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I’d like to say that I never get stressed out. That I breeze through my day like a serene goddess, untouched by the troubles of mere mortals. That 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.
Yeah, not so much.
In reality, I get stressed out about a lot of things. Burning my Pop-tart? Causes me stress. The Atlanta commute? Causes me stress. Random call from a telemarketer? Causes me stress.
Then all that anxiety triggers my acne-prone skin. And a stress-induced acne breakout? Yeah, you better believe that causes me EVEN. MORE. STRESS.
This isn’t just a vicious cycle, it’s a vicious merry-go-round, and I want off the ride!
I mean, who knew that stress wasn’t just bad for my temper and sanity, but for my face?
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.
Apparently, 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 own 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 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.
It can be a crazy, stressful world out there. But don’t forget to breathe, take some personal time, and pamper yourself a little. Girl, you deserve it!
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