Does Stress Cause Acne?

Does Stress Cause Acne?

Does blemished skin give you the anxiety of those high school days of school dances and gym class? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

While we always think of the red bumps of acne as hormonal puberty problems, it simply isn’t true. Acne breakouts can happen to any of us at any age or stage in our lives. 

Mild acne can be pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads that pop up. These form when dead skin cells, bacteria, and excess oils combine (sometimes with hair follicles) become congested in the pores.

More severe acne can include painful cysts and nodules.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, chill. Yes, stress-causing acne isn’t exactly a myth. Today we want to talk about what stress does to our skin and to our bodies. Then we want to arm you with a few ways to combat your acne flares.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the chemical response from our brain to our body when faced with difficulties. It could be a task that we have trouble completing or an upcoming event that causes worry. Anything can bring on stress if we have to worry about it. 

Words like worry and anxiety are synonymous with the effects of stress. Just because we label them differently doesn’t protect us from the inevitable side effects. 

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Where Does Stress Affect?

Stress can affect your mental, emotional and physical health. The amygdala is the area of the brain in charge of emotional processing. When faced with an overwhelming decision or situation, the amygdala releases a chemical response.

Think of it in terms of a flight or fight response. Your amygdala releases the chemicals that tell you how to respond to any given situation. 

Do we blame our amygdala for giving us acne when times get stressful? No, not necessarily. The amygdala is just responsible for triggering the response in our body. It doesn’t tell us how to respond.

Other responses in our body and other parts of our brain tell our body what to do. Our heightened heartbeat and quickened breathing are all the responses triggered by the amygdala telling our body something stressful is happening. 

Then What Happens?

Thanks to a few connected responses and triggers from our brain, our body starts to respond to these stressful events. Our body naturally will create increasing heart rate, adrenaline, and faster breathing, among other responses. But other parts of our brain are responsible for our personal responses.

Personal responses are how we each individually react to stress. This is different from the chemical responses that happen in times of stress. We can’t necessarily control the adrenaline released. Yet, we do have power over our habits that have resulted from stressful events.

Ok, But Does Stress Cause Acne?

Yes. But no. It really isn’t that simple. 

Stress hormones like cortisol can cause your oil glands to increase oil production (sebum).

A study conducted at the University of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia reported findings on this famous question. One hundred forty-four women took place in the study, with various skin types ranging in age from 22 to 24. They were all medical students, so the study centered around women dealing with high amounts of pressure all the time.

It was important to get women of the same educational background to manage the effects of stress. If women varied in studies, these would then be stress factors that didn’t equal each other. 

What did they find? They found that stress did create higher releases of hormones in women that felt more stressed than others. However, this didn’t necessarily relate to each woman’s stress acne; it was determined that only women that were prone to increased breakouts actually saw more acne from stress. 

What Does This Mean for Acne-Prone Skin?

This means that unless we are prone to acne, stress can’t definitely be blamed for excessive breakouts. Conclusively, the study noted that women prone to more acne than others saw breakouts increase during stress. Genetics is a huge influencer on skin conditions.

But this wasn’t the same for every woman. The study found that mostly hormones from stress only delayed healing from breakouts; it couldn’t be fully tied to new breakouts that occurred. 

What Else You Need To Know

Just because this study couldn’t conclusively say that stress directly caused breakouts doesn’t mean that stress doesn’t equal acne. What this means is that our emotional and physical responses to stress play a factor in causing breakouts. 

We need to look at what happens to each of us as we deal with stress that leads to breakouts. 

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is one of the biggest factors in stress leading to breakouts. Our diets under intense amounts of stress aren’t always balanced and healthy. These foods that we turn to for emotional support are more closely related to hormones in our bodies causing acne than just those associated with stress. 

If you notice an increase in acne around your chin, forehead, and jawline, you can blame these foods as part of the culprits. 


We know; it’s a real trigger for us too. But chocolate is one of the most popular foods that people turn to in times of stress and duress. Did you know that chocolate releases endorphins when we eat it?

This is why when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we usually crave a candy bar or a sweet chocolatey treat. It helps us cope with stressful events and gives us a hormonal response that our bodies didn’t get on their own. 


Maybe chocolate isn’t your thing, but you do like a cupcake here and there when things get trying. Sugar will also give you some of the same comfort factors to stress that happen with chocolate.

So even if chocolate isn’t for you, you might notice that when you’re stressed out, you crave a cake or donut and feel relieved when you satisfy the craving. 

People who consume higher amounts of added sugar tend to see their skin break out more than usual. Remember that refined sugars like to hide in some of our favorite snacks, not just treats. Even if you don’t run for a slice of cake every time you get stressed, all those baguettes could be adding to your acne. 

Fast Food

Stress can cause many of us to lose sleep. We stay up all night worrying about what might happen the next day due to the events that are piling over from other days.

When we get hungry when we are tired like this, we tend to make poor choices concerning our food. Fast food is perfect on those days. Don’t have to cook, get food in minutes, and don’t even have to get out of your car. 

But that high intake of bad fats, grease, and sugars are hurting our skin. Our skin is already working overtime, trying to calm us down. So when we consume these foods during times of stress, we increase our chances of breakouts. 

Other Factors

There are other factors that can lead to increased breakouts, and we definitely need to address them so we can all work against them in the future. 


Makeup is fine, don’t think we are saying you shouldn’t wear it. Of course, your natural beauty is amazing, but if you like getting dressed and dolled up, do it! But remember to wash your face at night. 

Many times we put on makeup, go out for the night, and come home exhausted. In these moments, we tend to fall asleep without washing our faces. Makeup that is allowed to settle on our skin overnight can clog pores and lead to breakouts. 

We could be going out to blow off steam from stress. If that’s the case, we see a breakout and automatically think it came from stress. But really, it’s because we forgot to wash our faces. 


We want to be very clear here: working out is GREAT for you. But remember to wash your face afterward. Sweat is a great way to cleanse your body and pores, but that sweat sticks to your skin after a good run. 

If we don’t wash our faces after working out, we are allowing all of that sweat to settle back into our pores, and it WILL cause breakouts. 

What Else Causes Acne?

Some other things that might increase your breakouts include pregnancy and some birth control pills.

Is it Hopeless?

Absolutely not. There are many ways we can counteract a lot of these skin and stress-related issues. Not only will your skin benefit, but so will your peace of mind. 

Skin Care Routine

It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a good skin care routine will help keep breakouts at bay. A skin care routine with a cleanser, moisturizer, and toner can be a big help. Ensuring that you wash your face daily and nightly will keep your pores clean and fresh.

Anytime you run or wear more makeup than usual, make sure to wash your face as soon as possible. This will keep all of the sweat and foundation from clogging pores and causing acne. 

Once you’re in a good routine, make sure to stick to it religiously. Your skin will get used to the routine and rely on consistency. If you start to slip, you might notice breakouts returning full force.  

Need help? Ask your dermatologist for their recommendations.

Make Sure to Sleep

Adequate sleep keeps us fresh and ready for the day ahead. If we sleep enough and recharge for the day ahead, stress won’t increase as quickly. Which will mean we won’t have as many unhealthy emotional responses as in the past.

If you need help getting settled at night, try our SleepyPatch. The all-natural blend of mandarin, lavender, vetiver and sweet marjoram essential oils will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Consider these patches like a spot treatment for your sleep.


While meditation is more for your brain than just your skin, it’s still very helpful. Finding positive ways of dealing with anxiety helps us to respond better to stress.

When something happens that triggers an emotional response, being able to meditate and calm down helps keep us grounded. We won’t be as prone to reach for bad snacks or unhealthy lifestyle choices if we have a positive way of dealing with anxiety or worry. 

Plus, a lack of stress can help reduce plaque psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.

Keeping Cravings At Bay

Being able to curb those cravings in times of stress will greatly increase our skin health. We know that these serotonin-releasing snacks are great at the moment. But the effects they leave on our bodies, especially our skin, aren’t what we were looking for. 

Making better food choices is a win-win. We will make better and more nutritious options for our bodies and promote better lifestyle habits for our families. It’s no secret that our choices reflect on our children. Why not set them up for success as adults by creating a positive relationship with food for them now?

For a little extra support, try the CravePatch. Powered by essential oils, these patches will help you turn your nose at those foods that normally draw you in, leading to an upset stomach and stressed-out skin.

Keep Those Hands Off

It’s a habit we all have, especially when we are worried about our skin. But keeping those hands off our face will help curb breakouts. We have oils on our hands that aren’t natural for our faces. Even if we wash our hands constantly, there are still residues on our hands that our faces can’t handle. 

Keeping the habit of touching our faces at a bare minimum keeps those oils from penetrating our pores. Once they do, our chances of breakouts increase tenfold. 

You’re Ready To Glow

We are confident that you have the knowledge and know-how to keep your breakouts and stress levels at an all-time low. It can be hard to arm your body with the tools it needs to protect yourself from stress, but it is so vital. 

While we know that stress doesn’t exactly equal acne, we also know that our responses to stress can. Having healthy habits in place of poor ones will keep our stress from overwhelming us and making our skin freak out.


Psychological stress as acne cause | Dermatology Times

Top 7 Foods That Can Cause Acne | HealthLine

Understanding the stress response | Harvard Health


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