Can Stress Cause Acne?

Can stress cause acne? In a single word, yes. However, the fact that we have stress in our lives doesn’t mean that is the only cause for acne. Actually, it isn’t the stress itself that causes acne. It is the results of stress on the body that contributes to acne.

Have you ever heard the phrase “stress kills”? Well, the reasons behind that statement are the same reasons why stress kills healthy skin.

Stress comes in many forms and in two primary categories; Physical and Emotional. Being able to recognize stress in our lives is hard to do sometimes, especially because it usually means taking a step backwards and taking a hard look at our lives. It isn’t unusual for people to realize that things we seem to enjoy are actually causes of different kinds of stress we deal with on a regular basis.

My Story

In part of my life I am a military officer. I’ve essentially been in military uniform since I was 14 years old as a high school Junior ROTC cadet. I can honestly say that being a soldier is just part of who I am.

The life of a soldier is much different than the life of a civilian in many ways and there are a number of physical and emotional/psychological challenges that are part of that life. The problem is that as a soldier these additional challenges are something we just accept and they no longer seem like a big deal.

As an example these challenges include:

  • High stress work environments
  • Periods of dehydration
  • Sleep deprivation or irregular sleeping patterns
  • Irregular eating schedules
  • Foods that have been processed in order to remain preserved for months and even years
  • Exposure to extreme environmental conditions like heat, cold, rain, wind and snow (I hate the cold)
    Separation from family

As a soldier I can say “yeah, all of these things suck at times, but its no big deal”. Unfortunately while it may be no big deal to my psyche, it may very well be a big deal to my body. I say all of this just to point out that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, there are likely stresses in your life that you consider to be “no big deal” or just part of something you enjoy doing however, your body may be having a hard time coping.

Physical and Emotional/Psychological Stresses

Some examples of physical and emotional/psychological stresses you might be overlooking in your daily life are briefly listed below. The best person to determine if something in your life is causing you stress is you, so please consider these as possibilities:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Financial difficulties
  • Lack of or even too much exercise
  • Traffic/Commuting to work
  • Relationship Issues
  • Health Problems
  • School
  • Depression
  • Loneliness or feeling like situations are hopeless
  • Smoking
  • Eating habits/Food selection
  • Drug and/or Alcohol use
  • Lack of defined purpose
  • Problems at work
  • Being a care giver
  • Overweight
  • Death of a friend or family member
  • The list, unfortunately could go on and on.

As I mentioned earlier, it isn’t the stress itself that contributes to acne and the effects of acne. It is actually the results of stress on the body, in any form, that may cause or contribute to acne.

The effects of stress on the human body are complex and well documented. There are thousands of resources on the internet that describe in great technical detail the physiological effects of stress on the human body. I’m not going to cover all of that and the reason why is because all of that information that I spent years in college studying isn’t going to help you take action today.

With that said, this is an overview of how stress can cause acne.

How Stress Can Cause Acne

One of the body’s responses to stress is with the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. Among many other things, the cortisol increases the amount of sweat and oil secreted through the skin, to include the face.

Acne has a few key ingredients. Sweat (produced by glands), skin oils (produced by glands), dead skin, bacteria, and the pores of the skin itself. Our skin is the largest organ systems we have, it’s called the integumentary system. So, it only makes sense that it experiences changes under increased levels of stress and an increased production of cortisol.

As the body responds to stress, either external or internal, it increases the likelihood that we will see some signs of the stress were under through our skin. This can result in acne, increase the severity of acne we already have, possibly make it more difficult to treat and allow it to remain longer.

Acne Treatment

Ok, so now what? We all have stress. Acne, especially for those of us that have or are suffering from severe acne, is very stressful all by itself.

Successful treatment of any medical condition in which the body can’t heal itself without additional help relies heavily on our personal ability to influence the things we can and make the changes needed to address the cause of the problem.

In a nutshell, just stop! When you finish reading this article, turn your computer off, turn your cell phone off, take a deep breathe, get up and take a walk.

Stop the cycle your in and step back where you can get a better view of your life. I’m not qualified or prepared to counsel you on how to best deal with the stress in your life, it’s different for everyone.

I know of a few qualified people that have advice on how to best deal with stress in our lives and how to get started. If you need help finding a good source for this type of help, send me an email and I’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

The point is that the stress we deal with can cause or contribute to acne and it’s severity. The good thing is that the stress we face in our lives is something we can directly influence and it’s part of curing your acne.

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