This past year has been one of stress and uncertainty for many. Dr. Zenovia believes that it’s in times like these where taking care of ourselves is especially important. Stress can manifest itself in many ways including the health of our skin. Skin conditions that can become exacerbated by stress include psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Acne is the most common skin condition in which flare-ups coincide with elevated stress levels. Below, Dr. Zenovia highlights the top ways to treat and prevent stress acne.
Stress Acne Causes
While stress does not directly cause acne, it can trigger hormonal changes that can worsen acne, especially if you have acne-prone skin. Acne is the result of a combination of factors clogging the pores. One of these factors is hormonal fluctuations that are secreted by the endocrine system in response to stress. Cortisol and androgens, for example, escalate the production of sebum, leading to breakouts. Your body reacts to stress by elevating the levels of these hormones to put your body in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Another hormonal culprit is corticotrophin-releasing hormone or CRH. This stress-related hormone binds to receptors in the skin’s sebaceous glands and drives up the skin’s oil production. Since the sebaceous glands serve as immune organs, increases in stress hormone levels can lead to inflammation. Therefore, some people may experience not just breakouts but also swelling and redness when they're stressed. Chronic stress can have a huge effect on the immune system and increase the amount of time the skin needs to heal. If you’re always stressed out, breakouts may linger on the skin and are more likely to become acne scars.
Over the years, Dr. Zenovia has seen an increase in adult acne, especially among women. She attributes this to the fact that the patterns of female life are now different than they were 50 years ago. Women are using oral contraceptives for decades now and this may impact the hormone receptors on the tissue and the hormonal changes we experience throughout our lives. In addition, life is certainly more stressful now than a century ago and women are experiencing adrenal fatigue and other cortisol-related physiologic impacts.
Stress Acne Treatments & Prevention
Treatment and prevention of stress acne involves practicing proven stress-reducing techniques and sticking to an effective acne-fighting skincare regimen.
Dr. Zenovia’s recommended self-care practices include:
Sleep: Getting enough sleep is the most restorative thing we can do for our bodies and skin. Sleep decreases stress, lowers inflammation, and regenerates our cells. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. To improve your sleep hygiene, aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and read before bed instead of looking at your devices or watching TV. Removing electronic devices such as tablets and phones from the bedroom a few hours before going to bed will also help. Studies have found that when people read on blue light-emitting devices in the evening it took them longer to fall asleep. They also had less REM sleep and woke up feeling more tired, even after a full night's rest.
Mindfulness & Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help achieve a sense of inner-calm during stressful times. Go for walks outside and breathe in the fresh air. Do your best to stay grounded and remain calm.
Exercise: Exercise is a proven stress-killer. Dr. Zenovia loves yoga and Pilates! Find workouts that you enjoy and try your best to stick to a regular workout routine.
Healthy Eating: When we are busy and stressed, we often go for easy meals that aren’t the healthiest, but this can lead to breakouts and inflammation. Eating a poor diet rich in sugar and animal products increases inflammation in the body and on the skin. Try to incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes into your diet. Healthy eating helps prevent disease, optimizes our overall health, and can make us feel great! Additionally, it's important to avoid foods that are hard for you to digest. For example, if you have a gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause bloating, breakouts, and cause rashes or eczema to worsen.
Supplements: Dr. Zenovia recommends taking the supplements your healthcare provider recommends. Low vitamin D levels, for example, have been linked to hormonal acne. Your healthcare provider can determine if you are deficit in vitamin D and recommend an appropriate dosage. Other supplements that can help improve acne include zinc, fish oil, and B-vitamins. These all contribute to an anti-inflammatory effect. Probiotics are extremely important to take for gut health and can impact acne as well. A weak or dysregulated microbiome can lead to acne and other skin disorders.
Topical Preventative Treatments
In addition to stress reduction techniques, stick to an acne-fighting skincare routine that will help keep acne flare-ups under control, and prevent future breakouts. Hormonal acne is unique because the underlying cause is not just oil secretion but internal hormonal imbalance – and it can’t just be washed away. Hormonal acne must be addressed internally and needs targeted ingredients that topical products do not typically address. Dr. Zenovia’s Clear Complexion Collection is a complete acne complexion-correcting line of products specifically curated to calm skin while clearing blemishes.
All of the products include Dr. Zenovia’s scientifically developed REG-ulate360 Complex™ which includes medical-grade ingredients such as Resveratrol, Vitamin E, Green Tea, Genistein, which help to restore the appearance of hormonally imbalanced skin to an optimal healthy state. With the Clear Complexion Collection, powerful synergistic, clinical-grade ingredients work together with my REG-ulate360 Complex™ to help control sebum production, help minimize redness and inflammation in acne-prone skin, help accelerate the healing of acne scars. It is the synergy of ingredients that specifically addresses the causes of acne, including the local hormonal aspect which is unlike any other product.
No Picking: Picking pimples is often stress-triggered which can further exacerbate our acne. Picking also carries the risk of causing acne scarring. Dr. Zenovia suggests using a pimple patch or spot treatment on spots.
Consult A Dermatologist
A board-certified dermatologist can help you determine a personalized acne management plan. A dermatologist can also help you determine other causes for your acne besides stress. Consider keeping a journal that tracks when you get stressed and when you breakout. This can help determine a possible correlation. A dermatologist may prescribe oral antibiotics or other treatments for stress acne.
Note from Dr. Zenovia: Try your best to remain mindful during stressful times. You will get through whatever you’re going through!