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How to Combat Stress Acne and Breakouts

Finding your calm just might help clear your skin and prevent breakouts.
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Stress. The word itself is triggering and can put us on edge. Stress affects each of us differently, and one of the issues that can come up is acne caused by stress. But fear not—practicing and maintaining healthy choices and routines are effective methods of keeping stress to a minimum (and your acne, too).

How does stress cause acne?
If you didn't know by now that hormones and inflammation can play a role in your skin, now you do. When stress hormone and cortisol levels rise, this causes the oil glands to produce excessive oil. From there, it's similar to how other acne breakouts occur: the acne causing bacteria, dead skin cells, and the overproduced oil from the oil glands clog the pores. High stress levels can also impair the skin and its barrier function. If you're someone who experiences constant stress, you may notice a link between it and breakouts. One way to combat an acne breakout caused by stress is with stress management.

How can I combat acne caused by stress?
There are a few forms of stress management that can combat high stress and cortisol levels, which can lead to fewer breakouts.

  • Exercise: Good news! Any form of exercise, from a short walk, dancing around in your house, or spin class, can reduce stress levels (just be sure to use an acne body wash after building up a sweat! This helps keep pores clear and body acne at bay). Any amount of exercise can go a long way towards improving stress—but is one better than the other?
    Dermatologist and pharmacist Dr. Murad says, “I always suggest that people do what they love – in life and in exercise. If you are forcing yourself to do an activity you don’t like just to get your muscles moving, you likely won’t stick with it. Try many different exercises and see what you like most and can see yourself doing long-term.”

  • Nutrition: It’s called “stress eating” for a reason. We choose comfort foods in times of need, and while French fries may not cause an acne breakout, an unhealthy diet will cause your skin and body to be less healthy.
    One of Dr. Murad’s favorite foods are goji berries. They’re rich in antioxidant beta carotene and other phytonutrients that help promote skin health, stabilize blood sugar, help detoxify the liver, and even boost mood. Pineapples are an antioxidant that are known to help minimize inflammation. And kale contains sulfur which is known to help with skin health and detoxification.

  • And, stick to Dr. Murad’s 80/20 rule: Your diet should consist 80% of great, healthy nutritious foods and 20% should be more flexible—foods you love regardless of whether they are “good for you. Remember, stress is far more harmful to your cells than a few calories from a piece of chocolate!

  • Meditation: We live in increasingly stressful times, and managing that stress is incredibly important to our total wellness. What many people don’t realize, however, is that stress can have a very real impact on the skin. Stress can cause the follicle walls to weaken and burst, which is what ultimately causes inflammatory acne.
    Even 5 minutes of meditation can greatly reduce the amount of stress you feel. Feelings of relaxation, mindfulness, and clarity are things to look forward to with this small but significant practice. Whether it’s simply sitting outdoors, a warm bath, or using aromatherapy, all are effective ways of calming the mind and body. And a calm mind and body can positively influence healthier-looking skin.

  • Skincare:
    While hormonal acne can be combated through stress management, taking proactive measures to care for your skin can also play a role. Including acne-fighting ingredients in your skincare can help get rid of the breakouts and lead to clear skin. However, the lack of hydration can lead to even more oil production. So rather than skipping this step, opt for a more lightweight moisturizer. The Clarifying Water Gel or Acne Control Oil and Pore Control Mattifier from Murad are both great options to control the oil production while giving you the hydration you need.

If you're looking for more of a spot treatment, a skincare product with salicylic acid can be a great choice. The Deep Relief Acne Treatment from Murad contains skin-healthing ingredients like max-strength 2% salicylic acid to target acne causing bacteria.

If you choose to focus on one method or dabble in all three, these are all powerful ways of getting rid of stress acne. Just as stress affects all of us differently, the ways in which we choose to combat acne caused by stress will vary. Choose the method that’s right for you, and stick to it.

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