Most of us would think that acne is a teenage issue that would ebb as we step into adulthood. This is a myth which has been busted thanks to the large number of adult patients visiting dermatologist’s office owing to acne problems. It is natural for many adults to wonder if there is a correlation between stress and acne. It has now been scientifically established that stress certainly aggravates hormonal fluctuations, which in turn, cause acne. In fact: the stressed out skin (in both, men and women) is not just prone to acne but to a plethora of other skin conditions like hives, psoriasis, dermatitis etc.
Stress and acne in women
Women in their 30s and 40s often start breaking out, even when they have enjoyed a clear skin as teenagers. Adult acne in this age is mostly related to hormonal fluctuations that are caused by the monthly menstrual cycle. Women acne sufferers tend to worry about their breakouts which in turn lead to stress in the body. Stress then lengthens the period of time over which the acne flare-ups occur. So, it is a vicious cycle: hormones, breakouts and stress related to them again cause hormonal fluctuations over and over.
Even men are not spared
This vicious cycle of stress and acne flare ups is not limited to women alone. Adult males with the tendency to breakout also experience stress-related chemical imbalances that worsen the existing acne.
Let us a see a detailed explanation on how stress and acne are related to each other.
Stress and Acne – The Equation
In adulthood, one experiences different forms of stress. It can come from work overload, conflicting priorities, conflicts with colleagues, an unpleasant work atmosphere, challenging deadlines, financial issues and so on.
In some cases, work related stress is good as it helps exhilarate and motivates one to do better. But too much stress also raises the cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone which affects all other female hormone levels. These hormone imbalances lead to an increased sebum production which clogs up the hair follicles in the skin. Clogged follicles accumulate dirt and dried sebum leading to blackheads, whiteheads and acne pustules.
Pre-menstrual stress in women is another common factor causing acne breakouts. Many women tend to experience sugar cravings during this time. Sugar feeds the bacteria in the body. So, if a clogged hair follicle is already harboring the P. Acnes bacteria (the bacteriaresponsible for adult acne), the higher sugar levels in the blood end up aggravating the breakouts.
What can you do about stress?
Often to deal with stress, adults take up smoking or alcohol. They do not exercise or follow a healthy diet. They tend to worry about not getting enough sleep. All this leads to even more sleepless nights. Stress then becomes a factor that sends their lives on a downward spiral.
Hence, more and more dermatologists are recommending their clients to alleviate stress rather than simply focusing on skin care routines to control adult acne. While it is true that every adult acne sufferer must use a gentle cleansing-toning-moisturizing routine, it is even more important to use mind body techniques to eliminate stress. Only this can prevent adult acne breakouts.
If you are suffering from stress and acne related to it, do talk to your dermatologist about the right skin care techniques to use in this condition.