Is Your Acne Caused by Stress? (+ 6 Ways to Get Rid of an Acne Breakout!)

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Health & Wellness | 0 comments

When you think of acne, you may picture your teenage years. But according to studies, over 40 percent of American adults (especially women) report experiencing adult acne. And 75 percent of Americans report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the last month. Not surprisingly, researchers are noting links between our rising stress levels and instances of acne. If you find yourself suspecting you have acne caused by stress, you may be wondering what to do. After all, stress doesn’t just disappear.

Luckily, there are ways to determine if your acne is actually stress-related. Even better? There are some great natural remedies to help you get relief starting today! Soon, your days of dealing with adult acne caused by stress will be gone. Instead, you’ll be back to living your life full of confidence. So, let’s take a look at the signs your acne is stemming from stress and what you can do about it.



Is Your Acne Caused by Stress?

Science has shown that stress and acne are closely related. In a 2017 study on 144 female medical students, researchers discovered that those with higher stress levels had more severe acne than those who were less stressed. [1]. And another study on teenagers found that there was a “significant association” between stress levels of teens and the severity of their acne. [2]

But how, exactly, does stress cause acne? Well, there are a few ways this happens. First, stress can cause your liver to slow down. And when that happens, the toxins in your liver can actually come out on your skin, resulting in acne. But there’s more.

Stress also slows your digestion, resulting in constipation, malabsorption, and leaky gut. And guess what? All of these are known to cause acne. Interestingly, the foods you eat can impact this process as well, due to their impacts on your digestive system. For example, in my clinical experience, dairy is notoriously hard for many people to digest. Now consider this: A 2005 study revealed that there was a 20 percent increase in the prevalence of acne in milk drinkers! [3] This shows how closely related your digestion and skin health are. And when stress impacts your digestion, it will inevitably affect your skin as well.

In addition to affecting your liver and digestive system, stress actually causes your body to have less parasympathetic activity, which impacts healing and regenerating skin. This makes your skin more fragile and prone to acne outbreaks. Why? Well, normally, your dead skin cells are naturally sloughed away. But when your skin regeneration slows, those dead skin cells remain on your skin, causing clogs in your hair follicles. When these clogs become infected with bacteria, acne can develop. [4]

So, now that you know how stress can cause acne, let’s take a look at some of the top signs to determine if you have acne caused by stress.

3 Signs Your Acne is Caused by Stress

Suspect you may have acne caused by stress? Take a look at these top three signs below.

1. You’re over the age of 20.

While acne can hit you anytime, regardless of your age, the simple truth is that you’re more likely to experience it in your teens. This is thanks to the hormonal changes that occur due to puberty.

Now, statistically, 85 percent of all teens experience acne, while it affects approximately 40 percent of adults. [5] Because of your lower risk but increasing levels of stress, it makes the likelihood that you have acne caused by stress greater.

2. You break out more during times of intense stress.

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you notice acne flares only during times of stress, it’s pretty safe to say that you likely have acne caused by stress.

Not only does stress impact all the physiological functions I mentioned above, but when you experience intense bouts of stress, cortisol (the stress hormone) rises, impacting your other hormones as well. [6] This can cause stress-induced hormonal acne, which results from fluctuations in your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels.

3. Your blemishes mainly appear on your lower face or chin.

Interestingly, while acne appears in the “T-zone” during your teen years (across your forehead and down the center of your face), the situation is quite different once you reach adulthood. Stress-induced hormonal acne tends to appear around your chin and jawline instead.

So, why does this happen? Well, the stress-induced hormonal changes cause your oil production to increase, which, as we discussed above, can clog your pores. Interestingly, you have more oil glands around your lower face and chin, making them more prone to outbreaks.


Acne caused by stress - Dr. Pingel


6 Ways to Get Rid of an Acne Breakout

Now that you know what to look out for, here are a few ways to fight acne caused by stress.

1. Find ways to relieve your stress load.

I know … this sounds a lot easier than it actually is. But there are actually some great and truly simple things you can do to help cut down on the stress in your life. Maybe you like to journal or even just take a quiet stroll around your neighborhood, both of which have been shown to help relieve stress. Or perhaps you want to have some fun with it! Personally, I like to dance and watch funny movies to relieve stress. If you need some ideas, here some of my favorite fun ways to reduce stress.

2. Take a quality probiotic.

Taking a probiotic can be a great way to help treat acne caused by stress. Remember, stress also slows your digestion, which has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing acne. So, by supporting proper digestion and gut flora, you can actually help to ward off stress-induced acne! If you’re looking for additional guidance, I have an article full of helpful information on how to choose a probiotic that’s right for you.

3. Support your natural detoxification mechanisms.

Like I mentioned, stress can slow your liver and digestion. So, in order to start to remedy stress-induced acne, you have to repair these systems. This may include liver detoxification herbs, digestive enzyme support, and even herbal hormonal support. Want proof? A 2012 study revealed that people who supplemented with milk thistle for eight weeks experienced a 53 percent reduction in acne lesions. [7] Just remember to speak with your physician before starting any new herbal supplements.

4. Eat nutrient-rich foods.

You can support your liver, digestion, stress, skin, and metabolism all at the same time. How? Just focus on eating a wide variety of plants in your diet. This will help to not only correct some of the nutrient deficiencies caused by stress, but it can also directly impact the quality of your skin.

Some of the most nutrient-rich foods include those with lots of vitamin C and other antioxidants, such as berries, citrus fruits, and kiwi. To support your liver, consider eating lots of dark, leafy greens as well. And just in case you want to take it up a notch, you can try my favorite skin refresher: a daily shot of apple cider vinegar. It brightens my complexion and also supports my digestion!

5. Stay Hydrated!

Guess what? Your skin is made up of more than 50 percent water. And, believe it or not, stress also impacts how your body utilizes the water you consume. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons that acne occurs. And you already know that stress only increases acne severity. Try to drink at least half your body weight in ounces and eat lots of hydrating foods as well to avoid dehydration.

6. Use all-natural products.

There are many acne products out there, and it can be hard to choose the best products for your skin. After all, you want to avoid harsh chemicals that can worsen your outbreak. Some of the tricks I have learned over the years include using all-natural products you can find at home. For example, lavender essential oil is an amazing anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent. As a result, it works great on blemishes. Just place a drop, mixed with a carrier oil if you so desire, on your blemishes. Believe it or not, it will actually help to reduce redness.

Tea tree oil is another fantastic remedy for acne. One drop, mixed with a carrier oil, will help kill the bacteria similar to a topical antibiotic. Believe it or not, apple cider vinegar can also help to fight both inflammation and bacteria! Applying a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water to areas of concern will make a difference—particularly if your skin is flaky and irritated.


Key Takeaways

  • Researchers are noting links between our rising stress levels and instances of acne, with a connection between higher stress levels more severe acne outbreaks.
  • Stress can cause acne by slowing down your liver, digestive system, and skin regeneration.
  • Some of the top signs you’re experiencing acne caused by stress are: 1) You’re older than 20; 2) Your acne appears during times of stress; and 3) Your acne appears on the lower half of your face.
  • There are many natural ways to treat acne. These include relieving your stress load, taking a probiotic, supporting detoxification, eating nutrient-rich foods, staying hydrated, and using natural products.
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