The relationship between stress and acne- Part 1

Dear ACNE.ORG.ZA family


I recently had a stressful week and thought of all of you, and wondered how you deal with stress?
I have found when speaking to people who suffer from skin problems, they often say, I have had a stressful
week, and I am breaking out. Many people find that their skin problems get worse during a stressful period in
their lives.


When I hear someone making this comment, I try to remind others with skin problems that dealing with stress
in a healthy, holistic way is important. They shouldn’t just blame the appearance of pimples on stress, but
should be active in their response to stress. Research shows acne does indeed get worse when people are
under pressure, but there is no real reason for this, except that when you are stressed, your oil glands may be
overactive.

This leads me back to the question: do you understand how you deal with stress? Many people under
pressure go into a so-called “flight or fight”-mode. Psychology Tools explains it below:

“ The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee.”

Psychology tools

Both fight or flight responses could be negative or positive depending on the situation, but often when it comes
to dealing with acne, we see the negative side manifest. Below I have described two ways in which stress
acne manifests but for now, it is important to understand acne can be the result of many things. These include
an inflammatory gut response, bad hygiene, stress, genetic makeup and hormonal imbalances. I encourage
fellow acne sufferers to go on a journey and to explore why they have acne. Speak to your family and find out
who else had acne, be aware of how you handle stress, experiment with different foods to see what doesn’t work but for now, let’s focus on acne related to stress.

When we are stressed, we have certain coping mechanisms to deal with our triggers/stressful situations and
these coping mechanisms could be both positive, or negative.. 
When it comes to breakouts in stressful situations, we may not be as aware of our eating habits or our hygiene
as we sometimes go into survival mode. That often means we do the bare minimum in order to survive. I want
to focus on the most common ways in which we neglect our skin during stressful situations. These are
fortunately easy habits to change.
 
What are some of the unhealthy habits we pick up during stressful times that could inflame acne?

1. Acne Excoriee
Acne Excoriree is known as a disorder where a person has an uncontrolled response to stress by scratching
and picking the surface of their face. This often leads to making the smallest blackhead into the biggest pimple
or scar.

This is often unnoticed as you will pick while you are watching TV, reading a book or studying. If you are
unsure if you do this, ask someone close by to monitor you.

You may even go straight to the mirror to squeeze a pimple as stress relief, and be unaware of what you are
doing. This leads to the acne worsening, but fortunately, this is manageable.. 
This is just a habit, and as stated before, a stress relief response based on a trigger can be unlearned over
time, by means of patience and awareness. 

2. Not drinking enough water when you are stressed
I am a firm believer in drinking enough water. As a makeup artist, I can quickly tell if my clients are drinking
enough water. If they are not, their lips are sore, their wrinkles are defined, and the surface of their skin is
flakey. Once I have encouraged them to drink water, I can see a noticeable difference.
Water assists with releasing toxins in your body. The NCBI (US National Library of Medicine) speaks about
water being a natural lubricant for the body that also assists with the flow and barrier function. 

The barrier function can be seen as little soldiers fighting to keep nourishment and liquid in the body. It sits
between organs and the skin. Maintaining your barrier function can be both internal (drinking water) and
external (using a barrier cream).

What does the skin barrier do?
The skin barrier protects humans from infectious agents, chemicals, systemic toxicity and allergies, according
to an article from the NCBI, titled Skin Barrier Function.
We will elaborate about the barrier function in another blog post but for now, water is our skin’s external and
internal hero as it assists in the function of your body. It is important to drink water and stay hydrated when you
are stressed and not to neglect this habit.
There are many more factors that contribute to stress affecting your skin, but acne excoriee and not drinking
enough water are poor habits that can be corrected easily.
 
I would love to encourage you to get to know your skin – what makes it tick and what irritates it. Solving your
acne problems can be frustrating, but remember, if you change some of your habits, and find out the facts,
things will get better. All good things take time and there are habits you will need to pick up to maintain good
and healthy skin. 

Until next time, 
Your friend in the beauty industry,
Kristin Swan

References
National Institute of Health, relating to Skin Barrier function
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5967208/
Acne Excoriee
https://dermnetnz.org/topics/acne-excorie/
What is Acne?
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/acne
Dietary and water affects humans skin hydration
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529263/
Flight or Flight Response
https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/fight-or-flight-response/
How stress affects Acne
https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/stress-and-acne

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