Does Stress Cause Acne

In our modern society, we have to deal with numerous sources of stress, and we all know that stress can negatively affect our physical and mental well-being. So, the question is; does stress cause acne?

Medical professionals tend to be split on this question, but their have been recent studies that would seam to indicate that stress does cause acne.

However, don’t worry, there are many things we can do to help manage stress. First let’s try to understand what we’re dealing with.

What Is Stress?

Stress(wiki) is defined as any taxing of our emotional or physical being. Most people don’t necessarily think of stress as something physical, but especially in the case of acne, it is important to examine both sources of stress in your life.

Sources Of Emotional Stress:

  • Relationship troubles.
  • Anxiety about future deadlines, events, or anything important to you.
  • Uncertainty.
  • Loss of a loved one.
  • Anything else that taxes your emotions unduly.

Sources Of Physical Stress:

  • Overworking your body. This could be playing a sport that is too demanding, an exercise schedule, or anything else that is more than your body is used to.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Physically taxing habits such as smoking, drinking, or drug use.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Anything else that taxes your body unduly.

How Does Stress Cause Acne?

There are a few ways that stress may cause acne. Stress elicits an inflammatory response in your body, and acne is an inflammatory disease. It may be that the inflammation associated with stress is causing or worsening acne breakouts.

…stress may reduce the healing capacity of our immune systems by as much as 40%.

Another possibility is that stress triggers a hormonal reaction that leads to excess sebum (skin oil) production. When we are stressed our adrenal glands release excess Androgen (male sex hormones).

Androgen stimulates the sebaceous glands causing them to enlarge and release more sebum, which leads to clogged pores and more acne.

Lastly, stress slows your bodies natural healing response. Some estimates show that psychological stress may reduce the healing capacity of our immune systems by as much as 40%. So, even if stress isn’t directly causing acne, it may be increasing the amount of time it takes for acne to heal.


Studies Support Stress And Acne Connection

A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest sheds some light on this debate. The study was conducted in Singapore where variables like temperature and humidity rarely change.

…students were 23 percent more likely to have breakouts during periods of high stress…

The researchers followed 94 high school students suffering from mild to moderate acne for several months. The researchers found that the students were 23 percent more likely to have breakouts during periods of high stress such as before a major test.

Interestingly, the sebum levels of the students did not change very much throughout the study. This may indicate that the stress acne was caused more by inflammation.

Either way, this study seams to indicate that stress does indeed cause acne.

How To Control Stress Acne

There are tons of ways to combat stress. Here are some of my favorite:

Exercise Helps Control Stress Acne

One of the best ways is to exercise! As long as you don’t overdo it (which could cause more stress) exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, acne included.

Exercise helps control stress in several ways. It reduces physical stress related to being unfit or sedentary. It increases blood flow to the brain.

Jogging For Exercise

More blood flow means more energy and oxygen to help your brain when you’re thinking hard, and it helps remove the toxins that are the waste products of all this hard thinking.

Exercise also triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood. Endorphins give you a sense of happiness.

Cigarettes, drugs, and lots of other things out there trigger the release of endorphins, giving you a happiness high. Well, exercise is the natural, healthy way to do it.

Lastly, exercise has tons of other bonuses unrelated to stress. Here’s one example. Exercise has been shown to improve immune system function, which would help fight acne bacteria, and accelerate healing of acne spots.

Sleep Helps Control Stress Acne

This is my favorite way to reduce stress-related acne, and it’s pretty straightforward. Not getting enough sleep leads to both physical and mental fatigue, which in turn causes more stress and more sleeplessness.


It’s a big cycle, and if you don’t get enough sleep, your body will suffer the repercussions. It’s that simple.

Other Ways To Fight Stress Acne

There are tons of other things you can do to reduce stress. You can experiment with meditation, breathing exercises, acupuncture, massage, diet, hobbies, and a million other things. Just do a search for “ways to manage stress”, and find something that works for your situation.

Well, I hope you found some useful information, and I highly encourage you to start a stress management program. If not for your acne, then for your overall health and sanity!

And please, if you have had a problem with stress acne, tell us about it. Let’s work together as a community to find new and better ways to deal with our acne problems. As always, good luck!

About Sophia Simmons

This article is written by Sophia Simmons. She is an independent researcher with a passion for beautiful skin. In the past, she has struggled with her own acne troubles. Now she tries to help other people suffering with acne find their own unique paths to healthy, clear skin.

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