Why do we break out when we’re stressed?
Have you ever had a pimple appear the day before you’re about to start a new job? Or maybe you’ve broken out, right after a stressful exam? Wherever your woes are derived from, when we’re experiencing emotional stress, there’s a lot going on under the skin that leads to an eventual breakout.
Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin and our hormones play a big part in the acne cycle. For women, acne breakouts are all too familiar when a period is on the way. Estragen levels in the body drop and testosterone (an androgen) levels start to soar and boost oil production in the sebaceous glands. This increase in oil leads to clogged pores, inflammation and results in – you guessed it – breakouts.
When we stress, another hormone is released – cortisol. Just like testosterone, cortisol goes to work on inflaming the sebaceous glands and turns pimple production into overdrive.
There’s not a lot you can do to halt the production of cortisol in your body. In fact, we actually need it – it’s an essential hormone that helps to control blood pressure, it increases your metabolism of glucose, and it also reduces inflammation (just not your acne inflammation). Instead of trying to stop it altogether, we should be looking at ways to reduce it.
How to get rid of stress pimples
Before we talk about the ways to reduce stress, let’s first talk about the breakouts that are already on your face. The good news is that there is an answer to clearing up those stress pimple areas.
1. Manage your skincare routine
Implementing an iron-clad skincare routine is the first, and most important, step in defeating stress pimples.
A morning and night-time routine of cleansing, treating and moisturising will help break the cycle, but it’s important that your treatment products contain acne-fighting ingredients. Need to know more about which ingredients to look for on the label? Here’s the list to save to your shopping list:
Glycolic acid: An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates the skin’s surface and helps with cell renewal and skin rejuvenation. It also assists ageing skin by softening lines and fading brown spots, too.
› Find it in: Skin Smoothing Exfoliator
Benzoyl peroxide: This is ingredient should be your first pick in your acne-fighting line-up. This special chemical goes straight into the pores and kills bacteria, helping to clear up blemishes caused by stress and prevent new ones from forming.
› Find it in: Pore Targeting Solution
Salicylic acid: Beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) is another key exfoliating ingredient but it works in a different way to removes the debris that’s clogging your pores. It also helps to brighten and even out skin tone.
› Find it in: Complex Perfecting Hydrator
2. Learn how to better manage your stress
Now that your skincare routine is sorted, let’s talk about stress. This is an everyday reality for most people and impossible to completely get rid of, so here are some healthy ways to reduce stress and in turn reduce those breakouts.
Get some sleep
When we’re sleep deprived, our emotional stress and physical stress levels increase. Aim to get the requisite eight hours a night. Having trouble falling asleep? Develop a night-time routine to help you wind down – turn off your mobile devices an hour before bed, get into the habit of reading books and prepare to drift away.
Learn how to meditate
Meditating is more popular than ever and learning how to meditate is easy.
Tip: Check out the Headspace or Calm app for free lessons in how to meditate. It’s a tool used by many top performers to reduce stress ahead of a busy day at work.
If meditating is too “woo woo” for you, just trying breathing. When you’re faced with oncoming stress, shut your eyes and take seven deep breathes. You’ll be surprised at how this little pause in your day can help.
Sweating a little bit every day is a tried and tested way to reduce stress. Getting in just 20 minutes early in the morning can clear your mind and get your endorphins soaring. Just be sure to wash after intense exercise to get rid of the sweat and bacteria that can lead to breakouts on both your face and body.
Seek help from a therapist
Anxiety and depression are serious health issues caused by stress that should always be treated as such. If you feel like stress has taken over your life, reach out to a health professional to get the help you need. Just think of therapy as a new tool in your self-care belt and don’t be afraid to seek it out.
At the end of the day, we’re always going to be faced with stressful situations in our lives. But if we can get ahead of the game and understand what triggers our stress, we have a shot at reducing the level of cortisol in our bodies and slow down our stress acne cycle. Couple your new stress-fighting tactics with a skincare routine, like Proactiv’s three-step kit, you might have a shot at keeping stress acne at bay for good.