Home / Research & Resources / Does Stress Cause Acne?
Does Stress Cause Acne?

Does Stress Cause Acne?

Studies have asserted that stress is an exacerbating cause of acne, particularly in females. 1 While carrying out these studies, experts noted that acne severity is related to a similar increase in stress level. Stress, in this regard, could be psychological, emotional, or physical.

Statistics show that there is a relationship between stress and acne. Based on a study done at Abdulaziz teaching hospital on female medical students, experts were able to find a correlation between these concepts.

During this study, the students were given questions and equally examined. After the examination, results showed that around 104 out of the 144 students had mild acne, and 4 students had severe acne. Using the global acne grading system, they saw a related rise in acne when stressors increased.2

Acne is a common skin disease, with a notable portion of people experiencing it at least once in their lifetime. 3 Some other reports have shown that patients with this skin disorder often complained of increased stress or frustration in their workplace or personal life.

Another report was conducted on students from the Stanford University of Medicine. During this study, the investigator examined students at different stages. The first time was about a month before an examination. Then the next time was three days before the examination and also seven days after it.

The investigator discovered that the students had changed sleeping patterns, meals, and food quality. Finally, the report linked stress to acne severity and also changes in sleep hours and food consumption.

How Stress Affects Acne




Acne is a skin condition that occurs when pores are clogged by dirt and oil. 4 This skin concern is prevalent among teenagers as many of them struggle to keep acne at bay.

Besides teenagers, acne may also affect adults. This is due to a series of factors, such as excessive heat, stress, hormones, skincare, and makeup products. For most people, acne appears as whiteheads or blackheads.

Numerous kinds of research have shown that corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) is one of the most prominent reasons for stress acne 5. When you are stressed, your body produces more of this hormone, thereby triggering acne.

CRH triggers acne by increasing oil production, which leads to skin inflation and zits. The sebaceous gland is an oil-producing gland, which lubricates the hair and skin. Other factors could also lead to increased oil production, such as diet, medication, and skin type.

Although some reports assert that stress cannot directly cause acne, they admitted that individuals indulge in habits that might worsen it. For instance, when stressed, some people eat sugary and unhealthy foods. 6 That said, diet is an essential factor to consider as a significant reason for oil production and acne.

What Actually Causes Acne?


Causes of Acne


Acne has a lot of triggers, which may directly cause or worsen it. It's also important to know that acne is primarily a hormonal condition. Typically in adolescents, the body produces a hormone called androgen, preparing the body for sexual maturity.6

Studies have shown that this hormone, particularly in teenagers, is a major reason for pimples. Coupled with oily skin and surface bacteria, adolescents experience mild to chronic conditions.

Adults also have pimples; however, it's more common amongst teenagers. This makes it necessary to understand some other acne-causing activities.

  • Hormonal changes: Some females experience acne before and during their periods. During this time, there is usually hormonal fluctuation, resulting in acne.
  • Diet: Some studies also believe that milk could trigger acne. Unfortunately, there has been no evidence of this. However, you can reduce your milk intake if you notice a correlation.
  • Skin type: People with oily skin types typically experience more acne than other people. When the body produces more oil than necessary, it could block the pores and lead to flaring.

What Is Stress Acne?

Stress acne is a kind of acne caused by increased stressors. For example, you may see more acne than average after encountering a stressful event.

Usually, stress acne is common among people who suffer from this skin condition. Even after reaching adulthood, patients may notice stress acnes if they have had a history with this health concern in their adolescent years.

In a study conducted on females with stressful jobs, reports show that around 52% of the women had acne. 7 And, around 48% of these women had no acne/almost no acne.

The result showed that acne is typically caused by genetics, lifestyle habits, skin quality, and acne history. Additionally, more than 80% of the women had facial acne.

Similarly, people manage stress differently, including picking up habits that can cause a flare-up. When stressed, many people find it challenging to get adequate sleep and might even eat unhealthy foods.

All in all, stress is not a direct cause of acne. Most reports show that it worsens existing acne, thereby increasing severity.

Causes Of Stress Acne

Everyone gets stressed at some point in their life. Uncomfortable situations or new challenges could cause stress. While increased stressors could significantly affect your health, some theories support the relationship between them.

Some hormones, such as cortisol, may also cause stress acne. When stressed, your body produces this hormone, producing more oil, leading to a breakout.8

It is safe to state that your immune system might also react to chronic stress. When your immune system feels threatened, it could cause inflation, resulting in inflammation, such as rashes and acne.

Similarly, your acne may also be triggered by your response to stressful situations. When stressed, you may take more caffeinated drinks, change eating habits, skip skincare or even eat more junk foods.

Keeping your stress level at a minimum can help you prevent the production of cortisol. This, in turn, reduces the production of oil. When your sebaceous gland produces less oil, then your acne will be more manageable.

Prevention Of Stress Acne


Acne Prevention


The best way to prevent and also reduce stress acne is by working on your stressors. Your stress level causes acne; you can also prevent them by managing stress.

Stress management might seem complicated, particularly when your work is demanding. Still, these exercises would help you relax and also keep acne at bay.

  • Wash your face: The primary cause of acne is the clogging of your pores. You can prevent this by washing your face, removing dirt and germs, thereby reducing oil.
  • Avoid touching your face: When you touch your face, germs gain access to your pores, causing clogging. So, it is best to reduce contact with your face.
  • Meditate: Meditation is quite helpful for managing stress and anxiety. Schedule some time every day to meditate. During this exercise, you will feel more relaxed and ready to face difficult situations.
  • Use products for your skin type: You may need to visit a dermatologist to know your skin type. Buying products created for your skin type prevents or reduces acne. When you use a product meant for another skin type, you may notice increased oil production.
  • Exercise: Exercises help your body produce a hormone called endorphin. This reduces tiredness or exhaustion resulting from stress.9


While numerous reports have established a close link between acne and stress, some assert no direct correlation between the concepts. Still, stress can indirectly affect your acne by causing the production of cortisol—a stress hormone. Similarly, stress-driven habits, such as eating unhealthy food, caffeinated drinks, or poor food choices, are also culprits. Luckily, you can manage your condition by washing your face with a mild cleanser, meditating, and exercising.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722010/#!po=8.92857
  2. https://www.dovepress.com/the-association-between-stress-and-acne-among-female-medical-students--peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/479409
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28871928/
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12233-acne
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25296739/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469


Leave a comment