Stress Spots – The Link Between Stress and Acne

If you suffer with oily skin and acne then you may well have tried every anti-spot product under the sun. But have you tried just… relaxing?

Many different things can cause acne and spots which tend to be a result of hormonal imbalances, dietary problems and more. Stress spots in particular are a common issue though and it might just be that if you have severe acne, the culprit is your emotional stress.

Though this might seem surprising to some at first, it all really makes sense when you really think about it. After all, the last time you had an urgent deadline at work or you were studying for an exam, did you find that it showed in your skin? When you’re tired, hungover or upset… doesn’t that also cause oily skin, bags under your eyes and other symptoms?

Ironically this is also why brides will often find themselves with boils on their noses on their big days. The more stressed you are about potentially getting spots, the more likely you are to get them!

What Causes Stress Spots?

SpotsSo how are stress and spots linked?

One explanation is that stress can cause inflammation via the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This can then cause the inflammation of the skin resulting in the release of sebum and pores breaking open. This latter result can then lead to redness around the area and an influx of pus, AKA a zit.

Stress also causes the adrenal gland to respond with the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine. Higher levels of androgens have been correlated with acne and can ‘overstimulate’ glands that produce oil around the skin. They can also alter the development of hair follicles in the skin. Similarly adrenal hormones also increase sweat which can also exacerbate spots.

All this results in more redness, zits and inflammation in the skin – or in other words stress spots and an outbreak of acne.

How to Combat Stress Spots

With all that in mind then, how do you prevent stress spots?

One option is to avoid unnecessary stress wherever possible, though you should be doing that anyway! Another is to recognize the likelihood of stress leading to acne and the mechanisms through which this occurs. At this point, products that prevent inflammation (such as topical retinoids with vitamin A derivatives) and prevent oily skin are more likely to be effective. You should also avoid other things that can exacerbate the release of stress hormones and these might include the likes of caffeine, cold weather or overly demanding exercise regimes. Oral contraceptives can also clear acne in women by balancing hormones, while getting a good night’s sleep is also very effective for helping to balance hormones and neurotransmitters.

Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman is a full time writer specializing in psychology as well as the broader health niche. He has a BSc degree in psychology from Surrey University, where he particularly focused on neuroscience and biological psychology. Since then, he has written countless articles on a range of topics within psychology for numerous of magazines and websites. He continues to be an avid reader of the latest studies and books on the subject, as well as self-development literature.