Can Stress Cause Acne? How to Prevent Stress Acne

Can Stress Cause Acne? How to Prevent Stress Acne

Have you noticed that a day or two before a very important day, acne and strange irritations on the skin may appear unexpectedly?

A very common reason for this is stress.

Stress can cause fairly minor skin troubles to very serious skin issues that can lead to permanent problems.

In this blog, we are going to talk about the different stress factors that can affect the skin and how you can prevent them from happening at all.

Let’s first define what acne is:

Acne is simply an inflammation that can range from mild, moderate, to severe types.
Mild acne includes blackheads and whiteheads. While severe acne includes pink pimples (small and sore), papules and pustules (bumps that are usually open and have white endings). When it comes to severe acne, there are red nodules and cysts which are the ones that are painful and deep in the skin. It is considered severe acne if there is any scarring left over from a breakout.
Graphic showing different types of acne and their names

How Acne Develops

Although there are different triggers that cause acne, there is no big difference between how different factors cause acne as the way that acne develops is the same. That is why to understand how stress causes acne, we will describe simply how acne develops.
Here’s how acne is formed:
1st Stage: A factor, like stress, triggers hormonal imbalance that leads to overproduction of sebum, thickening of the skin, increased pigmentation, reduction of cell turnover, and decrease in wound healing speed.
2nd Stage: Stage 1 leads to clogged pores from build up of dead skin and sebum.
3rd Stage: Bacteria feed on dead skin and sebum which leads to bacteria proliferation.
This blog focuses on Stage 1 of acne development. While there is no scientific proof that stress directly causes acne, according to the acne development process explained above, there are three stages that act like a domino effect with the ending result being acne.
Starting with hormonal imbalance, we have found research that backs up how stress is one of the causes of hormonal imbalance.
According to scientists, there are 3 types of stress: Acute Stress, Episodic Acute Stress, and Chronic Stress.

  1. Acute stress arises when we have some kind of deadline, important day, or exams, for example. This type of stress can feel both positive and negative, but there is no difference to how your body reacts to it.
  2. Episodic stress is acute stress that is negative and one that happens very often, like being late or in a rush.
  3. Chronic stress is persistent and long term. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.
When we face stress, our body goes through three stages:
  1. Anxiety or Panic
  2. Adaptation - when your endocrine system reacts and fights. At this stage, stress is controllable. If the stress is not battled, it leads to the third stage.
  3. Exhaustion - when your nerve cells die and your body gives up to fight.

For the sake of this blog, we will focus on the Adaptation stage as it is the stage that triggers hormonal changes that lead to acne.
There are many hormones that are triggered by stress. Here are the ones that directly affect the skin.
  1. Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH) - induces flushing, inflammation, and swollenness
  2. Adrenocortical Hormone (ACTH)- triggers pigmentation (strong ones) and sebum oil production
  3. Growth hormone (GH)- influences hyperpigmentation (changes the color during stress), thickens skin, increases sebum oil production, causes sweating, reduces cell turnover, and decreases wound healing speed
  4. Androgenes- male hormone that increases sebum production and hair growth with acne

In addition, these triggers increase the inflammation process in our body, which increases the production of free radicals resulting in deeper damage.

Since stress leads to increased sebum (oil) production, pigmentation, sweating and flushing, we can easily identify our skin changes and link them to stress.
Oily zones on our skin can easily reflect if we are stressing out or not.

When we stress out, oily zones in our body including the shoulders and the T-zone, start to produce more oil. You can also notice clogged pores because in addition to increased sebum production, we also have increased keratin production. In this case, our skin cannot self-exfoliate to reduce cell turnover resulting in clogged pores and painful bumps on our skin.
Other ways you can see stress on your skin is when your skin becomes dull and there are more blackheads because of increased pigment production. Additionally, you may notice red bumps around your upper arm (Keratosis pilaris).
Face map showing areas that are affected by stress, including T Zone and Hairline
Fact: Stress delays the would healing process
That is why you may notice that a scar from just one bump can take weeks to disappear.
The strangest part is that you can feel both oily and dry with flakey skin. This is because stress increases the synthesis rate of epidermal lipids that become damaged which leads to dehydration due to Trans Epidermal Water Loss.
Note: If your problems are not going away within 4 months, please consult a doctor

Stress Acne Fight

To be more relaxed, we suggest you partake in activities that release your negative stressed energy. It can be anything that you like from going to the gym, taking art classes, listening to music, morning or evening walks, or watching Netflix with a face mask on with our Mugwort Pore Clarifying Wash Off Pack. We all need a stress relieving source.
According to research, having a stable sleeping routine helps us to stay more calm and panic less.
Most importantly, take care of your stomach by eating healthy food. One more thing that stress does is damage your stomach which may lead to many other problems in addition to causing acne.
Graphic showing different ways to fight stress-acne
The way that you apply antioxidants and vitamins topically, you can also intake them by eating more fruits and vegetables filled with vitamins and antioxidants. You may like these:
blueberry, horse chestnut, kiwi, papaya, cucumber, strawberry, peach, apple, raspberry
They are filled with Flavonoids that provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. They fight hyperpigmentation without damaging or stressing the skin. They also prevent the degradation of the derma (deeper layer of the skin).

How to Minimize Breakouts

Step 1: Always remove your makeup before sleeping.

It is the most basic and the most important part of the skincare routine and breakout prevention.

Step 2: Wash your face twice a day.

Use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip away your skin’s natural moisturizing factors and keep its pH balanced (pH 5.5).
We suggest these two AXIS-Y cleansers for you. Both of them use coconut derived cleansing surfactants that are very gentle and mild for your skin. They keep your skin hydrated and clean:

Step 3: Use products that include chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA

This is to remove all those dead skin cells clogged in the pores. You can try our Daily Purifying Treatment Toner that has 0.5% of Salicylic acid and AHA to help you with exfoliation.

Step 4: Products that include Centella Asiatica

This will help you to reduce inflammation and boost the skin’s natural healing process to prevent acne scars and fight stress caused by UV lights.
Most of AXIS-Y products include Centella Asiatica:

Step 5: Do not forget to include products that have Niacinamide

This is to brighten up stressed and dull skin, increase the wound healing process, and fade post acne scars. Here is what you can try:
Our Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum which contains 5% Niacinamide.

Step 6: And please do not forget

To use sunscreen to protect from oxidative stress that is not only caused by stress but also by UV lights. Check out our Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen.

Most importantly make sure to keep your skin moisturized to prevent Trans Epidermal Water loss. You can use our Cera-Heart My Type Duo Cream.

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