Is There a Link Between Acne and Stress?

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Been having inexplicable breakouts lately? Are you currently treating cystic acne that won’t go away completely? It could be a sign of stress. We all know stress can harm the body but did you know it could also ruin your skin, making you prone to incessant breakouts?

To know how stress affects the skin and trigger major acne breakouts, you need to understand the biochemistry behind stress in the body.

High-pressure situations could cause the body to feel stressed out. Essentially, the brain sees stressful situations as a sign of physical danger.

The body will start metabolizing food faster to draw more energy needed to react to emergency situations. The blood pressure shoots up, the heart starts working even harder. This leads to increased mental alertness, increased strength, oxygenized blood, and more energy released. All these things happening in the body might sound like a good thing but too much stress could be bad for you too.

The body reacts to any kind of demand by different chemicals in the blood, including the stress hormone cortisol — a hormone excreted by the adrenal gland. Although cortisol has its benefits, it does weaken the immune system, leading one to become vulnerable to common ailments. Stress also manifests in different ways, one of which includes wreaking havoc on your skin.

What Causes Stress?

Stress is categorized into two: physical and emotional stress. Different types of stress include survival stress, internal stress, environmental stress, and fatigue.

Survival Stress

One of the most common causes of stress is the body’s response to danger. This is also known as the “fight or flight” response. A burst of energy is released to help you fight or escape certain situations.

Internal Stress

Internal stress is also known as emotional stress. When you’re going through tough situations, your body becomes stressed out. Internal stress manifests itself as depression, anxiety, etc.

Environmental Stress

The body reacts according to the environment. For example, too much noise, crowding, and pressure from family or work could stress out the body, leading to mental and physical deterioration.


When the body is overworked, it starts to weaken physically — this leads to chronic fatigue, a state when you’re lethargic or you feel weak all over. Fatigue is one of the hardest types of stress to avoid.

The Link between Acne and Stress

Stress doesn’t just disrupt the mind, it also manifests in different ways — including incessant breakouts. When you’re stressed out, the equilibrium of hormones is thrown off; the skin starts getting irritated from cocktail of hormones in the body. This results in excessive oil production and the development of blocked pores. Eventually, painful cystic acne will start popping all over your face. Clinical tests suggest that stress may worsen a pre-existing acne breakout; it does not cause new flare-ups of acne.

Scientists agree that the link between stress and acne lies in excessive sebum. However, psychological stress doesn’t necessarily lead to excessive sebum production, suggesting that acne may be caused by other forms of stress. Experts believe that to avoid acne, it’s important to determine the root cause of stress.