The complex relationship between acne and stress

Whether it's the final week of exam season or an interview for your dream job, stress is an absolute killer. Between the anxiety, exhaustion, and all that pressure, you feel like your head is close to exploding. To cap it all, your skin has decided it's the perfect time to rebel and you've broken out in the most unholy bout of acne.
There's no doubt about it, the more stressed you become, the more your skin suffers.

Research has indicated a clear correlation between stress and acne. While stress doesn't appear to cause acne initially, once you have acne it can exacerbate the problem, leading to break outs and worsening flare ups that are already taking place.

Doctors have long since speculated that stress makes acne worse, but their evidence was previously anecdotal for the most part. Over the course of the last ten to fifteen years, however, new research has been carried out which suggests doctors have been bang on the money.

Stanford University published a study in 2003 indicating that college students were suffering acne flare-ups during their exams. This is a time of extreme stress, potentially one of the most stressful periods in the life of an adolescent, and acne outbreaks during this period were reported significantly more frequently than during less stressful times. The research concluded that the severity of acne in test subjects had a high correlation with increased stress levels.

Although researchers are still unable to say exactly why or how acne is exacerbated by stress, it is clear that cells producing sebum are affected by stress, having stress hormone receptors. Sebum is an oily substance which, when produced, mixes with your dead skin cells, as well as the bacteria in your skin. This clogs up your hair follicles, and leads to the development of an acne cyst or pimple.

Stressful times lead to an increased production in this oil, clogging more hair follicles, and causing more acne. This, in turn, leads to more sores on the skin. Stressed individuals are more prone to picking at such sores. This only makes the problem worse, and causes the acne to linger for longer, and spread further.

Although sebum is a likely cause of this correlation between stress and acne, it is only one possibility. It may be there are other factors at work, and that more than one thing causes stress to trigger acne. One thing is for sure, however - less stress is always a good thing. Given the clear correlation between stress and acne, keeping your stress levels as low as possible is an obvious precaution to take. Ensuring you have good cleansing products on hand to keep that sebum under control when you are stressed, is also a good idea.

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