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Stress and Acne

We all know the classic TV sitcom cliché: just before the big dance/date/job interview the main character sprouts a massive, unsightly whitehead that utterly destroys their confidence.


It’s a tired trope but it’s cliché for a reason. Breaking out in acne at the least opportune times happens more often than we would like to admit, but what is it about these moments that facilitates such dramatic irony?

Frustratingly, the answer is good old-fashioned stress.


Even more frustratingly, scientists have yet to come to a consensus on what exactly it is about stress that triggers breakouts. Thanks to certain tests performed on college students around exam time, they are sure acne and stress are inextricably linked; it’s just not fully clear why that is. There are theories, however.


One explanation places the blame on a stress-related hormone called CRH. When you get stressed, this hormone is released and, in theory, can bind to the receptors in your skin in charge of producing oil, or sebum. This over-production of sebum can end up clogging pores resulting in a breakout.

Another theory points to how we deal with even the potential of acne in times of great stress. While some people wait until a pimple has developed to pop it, others don’t have the patience. Possibly fearing the prospect of a breakout ruining an upcoming event – like the aforementioned big dance/date/job interview – some begin to compulsively pick at their inflamed pores, aggravating the situation and leaving them worse off.


The last possible explanation has more to do with a person experiencing an above average amount of stress over a long period of time, as opposed to an extreme amount of stress over a short time. When you are stressed for long durations, your immune system is negatively affected. This means that if and when you develop acne due to any number of factors, including stress, the rate at which it heals will be greatly diminished, possibly resulting in scarring.


We realize that stress and acne may seem like a vicious cycle: you’re stressed, you break out, you stress about the acne, you break out more, etc. We want to make sure you don’t fall into that spiral so here are some tips combat the negative effects of stress.


The first step is to start treating that acne properly. Knowing that you’re dealing with your breakouts in the correct way should provide some comfort and hopefully mitigate some of that stress.

Start by clarifying your skin with a gentle exfoliant that polishes away dirt and oil. Then treat your skin with an oil reducing cleanser, preferably one with Salicylic Acid. Once your skin is a blank slate, use a powerful spot treatment on specific trouble areas to reduce redness, calm the skin, and speed healing.

All of these acne treatments and more can be found in the Lira Clinical ICE Line.

Once you have your acne treatment where you need it, the only other step is to do your best to manage your stress. We realize this is much easier said than done since stress and the situations that cause it are just a part of life, but that doesn’t mean it has to get the best of us.

Figure out the anti-stressor that work best for you. Whether it’s turning off your phone and listening to your favorite album, lighting a candle and diving into a good book, dimming the lights and meditating for a while, going on a long walk, venting about your problems to a patient loved one, melting into a hot bubble bath with some pino – we could go on and on but you get the point.

Take the time to care for yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s good for you.