You may have noticed that your busiest and most stressful days happen to coincide with your worst breakouts. Some believe that acne-flare ups are just a cruel coincidence while some swear that a hectic lifestyle directly affects their skin. According to our resident board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, stress is not the primary cause of acne. However, your ways of coping with stress and the effects that stress has on your body can definitely exacerbate breakouts. We’re here with all of the facts about the connection between your stress and your acne, so you’re better prepared to deal with both.
Stress & Your Immune System
Pimples in their simplest form are inflamed or infected hair follicles. To fight infection, your immune system sends white blood cells to destroy germs. However, when you’re stressed, your brain tells your endocrine system to release hormones that prep your body for emergency situations. Unfortunately, these hormones also severely depress your immune system, lowering your body’s ability to fight inflammation. Because of stress, your body may also release a hormone called CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), which can increase the skin’s oil production and cause pimples.
The best way to combat oily skin is to exfoliate regularly. Dr. Lee recommends a gentle, exfoliating cleanser like SLMD's Salicylic Acid Cleanser. This is especially important in the morning, as your skin has been producing oils and shedding skin cells overnight. As counterproductive as it may sound, choosing the right lightweight moisturizer can also help those of us with overactive sebaceous glands. Make sure your moisturizer is water-based rather than oil-based, like SLMD’s Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15.
Stress & Your Lifestyle
Stress can also have adverse effects on your lifestyle. Everyone reacts to stress differently, but common symptoms are trouble sleeping, poor eating habits, and disruptions to normal skincare routines. Lack of sleep can lead to acne for several reasons. First off, disruptions to your sleep cycle can trigger your body to release those same acne-causing hormones that lead to excessive oil-production. It also prevents your body from conducting its natural night-time repair process, which is when your skin cells turnover. In terms of your diet, dairy consumption has been linked to acne due the presence of additional hormones. A high-glycemic diet—one with many refined carbohydrates, including sugar— rapidly raises your blood glucose and insulin levels and may lead to more frequent breakouts by causing inflammation and skin stiffness. A busier schedule can also cause your skincare to suffer. Maintaining a consistent skincare routine is so important in managing oil levels, keeping your skin clean and preventing breakouts.
Dr. Lee is a huge proponent of simple, quick and practical skincare regimens. She created SLMD’s Acne System to fit this criteria. This easy system provides three steps to take morning and night to treat and prevent breakouts. It includes a Salicylic Acid Cleanser to gently exfoliate and clean skin, a BP Lotion, which can be used in the morning to kill acne-causing bacteria, a nighttime Retinol Serum to encourage skin cell turnover, and a lightweight Facial Moisturizer to hydrate and brighten the skin.
Stress & Skin Picking
One of the most harmful and common responses to stress is picking at your skin. When faced with nerves and anxiety, many of us suffer from a condition called neurodermatitis, which causes us to pick or scratch at our skin. Although this is an extremely widespread reaction, it often worsens any redness or inflammation.
Dr. Lee’s best advice at overriding this instinct is using a spot treatment instead! Spot treatments give your pimple a concentrated dose of acne-fighting ingredients and remind you not to pick at your face. As soon as you feel a pimple coming, dab a spot treatment on the targeted area! For red or inflamed pimples, use a spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide, like SLMD’s BP Spot Treatment. This treatment combines Benzoyl Peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria, with Allantoin to soothe skin and Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant. If you’re experiencing blackheads or whiteheads, use a spot treatment with Salicylic Acid, like SLMD’s Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment. This powerful pimple fighter features Salicylic Acid to exfoliate, Witch Hazel to clean bacteria, and Camphor to enhance your glow.
The last thing you need when you’re stressed is a breakout. With these tips, you can keep your skin healthy and happy, so the rest of you can follow suit.