Hormonal fluctuations and genetics along with diet and lifestyle can cause breakouts, but did you know stress can as well? Studies suggest that stress can play a significant role in the development and severity of acne.
Stress is a natural response of the body to a challenging situation. It can be caused by physical, emotional, or mental stressors. When stress occurs, the body releases several hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can both directly and indirectly affect the skin's health and cause acne.
One of the significant effects of stress on acne is an increase in sebum production. Sebum is an oil produced by the skin's sebaceous glands, which help keep the skin lubricated and moist. However, when sebum production is excessive, it can clog the pores, leading to the development of acne. Studies have shown that psychological stressors, such as academic exams, can cause an increase in sebum production, leading to acne development.
Stress can also affect the skin's immune response, making it more susceptible to bacterial infections. One study found that participants who reported high stress levels had an increased number of acne-related bacteria in their skin samples. Stress can also cause inflammation, reducing the skin's ability to heal and increasing the severity of acne symptoms.
When people are in stressful situations they also tend to partake in unhealthy practices such as smoking, overeating, as well as consuming caffeine (think "healthy energy drinks") and alcohol in large quantities. The excessive intake of these stimulants can contribute to the development of acne as they lead to worsening skin inflammation and increase the production of sebum.
Stress is a well-known cause of several health problems, and breakouts and acne are no exception. The effects of stress on the skin, including increased sebum production, weaker immune response, bacterial infections, and inflammation, can all lead to the development and severity of acne. Therefore, healthcare professionals should consider stress as a potential cause of acne and provide patients with stress management techniques, as this will help reduce the development and severity of acne in individuals who suffer from stress.
Sources: Jović A, Marinović B, Kostović K, Čeović R, Basta-Juzbašić A, Bukvić Mokos Z. The Impact of Pyschological Stress on Acne. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2017 Jul;25(2):1133-141. PMID: 28871928.