How To Deal With Stress Acne (Without Stressing Out)

When you’re stressed, breakouts are the last thing you want to deal with. Unfortunately, for women in particular, the two go hand in hand.

Here’s a little science lesson for you: “When your brain perceives stress, it sends a messenger to your adrenal gland that makes it secrete a hormone called cortisol,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz. When cortisol is created, he explains, “a tiny bit of testosterone leaks out of the adrenal gland as well. [This produces] a major increase in a woman’s blood testosterone level which causes glands to create excess oil.” And, as you know, excess oil equals acne.
So what can you do about it? Says Dr. Schultz, stress-related breakouts tend to take the form of inflammatory acne, meaning red, rashy pimples, pus-filled pimples and cysts—not blackheads or whiteheads. It’s best then, to treat accordingly. Dr. Schultz recommends using a chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid or a cleanser with a mild dosage of salicylic acid. (To avoid further irritating the skin, start with one percent, he says). Drying creams and masks, tea tree oil and hydrocolloid bandages are also excellent options for combating flare-ups.

Keeping up with good daily habits is essential as well. When you’re under pressure, it’s all too easy to skimp on sleep and make poor eating choices. Unconsciously, you might even be touching or picking at your face more frequently. All of these factors stand between you and a clear complexion.

Of course, there’s no better way to treat stress acne than to simply (or not so simply) chill out. Mediate, exercise, embark on a weekend getaway…remember: It’s just a pimple.