As any sufferer- past or present- of acne can tell you, the emotional repercussions of this skin disorder can be devastating. Acneic issues, as well as their emotional toll, can be seen well beyond puberty into adulthood and are not limited to gender, skin type, or skin tone. But while those breakouts are busy stressing you out, all that stress is also taking a toll on your breakouts! To help end this vicious acne-stress cycle, it is necessary to understand the role stress plays in the formation of acne and the role we can play to minimize the harmful effects stress causes in the body.
WHAT IS ACNE AND WHY DO I HAVE IT
At its most basic level, acne is a skin disorder caused by overproduction of oil and the proliferation of the p. acnes bacteria in the skin. This can then lead to blackheads, whiteheads, blemishes, and further irritation. Seems simple enough, right? But what is at the root of it all? This part is far more complicated and there are a multitude of potential causes and irritants behind that breakout, including- but not limited to- make-up, poor quality or poorly used skincare, hormonal fluctuations, and gut imbalances. All these different causes add up to one thing: inflammation. This is the underlying source of all things acne.
WHAT DOES STRESS HAVE TO DO WITH IT
Stress, just like the previously mentioned irritants, affects inflammation in the body. When we experience stress or anxiety, it diminishes the effectiveness of our hormone cortisol, which is responsible for regulating inflammatory responses. If stress is allowed to ravage the body for a prolonged period of time, inflammation can continue to grow out of control, unchecked by cortisol and diminishing our own ability to fight off disease and other bodily attacks.
So what does this mean for breakouts? If inflammation is at the root of those blemishes, your body will have an awfully hard time keeping breakouts under control- let alone actively healing them- with ever-increasing levels of inflammation. This is why we frequently notice those zits rising to the surface after a particularly rough period at work, or why that ongoing argument with your significant other left you with some stubborn pimples. More to the point, this is why, when you start breaking out and heavily stressing about it, you are unfortunately only prolonging the irritation and making it more difficult for your body to heal.
HOW CAN I FIX IT
There is nothing more frustrating than being told to “just chill out” when you are stressing. In fact, this usually just leads to more stress over not being able to “just chill out.” This is because it is not nearly that easy. There are a number of proven ways to help minimize stress in your life and prioritizing these forms of self-care is becoming increasingly necessary as we are seeing rising levels of chronic stress in all ages, especially among younger people. Yoga, meditation and breath work, massage, working out, and even therapy are highly effective in diminishing stress levels. While treating breakouts is highly personal and requires treatments and product regimens specific to each acne patient, any acne treatment plan should include a plan to deal with stress causing and caused by acneic issues. This will better alleviate the associated inflammation and thereby encourage speedier healing and reduced intensity of future breakouts!