iStock_000022206640_FullAcne can certainly stress you out, and as it turns out, stress might cause acne as well. (Which is extremely rude! I mean, you were already stressed about that quiz without acne to worry about!)

Stress and Acne Studies

Many studies have been conducted suggesting a possible link between stress and acne, but don’t go blaming it all on your parents’ nagging just yet. Though it appears that there’s a link, it hasn’t been proven and they certainly don’t know why it’s caused.

Scientists used to think stress increased the amount of sebum (an oil that clogs your pores) produced by your body. But scientists don’t always know everything, and since then, researchers have determined that this is a bit of a jump. What they did find out, in a 2003 Stanford University study, is that college students suffered more acne breakouts during exams than times when no testing was taking place.

That’s not all. Another group of researchers at Wake Forest University looked at a group of secondary school students in Singapore and twice measured the stress levels of the students—once before midterms, when everyone’s stress juice was a-churnin’, and once during their summer break from school, when everyone was relaxed. The results showed that 23% of the students who reported a high stress level due to midterms also had a greater severity of pimples.

Though none of these can explain why stress causes acne, the biggest clue in the search for that answer is that the sebum-producing cells do have receptors for stress hormones. This means that, even though we’re not sure how they are alerted that the body is stressed, we know the cells have the capacity to receive communications about it.

Stress Side Effects

Stress can make you do some weird things, and picking your pimples or other blemishes is one of them. Even if it’s helping you take your mind off of an exam or your risky plan for a promposal, do not pick or pop your pimples. It only makes them worse (which may make that whole prom thing even harder). And chill out a bit. It’s actually possible to over-treat your blemishes when you get too stressed, so make sure you’re only using the recommended amount of any treatment or medication.

Also, when the body experiences stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels can be associated with acne because it causes the release of more inflammatory molecules, which would exacerbate any existing acne.

Dealing with Stress

Do you know what stress is? Exactly what it is?

It is important to realize that “stress” is a common term, but the actual condition of stress can be hard to define precisely. First of all, there’s not just one kind. The two main types of stress are emotional stress and physical stress.

Emotional stress can be caused by everything from bullying to performance anxiety and relationship issues to an overwhelming workload. Physical stress, on the other hand, can be caused by lack of sleep, an overly demanding workout regimen (work hard, but train smart!), or a hectic lifestyle, and it can result in strained muscles, aches or shortness of breath. Everybody interprets and deals with stress in different ways, which is why it is important to understand your stress and deal with it in a healthy way.

All Summed Up…

While it is not officially proven that stress causes or worsens acne, the connection is there. Everything that occurs in our bodies is affected by our hormones, and in this sense, stress can be a common trigger. It is important to take care of your stress levels, just as it is important to take care of your skin.

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