondary triggers. Such as stress-eating the wrong foods, which upsets your stomach, which can cause systemic inflammation, which in turn can throw your stress hormones out of whack, which can cause more breakouts. So you wear more makeup to cover your pimples and end up clogging your pores even more. Which leads to more breakouts. And more stress…
You get the picture.
How can you relieve stress so you can calm your skin?
Here are seven of my favorite ways to reduce stress and help alleviate acne. Try one, try them all! You’ll do your skin―and your mind, heart and body―a world of good.
Controlled breathing, deep breathing, mindful breathing all help to lower pimple-producing stress hormones like cortisol. Spend time each day, and as soon as you feel stress start to escalate, by focusing on your breath. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath in for 5 seconds, holding it for 5 seconds, breathing out for 5 seconds. Repeat until you feel calm. This 5-5-5 technique works wonders whenever and wherever you need it.
It’s truly the best medicine! According to a Mayo Clinic1. study, a good laugh can stimulate your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles, and increase endorphins released in your brain. Plus, it can soothe tension. And “a rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.”
Laughter has long-term benefits too! It can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve your mood. Sounds like a fabulous way to help ward off stress and acne!
In case you need any incentive, let this good news to help you get a move on. Exercise pumps up your feel-good neurotransmitters (your endorphins) which raises your optimism, energy and mood. Exercise—in almost any form so take your pick!―can also improve your sleep, lower the symptoms of anxiety and mild depression, and give you a sense of control over life.
Exercise is a straightforward, IMMEDIATE way to diminish the impact of challenging life situations―and feel and look better every day.
One of the most neglected and disrupted areas of our lives is sleep. Precious sleep! Imperative for good health, improving your ability to focus and think clearly, reducing inflammation, for learning and memory. Moreover, when you lack the 7-9 hours of quality sleep you need every night, your sleepiness can heavily influence your outlook on life, energy level, motivation and emotions.
And as Arianna Huffington notes in her book The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, “Sleep is profoundly intertwined with virtually every aspect of brain health. Lack of sleep over time can lead to an irreversible loss of brain cells—yet another debunking of the myth that sleep debt can be made up.”
If nothing else, I hope that nugget of information will induce you to get more sleep!
Guided imagery is a powerful psychological strategy that enhances your coping skills by tapping into your imagination and eliciting peaceful imagery to help you create quiet calm between your mind and body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic2. (a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education), “Clinical studies show that anxiety can affect pain, prolong (surgical) recovery time and lower the immune system. Guided imagery can bring about the state of mind and body most conducive to healing–deep relaxation and positive focus.”
It’s easy to get started. Simply search online for “guided imagery meditation” for a bounty of free meditations or check Amazon for more options.
Ahh, the soothing scent of lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage and lemon…
Essential oils made from plants like these can directly impact your body, through your olfactory nerve. When you use aromatherapy, your olfactory nerve sends a signal almost instantaneously to many parts of your brain, including the limbic system and amygdala, which are in charge of emotions, mood and memory.
As explained by Psychology Today 1., essential oils can “soothe us through turning on the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes our bodies. This theory helps explain why scents can so quickly trigger physical reactions in our bodies and have lasting effects after the scent is gone.” In fact, they note that “essential oils like lavender have even been shown to interact the same way biochemically that many anti-anxiety medications do on neuroreceptors.”
Wow, right? I’m so excited I can’t wait to stock up! Remember, do a little research first or consult an essential oil expert for best results.
Whenever you experience stress, nervous tension, anxiety and hyperactivity, your adrenal glands get drained. But you can counter that affect with the right supplements for acne-prone skin.
In fact, Natural Acne Clinic’s Clove Hill Adrenal Stress Formula provides the missing nutrients you need to strengthen, support and rebuild your adrenal glands. That way, when you’re experiencing high anxiety or conflict, facing deadlines or emergencies or trauma, you can repair your overworked and burnt-out adrenal glands.
You can even use this formula for melasma, migraines or frequent headaches, PCOS, late periods or breaks out when stressed.
Stress and Acne―yes, you can do something about it!
I get it, it’s awful when stress makes your acne worse. But please know, by taking good care of yourself now and even before stress hits, you can help reduce the negative impact of stress on your life AND your skin.
Now, treat yourself to your personalized feel-good combo. Adopt any or all of the above stress reducers and start paving the way to clearer, healthier skin. You deserve this!
- “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.” Mayo Clinic Staff. April 21, 2016
- “Guided Imagery.” Cleveland Clinic Staff.
- “Six Aromatherapy Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Sleep.” Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D. April 28, 2016.