Acne and Stress

Stress is when certain internal and external forces affect a human being. When an individual experiences stress, he or she responds in different ways. People usually consider stress as something negative  since it can cause various health problems like sleep disorders, skin disorders, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity etc. Stress can affect the skin and cause various problems such as acne, hives, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema. 

However in biology, stress can be considered positive, negative or a neutral experience. Some external factors that create stress are job, interpersonal relationships, physical environment, home etc. Internal stress refers to the ability of the body to handle circumstances like ill health, nutritional status, lack of sleep, poor fitness levels, emotional upheavals etc. 

Stress and Acne

Some studies have shown that acne and stress are related. Stress can cause acne especially in women who have fast-paced careers. In response to a strenuous lifestyle, the body produces more androgen – male hormone – in women. This increases the production of hormones such as cortisol, which stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Hair follicles get blocked with this excess oil production and cause acne to flare. 

Stress can worsen skin problems. For example, if you already have acne or rosacea and you are stressed out, the outbreak can increase to other parts of the body or develop into more severe forms of acne like cysts. Sometimes, a person with severe acne can be so depressed and embarrassed to step out in public that they can become stressed. This in turn only worsens the outbreak.

Treatment for Stress-related Acne

If you are suffering from both acne and stress, there are certain remedies that can help control the outbreak. For this, you will need to target the cause – here stress – and find a cure for it. Once stress is controlled, you can control acne outbreak with regular medications. Here are some remedies you can adopt to help you.

Diet – a healthy lifestyle is essential to reducing stress. Hence heat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats etc. Reduce consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.

Exercise – This is an effective stress management tool. Exercising regularly can promote heart health, reduce high blood pressure and distract you from stressful events. Practicing a varied exercise regime is more beneficial and interesting than simply sticking to one routine. It is important to start slowly especially if you have never exercised before. First discuss your options with your doctor who will give you a physical and determine the intensity of exercises that will suit you. After this, you can choose various exercise programs like:

stress and acne

  • Aerobics
  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi

Yoga is especially meant to help you deal with stress. It offers other psychological benefits like increasing body immunity, normalizing endocrine function and decreasing anxiety.

Acupuncture is said to improve some physical conditions that cause stress.

Hypnosis can prove beneficial to those with sever stress.

Massage therapy is said to reduce cortisol levels that cause stress. Some of the popular massage therapies that are beneficial to reducing stress are:

  • Swedish massage that uses smooth strokes, tapping and kneading muscles
  • Shiatsu that applies concentrated pressure on areas similar to acupuncture treatment
  • Reflexology that manipulates hands and feet

Natural Remedies: Chronic stress can be relieved using natural remedies. These remedies must be undertaken only by practiced technicians. Some popular natural remedies to relieve stress are:

  • Aromatherapy uses essential oils to produce a calming effect. One such oil is lavender that has long been used to reduce stress. Lavender and other calming essential oils can be used in baths, massage therapy or as room fresheners.
  • Valerian is an herb that has sedative properties and is a product that has been certified as safe by the FDA. Care must be taken when using valerian since it causes many side effects.

Ayurveda is a popular treatment option for various illnesses. According to this, diseases are caused by internal organ imbalances and restoring this balance promotes good health. Ayurveda deals with 3 biological doshas or energies – vatta, pitta, kapha. Acne is caused when these 3 doshas get aggravated (especially pitta dosha). Some triggers that aggravate pitta dosha are stress, tension, bad food habits, pollution etc. Some ayurvedic remedies that can restore the body’s balance and cure stress are:

  • Drink ½ cup aloe vera juice twice a day
  • Use face packs made from orange peel
  • Prepare a mixture of water and nutmeg and apply to the acne lesions
  • Drink herbal preparations (Sunder Vati) that contain ginger, Kampo, Embelia ribes and Holarrhena antidysenterica

Home Remedies: However stressed or tired you are at the end of the day, do not neglect your daily skincare regime. First have a hot bath to relax the body. Then, indulge in any activity that helps you unwind at the end of the day. This could be a massage, exercise, reading, watching television, taking a bath etc. Simple stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing and visual imagery also help. Drink plenty of water. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep everyday. Seek counseling if you are going through a traumatic period in your life. 

Here are some basic meditation techniques that you can follow at home:

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet place
  • Close eyes
  • Breathe naturally
  • Pay attention to your breathing and think about nothing or something
  • Don’t control your thoughts but remain detached from them
  • Continue for at least 20 minutes
  • When the time is over, take a minute to return your mind to normal awareness before opening your eyes

Psychodermatology for stress

This is a new field of medicine, which combines treatment of skin conditions like acne and stress. An expert in psychodermatology treats skin problems that occur due to stress or worsen due to stress.   This field of medicine aims to treat emotional problems and skin disorders. Some practioners combine both a medical and psychology degree. Sometimes, experienced dermatologists can get some psychology training to help stress-related skin disorders. This form of treatment combines traditional acne remedies with hypnosis, meditation or counseling etc. 


As we see, there are many benefits to de-stressing. Apart from controlling acne flare-ups, reducing stress can improve overall health. Hence, try to find things each day that will help you relax and be happy. Exercise, a good diet, activities that relax you and a good night’s sleep can all relieve acne and stress.