How to Fight Stress-Related Breakouts
With more time than ever to focus on our skincare routines, what gives? It turns out that stressful situations can have a big effect on acne. We chatted with CLEARstem Skincare founders Danielle Gronich and Kayleigh Clark to find out more.
Here's what you need to know about stress's impact on acne, and what you can do to fight it.
Sweety High: How exactly does stress cause acne?
CLEARstem: We tend to break this down into two categories: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is situational and tends to pass quickly, such as cramming for an exam in two days. You know what the trigger event is, and you know it's only temporary. Then there's chronic stress, which is something we live with on a daily basis and is always with us, including health concerns, financial worry, stressful jobs or relationship issues.
Both types of stress increase the hormone cortisol, which can lead to acne because it changes the composition of our oil, making it thicker and stickier. Acute stress is more likely to drastically change our immediate behavior, like consuming extra caffeine and staying up way past our regular bedtime to cram for that exam. These behavioral changes also contribute to acne flareups but can generally subside once the trigger event is over and we go back to our usual routine.
Chronic stress is much more impactful on our overall health—and therefore skin. This is prolonged, unresolved distress on our immune system that not only increases cortisol for longer but also impairs our immune system as well. Acne is very much linked to the immune system, so when it is compromised, our skin does not clear well, and acne can continue to spread.
SH: Does acne appear in different parts of the body or behave differently if caused by stress?
CLEARstem: Stress acne can appear anywhere but generally comes in the form of more inflamed acne wherever you would normally break out. Often, people have specific breakout zones that trouble them the most. Stress acne is not as specific as sugar acne, for example, which dominates the forehead.
SH: How might stressful events (like the current pandemic) make stress-related breakouts even worse?
CLEARstem: COVID is a combination of acute and chronic stress, so now it's more important than ever to make time in your routine to take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing! Play some music and dance around your room, cook something hearty and delicious, journal, and have meaningful conversations with friends and family. These are all stress-relieving activities than can be done amidst a pandemic from the comfort of your home. For those who are prone to picking, the stress from this pandemic can make things worse, so step away from the mirror and turn down the lights to avoid temptation.
Self-care is so important. We all need to consciously take time for our own mental health by doing things like journaling, thought work, talking with our friends and making physical health a priority. Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to manage stress and combat the effects it has on our acne. No matter what's stressing you out, be sure your routine includes regular exercise (at least four days a week) and try to at least get outside for 20 minutes each day, even if it's just sitting alone in your backyard. Our minds handle stress better when we have healthy routines, and it definitely helps our skin too.
SH: What can we do to manage acne breakouts under stressful conditions?
CLEARstem: Eating foods that are low in sugar will help since we're not as active as we normally would be during this time. Managing existing breakouts can be done by developing a good skincare routine.
CLEARstem products are made specifically to safely and effectively manage acne caused by both acute and chronic stress. The entire line uses only ingredients that are non-toxic, non-comedogenic and anti-inflammatory and that promote healthy cell turnover.
Additionally, using clay masks is beneficial. We love the Aztec Healing Clay and the Soothing Clay Mask from Face Reality. Ice packing any existing acne is also extremely helpful and can be done as many times per day as you like. And one good thing about being at home all day is that it's never been easier to stay hydrated. Try to drink at least three liters a day to flush out toxins and promote healthy skin.
SH: How can we avoid a vicious cycle of getting acne because of stress, and then stressing out because of additional acne?
CLEARstem: Using the right kinds of products and exfoliator for your skin type is really the key thing here. Check the ingredients in the products you use for pore-cloggers [see a comprehensive list HERE] to make sure your products aren't causing breakouts. It's also important to switch to completely acne-safe and anti-inflammatory products, like the ones from CLEARstem Skincare. Additional acne is going to be stressful no matter what, so using 100% acne-safe products is critical.
SH: What else should our readers know about stress and acne?
CLEARstem: That it's not just about what you put on your body, but also what you put in your body. What you eat directly impacts your skin health and contributes to acne. Avoid acne-causing foods like eggs, dairy, and excessive sugar. Always make time for your own emotional happiness, and if you have a stressful situation, just remember it will pass and you'll be stronger on the other side of it.
Acne has multiple causes, so the best way to fight it is with information. We're releasing a "Ditch Your Acne" course that teaches people how to check their product ingredients, create their own skin regimen and eat for clear skin. It's great for teens and families to participate in together because acne runs in families, and usually there are multiple people who need this info!
Eager to get your acne under control while you're stuck inside? Click HERE for an expert's top tips on combatting body acne.