I’d like to say that I never get stressed out. I breeze through my day like a serene goddess, untouched by the troubles of mere mortals. I wake naturally with the sunrise, have time for yoga and green tea, and accomplish every task on my to-do list with grace and ease.
But in reality, I get stressed out about a lot of things. Burning my Pop-Tart? Stress. The Atlanta commute? Stress. A random call from a telemarketer? You guessed it, stress.
Then all that anxiety triggers my acne-prone skin. And that stress-induced acne breakout? Yeah, you better believe it causes me EVEN. MORE. STRESS.
Now I see what they mean by a "vicious cycle." But who knew that stress wasn’t just bad for your temper and sanity, but also bad for your face?
Stress and Your Skin
My skin isn’t great at the best of times, and when I’m stressed, things go from bad to worse.
First of all, stress is bad for your immune system, which is ultimately bad for your whole body. Stress damage to your immunity can lead to all sorts of problems. It’s been linked to issues like asthma, cardiovascular issues, or difficulty combating infections and bacteria — such as the P. acnes bacteria that cause acne.
Stress can also contribute to itchiness and the big acne no-no of skin picking. If you’re like me and pathologically incapable of keeping your hands off your face, this may sound familiar.
Stress can trigger your body’s nervous system and cause you to feel burning or itching sensations. I get this on my face all the time, and it makes me crazy. It’s tough to keep from absentmindedly scratching, especially if my conscious brain is busy trying to do something useful like, oh, I don’t know, WORK.
If you are struggling with blemishes, picking at your face is the last thing you want to do. Plus, it’s exhausting to be constantly on guard against your instinct to scratch at the irritation. Dang it, stress!
On top of all this, stress can contribute to the formation of breakouts. It won’t cause acne on its own, but if you’re already on the acne struggle bus, stress can make matters worse.
Stress Hormones and Acne
Stress isn’t just in your head, it’s an actual physiological response that can impact the inner workings of your body. One of the primary ways stress can physically affect you is through the release of hormones.
The OG stress hormone is cortisol. Cortisol can do some good things, like regulating your metabolism and blood sugar. But over time (say, due to chronic stress), it can also do a lot of damage. Besides breaking down muscle, slowing healing, and screwing up your digestion, it can wreak havoc on your acne-prone skin.
Cortisol can prompt increased production of sebum (skin oil) and skin cells, two major components in the formation of acne. So the more cortisol in your system, the more breakouts can pop up to spoil your week!
Stress also triggers CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone). CRH can dysregulate your sebaceous glands, which hang out beneath your skin and produce sebum. The CRH also activates inflammation, which plays a starring role in the swelling, redness, and irritation of acne breakouts.
We all have our vices and bad habits. We’re only human! But some of these little quirks may be bumping our stress levels up more than we know.
- Caffeine: Is coffee your thing? Or maybe you drink a LOT of cola. Watch out, because the caffeine inside can make your anxiety spike dramatically, sometimes doubling your body’s stress response.
- Lack of sleep: Caffeine may also keep you up at night. And not getting enough sleep? That’s also going to increase your stress, night owl.
- Burnout: Another stressor may be the tendency to overcommit yourself. Do you say yes to every task, favor, and invitation that comes your way? Pace yourself! Burnout is real, and it ain’t pretty.
- Procrastinating: When you do have unavoidable responsibilities, don’t wait until the last minute. Procrastination now will mean stress later, as you try to rush through an assignment or end up bringing work home with you. Do anything you can in advance. Seriously, future you will be so grateful.
Tips to Reduce Stress
- Get organized. I don’t mean color-code your closet...though, you can do that too if you want. We’re talking about organizing your tasks and priorities, so nothing falls through the cracks or sneaks up on you. I am a compulsive list-maker. Crossing things off is incredibly motivating! Pro tip: I use highlighters, so I can still read all my accomplishments (and feel smug about them later).
- Quality time with family and furbabies. Never underestimate the power of a good snuggle!
- Exercise. It’s all about those endorphins. Reduce stress, feel awesome, and improve your fitness all in one fell swoop!
- Less caffeine, more sleep. I know, easier said than done. But isn't it worth it, for a calmer mood and calmer skin? Try easing off the coffee in the afternoon and evening, and tucking yourself in at an earlier hour.
- Have a self-care spa night. Light those candles, run that bath, and put on your favorite chill-out jam. Relaxing your body can also help relax your mind, lower your stress, and ease you into a peaceful sleep. For an extra luxurious experience, unwind with Averr Aglow’s Illuminating Essence Exfoliating Mask and Rejuvenating Essence Body Polish. You can apply the mask while you soak in the tub, the volcanic ash and silica depositing nutrients and smoothing your face with gentle exfoliation. Follow up with the body polish to treat yourself with an invigorating, antioxidant-rich scrub! This power duo can help fight your stress breakouts and leave your skin velvety soft.
It can be a crazy, stressful world out there. But don’t forget to breathe, take some personal time, and pamper yourself a little. You deserve it!