You’re reaching the end of a hectic week and the cherry on top of it all is a brand new zit, right in the middle of your forehead. Why does it always seem like when you’re feeling anxious, tired, and ready to throw in the towel, your skin decides to freak out too?
It’s no coincidence. Stress can play a big role in how your skin looks. Let’s find out why:
Why it Happens
Stress causes lots of changes in your body, thanks to some chemistry magic that gets started when you encounter something that puts you on edge. When you’re stressed out, your body releases cortisol — a little hormone that can cause lots of problems. So many, in fact, that some doctors consider it “public enemy number one.”
Cortisol is released by your adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight response. Besides messing with your complexion, it can cause increased blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, and poor attention span — and that’s just the start of the list. Yikes!
While stress alone won’t cause acne, if you’re already prone to the condition, chances are that while you’re stressed you can expect to see more spots. In the past, we only had anecdotal evidence of this connection. Now, we’ve got some research to back it up. A 2003 Stanford University study found that students had more acne during exams, when they also reported the highest levels of stress.
Sebum-producing cells have receptors for stress hormones, and it seems sebum production goes out of control when we’re stressed. This excess sebum, combined with dirt and bacteria in our pores, results in a breakout. Doctors aren’t sure why stress is tied to more sebum production, but they do know that some people are also more inclined to pick at their skin when they’re stressing, which can make the appearance of acne even worse.
What to Do
Here’s some tips for when you and your skin are angry.
1. Don’t Pick!
It might be tempting but don’t do it! Picking at your zits just makes them worse. It can result in scarring plus more zits from touching your face with dirty hands.
Instead of squeezing, treat your skin with the stuff that’s proven to work. Benzoyl peroxide is the standby: easy to find, easy to use, and effective. Just pick up a tube from the drugstore and apply it to your spots, then watch them do a vanishing act.
If benzoyl peroxide doesn’t work out for you, you’ve still got options. Sulfur can be great for acne if you can stand the smell. It’s an effective antibiotic and keratolytic (this means “skin shedder”). Zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid can also be big helpers when you’re battling the breakout.
If you’ve exhausted your over the counter options, talk to your general practitioner or dermatologist about retinol. Retinol is touted as the skin wonder drug by many doctors — it’s effective at both treating acne and lessening the effects of aging on skin.
It’s a great idea to begin a regular skincare routine if you find yourself in a battle against your own skin often. Often, a regular routine that includes washing your face day and night, moisturizing, and treating any spots can make all of the difference in the condition of your skin. Try sticking to a routine for a month and see how your skin reacts.
1. Eat Right and Hydrate
Finding ways to incorporate skin-saving antioxidants isn’t hard if you put a little thought into your dinner plans. Antioxidants are substances that help reduce the damage done to your cells by oxidation. Your body already produces some antioxidants, but you can also absorb them from the foods you eat to give your body a boost.
Staying hydrated can also keep your skin clearer. Dehydration can throw off the balance of sebum production. Water helps rid your body of toxins and can reduce the concentration of oil in your skin. This means reduced appearance of wrinkles and pores, and plumper, glowier skin, so make sure you get enough!
1. Release Stress
The best way to fight stress-related skin problems is to get to the source of the problem. When you’re stressed, there are some steps you can take to help relieve some anxiety.
Try working out as a great way to clear your head. Hitting the gym has proven mental health perks, so making it a regular part of your routine has plenty of health benefits. As long as you make sure you wash your face thoroughly after each workout, a good run or lifting session might be the way to clearer skin.
Meditation, writing down what’s stressing you out, and talking about what’s bugging you with a good friend are all also great ways to help lift your spirits. Whatever you do, don’t bottle it up! You’ll feel much better if you sort through your emotions, and the way to a clearer complexion is a clear mind. Your skin is a good indicator of your overall health, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, a little self-care goes a long way. Make time for yourself and your skin will thank you.