Acne under stresses:  How to handle your level of stress

Acne under stresses:  How to handle your level of stress

Dec 28, 2022Zaryab Fayyaz

Stress can hit hard, especially during these unprecedented times.  Days or hours before a wedding, a reunion, a hot date, or a big presentation at work, a blemish (or two, or three pimples) appears, giving you yet another reason to feel stressed.

But do you know that many adults, at one point or another, have dealt with acne?

However, in many cases, acne breakouts may be a symptom of underlying conditions like stress and hormonal imbalance.

Stress acne is just as popular as other types of acne. This guide will educate you on all you need to know about dealing with stress acne, its cause, treatment, and how it differs from other forms of acne.

What is Stress acne?

Ever wondered why your skin tends to break out more when you’re stressed? Well, the science behind this is that when the body is stressed, its stress hormones rise, triggering oil glands to produce more oil, which in turn, triggers acne.

Stress acne, unlike hormonal acne, occurs during periods of stress. On the other hand, hormonal acne causes breakouts during one’s period.

Tracking your acne triggers is the best way to differentiate between both types of acne. So note the timeline of your breakouts. Are you breaking out after a period of stress or during your monthly cycle?

If you find that you are breaking out in the same place around the same time of the month, your acne is likely caused by hormonal imbalance, especially if it takes on the form of painful cysts.

On the other hand, stress acne typically appears in the oiliest parts of the face. These stress pimples and acne lesions appear on the face’s T-zone and are usually accompanied by dilated pores, shininess, blackheads, whiteheads, and uneven or grainy skin. Stress acne could also be accompanied by telltale signs like redness and itchiness.


Stress can cause many types of physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes, you may not realise these symptoms are caused by stress. Here are some signs that stress may be affecting you:

  •         Diarrhoea or constipation
  •         Forgetfulness
  •         Frequent aches and pains
  •         Headaches
  •         Lack of energy or focus
  •         Sexual problems
  •         Stiff jaw or neck
  •         Tiredness
  •         Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  •         Upset stomach
  •         Use of alcohol or drugs to relax
  •         Weight loss or gain

Why do we get stress related to acne?

Many of us have experienced a breakout when we’re stressed out. But why do pimples develop when we’re under pressure? Why does stress cause acne? The answer is simple. Stress hormones (like cortisol) increase oil production and overall inflammation, which causes acne flare-ups. With that in mind, it’s vital to improve your overall mental well-being so you can prevent stress acne.

Where do you get stress acne?

Breakouts show up on our faces in different places for different reasons. For example, women experiencing hormonal issues are likely to have acne on their jawline. However, stress-related acne typically pops up on your forehead, nose, and chin — just like when you were a teenager — because these are the oiliest parts of your face. Stress pimples can be a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and pus-filled pimples. One way to tell if you have acne that’s stress-induced is if a batch of pimples appears all at once, whereas hormonal acne typically appears gradually.

How to stop stress acne?

Are you wondering how to reduce stress acne or how to prevent them in the first place? The most straightforward answer is to control your stress levels and adjust your lifestyle as best you can. Here are some places to start.

  • Practice mindfulness

Being mindful of your actions and feelings can help you control your stress levels. If you’re new to the practice of mindfulness, here are some ways you can incorporate it into your lifestyle:

  •         Take time to eat each meal (no wolfing down lunch at your desk)

  •         Spend time in nature

  •         Meditate

  •         Exercise or engage in an activity that gets you up and moving (like dancing to your favourite song)

  •         Cook a new recipe

  •         Practice breathing exercises

  •         Try out a new hobby

  •         Focus on one task at a time (don’t multitask!

  • Get enough sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is vital if you want to reduce stress-related breakouts. Sleep deprivation has been known to contribute to hormonal imbalances that trigger oil production and lead to breakouts. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally while you sleep and is also associated with stimulating your immune system and protecting against bacterial infections, which helps fight acne.

Need a little assistance powering down or staying asleep? Evening rituals, like a warm bath, herbal tea, or relaxation before bedtime, encourage a good night’s rest. Once you are in bed, make sure you’re sleeping on clean sheets and pillowcases (this is one of the places where dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil can collect and then re-clog your pores).

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet

A clear skin diet should exclude foods high on the glycemic index — things like white pasta, rice, bread, and sweets — because they spike sugar, which can also increase oil-producing hormones. The best diet for healthy skin includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown reduce inflammation and help with mood regulation (among other benefits). So make sure to add omega-3-rich foods like salmon, avocado, flaxseed oil, and walnuts to your grocery list.


If you’re experiencing stress acne, you may have to tweak your skincare routine a bit — especially if you’re not used to getting breakouts. For example, swap your cleanser out for a formula with an acne-fighting ingredient like salicylic acid. Use a spot treatment that incorporates bacteria-busting benzoyl peroxide. But whatever you do, don’t ditch your moisturiser just because you’re experiencing more oil. The trick is to use a lighter formula that keeps your skin balanced, not greasy. Stripping the skin of its natural oils will only cause it to produce even more sebum, which can exacerbate breakouts.

Always remember one thing that only you can control your stress levels, we can only help you manage the breakouts that come along for the ride.

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