Can Stress Trigger Acne? Explore the Link and Solutions in 4 Steps

Acne is not just an external issue caused by the accumulation of pollutants, oil, and bacteria on the skin. It is usually an internal issue that is caused by various underlying factors and lifestyle choices. 

Thus, it is important to understand the causes of acne and how stress directly or indirectly contributes to it.

1. What Causes Acne?

Does Stress Cause Acne?
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Acne can be caused by various internal and external factors:

1.1. Pollution

Exposure to dirt and dust particles leads to the clogging of your skin pores. This leads to the accumulation of excess sebum, which is produced by your skin. Therefore, the deoxyribonucleic acid present in your skin gets oxidized by air pollutants. This leads to wrinkles, inflammation, redness, and acne. 

1.2. Excess Sebum Production

Sebum is the natural lubricant or oil your skin produces to maintain a protective moisture barrier. However, the accumulation of sebum over a prolonged period of time clogs your pores and results in an increase in bacterial activity. This is especially obvious for oily skin types. If you feel like your skin could open its own oil-manufacturing company, you probably have oily or acne-prone skin. Congratulations on being naturally hydrated, though. 

1.3. Lack of Sleep

Who would have thought that sleep was necessary? Not even your panda-like eyes could convince you to get 8 hours of proper rest. Your body rejuvenates, restores, and repairs (including your skin cells) itself when you sleep. Thus, you will see a natural and healthy glow after a good night’s rest. Lack of sleep results in the production of stress hormones and weakens your immune system against the bacteria on your skin. Moreover, if you get proper sleep, you naturally have elastic skin like mochi due to the production of collagen. Maybe, not as delicious as mochi though.

1.4. Unhealthy Food Choices

If you eat oily, fried foods, carbonated drinks, and sugary treats often, you will get acne breakouts. These foods interrupt your insulin level and are difficult to digest. This leads to a disruption in your hormonal levels and results in pimples and redness. 

1.5. Environment

Look around and be honest with yourself. Is your ceiling straight out of a horror movie? With cobwebs and dust? Is your room messy? When was the last time you cleaned and changed your pillowcase or bed sheet? Your environment is a reflection of your health, both internal and external. A clean pillowcase and dust-free air will never cause acne. Get and start cleaning if you think it is needed. 

1.6. PCOS/Hormonal Acne


According to studies, PCOS, or Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the most common causes of infertility among women. In fact, it affects numerous women worldwide and it is estimated that 70% of the cases remain undiagnosed, Hormonal acne, which is often painful and puss-filled is a common symptom of PCOS. 

It is strongly advised to seek medical health in this case and not to use chemical products without a prescription. 

1.7. Bad Gut Health

Your gut is like a natural filter that absorbs what is necessary and discards what is indigestible. Now imagine, clogging this filter with junk foods, alcohol, and sugary treats. Not only is your gut deprived of natural fibers in fruits and vegetables but also absorbs harmful substances. Naturally, your skin will have acne since your skin reflects your gut health. 

1.8. Does Stress Cause Acne?

Does stress cause acne? The question you have been waiting for. Precisely speaking, it does not directly cause acne but it can trigger your hormones and worsen your acne. Thus, stress can be an indirect cause that leads to breakout. Moreover, acne can cause severe stress. This is seen in teenagers and young adults, who struggle with self-image and the impossible standards set by filtered influencers and make-up artists. 

1.9. Wrong/Too Many Skins Care Products

Does Stress Cause Acne?
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If you have been using too many skin care products but nothing seems to work, you might be using the wrong products or unnecessary products. Go to a dermatologist or aesthetician and find out more about your skin and what works best for you. Remember, keep it simple and clean. 

1.10. Other Medical Conditions

Medical conditions like PCOS, Cushing Syndrome, acromegaly, and so on can cause acne for you. Therefore, it is necessary to go to a professional dermatologist and get it checked. Sometimes, acne is caused by internal factors which are primarily out of your control.

2. How Does Stress Affect Your Hormones?

When your body is anxious and stressed, it signals your brain to release cortisol and adrenaline. This in turn affects your estrogen/testosterone levels, which are essentially sex hormones present in both men and women at various levels..Hormonal imbalance is common in teenagers. However, stress can trigger this phenomenon.

3. Cure and Treatment Options

3.1. What can You do?

There are a few factors that you can control to keep your acne in check.

3.1.1. Diet/Food

Eat leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts for glowing skin. Dairy products and sugary treats can trigger acne. Therefore, it is advisable to consume skimmed milk and stay away from too much carbohydrates. Junk food or packaged food worsens your acne. 

3.1.2. Sleep

Take plenty of rest. Sleep for at least 7-8 hours every day for healthy skin and human eyes instead of panda-like eyes.

3.1.3. Overworking

Overworking without rest can cause stress, which in turn can worsen your acne. Go for a brief stroll while you work. Also, walking naturally releases endorphins that reduce anxiety and stress. You will be surprised how effective a few minutes walk every day can be.

3.1.4. Gut Health

It has been previously discussed why and how your gut health is important. In addition to that, it is advisable to consume healthy food and drink an adequate amount of water daily to flush out toxins from your body, The build-up of which otherwise, can cause acne breakout. 

3.1.5. Exercise

Exercise helps to release healthy hormones in your body in a natural way. Not only does it keep your body and mind fit but also acts as a natural way of disposing of your body’s toxins as you sweat during your workout. Even if you do not go to the gym, it is suggested to do an everyday workout at home. Exercise also keeps you happier and more active throughout the day.

However, remember to take a shower after your workout. Otherwise, you will stink and the sweat and oil produced by your body will gather on your skin to cause acne. 

3.1.6. Meditation

Meditation calms your mind and boosts your ability to focus. Thus, in tense situations, instead of panicking and stressing over what went wrong, you will be calmer and try to look for a solution, if applicable.

3.1.7. Skin Care

Does Stress Cause Acne?
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Skincare should not be layering off expensive products, just because you think more is better or your favourite influencer told you so. Remember, selling skin care products is the goal and work of a beauty influencer. However, it is your responsibility to act like the gut and filter out what is unnecessary and bad for you. 

Keep a cleanser(containing salicylic acid if you have acne- this is no medical advice) and use a serum and moisturizer afterwards.  Remember to always use sunscreen suitable for your skin type(oily, combination, dry, and sensitive).

3.2. Go to a Dermatologist 

What Causes Acne and How To Treat It - Dermatologist Perspective

If nothing works, do not try out more products. It is strongly advisable to go to a medical expert instead of listening to skincare gurus and influencers for your acne treatment. Everyone’s skin is different. What works for you might worsen someone else’s skin condition. Remember to check the ingredients and research about them before using them especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Going to a trusted dermatologist is safer than listening to a self-proclaimed skin expert on social media. Remember that your skin is a protective shield that not only keeps your organs intact but also protects you by absorbing external shocks. Be thankful for it and take great care of it. 

4. Final Words

Stress can trigger or worsen the condition. But having acne is the natural proof that your skin is fighting for you daily to protect you. The inflammation, redness, irritation, and scars tell a story of survival against external threats from bacteria to heat to mechanical shocks.

Therefore, it is necessary to understand your skin personally and look after your diet, sleep, and skincare routine.

Your skin is your armour and bears the marks against time, dust, heat, and infection. Therefore, you have spots, blemishes, pimples, blackheads, and hyperpigmentation. Perfect flawless skin is an illusion sold by companies and influencers to use your insecurities as bait for their profit. Thus, filtered skin is glorified over naturally textured skin.

Remember that skin should look like skin instead of glass or plastic. Do not let the impossible and toxic beauty standards become normal for you.

Last Updated on December 25, 2023 by