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Managing Stress to Prevent Acne Breakouts

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMarch 8, 2024

Acne, a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, can be caused by various factors such as hormonal changes, genetics, diet, and stress. In particular, stress has been found to trigger acne breakouts in some people. Stress can increase inflammation, trigger hormonal imbalances, and disrupt the skin barrier, all factors that contribute to acne.

It may be helpful to manage stress through relaxation techniques, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. If you have a lot of stress in your life, it may be a good idea to see a mental health professional, who can help cope with stressors.

In this article, we will delve into the relationship between stress and acne, and provide practical tips on how to manage stress to prevent breakouts.

What Is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, causing pimples, blackheads, or cysts.

There are various types of acne, including hormonal acne, cystic acne, and inflammatory acne, each presenting its own set of challenges for those dealing with skin issues. The impact of acne on skin health goes beyond just the physical appearance, as it can also lead to scarring and emotional distress.

Following a skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, exfoliation, and moisturizing can help prevent acne breakouts and promote healthier, clearer skin.

What Causes Acne Breakouts?

Acne can be caused by hormonal imbalances, dietary choices, and stress that affect skin health.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can affect sebum (oil) production and skin health. This can lead to an overproduction of sebum, which in turn can clog pores and create an environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.

Stress is a common trigger of hormonal fluctuations, and can worsen skin issues. It can cause increased inflammation in the skin, leading to redness, irritation, and breakouts.


Dietary choices may impact acne breakouts:.

  1. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential vitamins and minerals that support overall skin health.
  2. Foods high in antioxidants, such as berries and leafy greens, help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are linked to acne.
  3. Foods that are high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats can worsen acne breakouts.
  4. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water promotes skin hydration and reduces the likelihood of clogged pores.


High levels of stress trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase sebum production, leading to clogged pores and inflammation. This can contribute to the development of acne. In addition, hormonal imbalances caused by stress can disrupt the skin's natural equilibrium, making it more prone to breakouts.

To manage stress and reduce its impact on acne, incorporate mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and regular physical activity. These practices promote relaxation, improve stress resilience, and support overall well-being, ultimately benefiting skin health.

How Does Stress Affect Acne?

Stress can have a direct impact on acne by increasing inflammation, triggering hormonal imbalances, and disrupting the skin's natural barrier function.

Increases Inflammation

Stress-induced inflammation can worsen acne conditions. When the body is under stress, it releases hormones that can trigger inflammation in the skin, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.

Incorporating natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, aloe vera, and green tea in your skincare routine can provide anti-inflammatory properties to soothe irritated skin and prevent acne flare-ups.

Triggers Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, including skin health. When stress triggers hormonal imbalances, it can increase sebum production, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

By incorporating stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, you can help stabilize your hormones.

Disrupts Skin Barrier

Stress can weaken the skin’s defenses, making it more vulnerable to environmental triggers and moisture loss, leading to issues like dryness, redness, and breakouts.

To counteract these effects, using skincare products containing stress-relieving ingredients like chamomile, green tea, or hyaluronic acid can help soothe the skin and maintain its health.

Gentle skin cleansing practices, such as using a mild cleanser for sensitive skin, can help maintain the skin's natural balance.

How to Manage Stress to Prevent Acne Breakouts?

Effective stress management can help prevent acne breakouts and improve your overall well being.

  1. Incorporating stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness can significantly reduce stress levels.
  2. Making small but impactful changes in your daily routine, like eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise, can also contribute to overall wellbeing and healthier skin.
  3. Prioritizing self-care practices like skincare routines, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques can improve your mental health.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can help alleviate stress.

  1. Meditation, a practice that involves mindfulness and focus, can calm the mind and reduce anxiety levels.
  2. Deep breathing exercises, like diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing, help regulate the body's stress response and enhance oxygen flow.

Get Enough Sleep

Prioritizing sleep can help reduce your overall stress levels. By establishing some healthy sleep habits, you may experience improved mood, better focus, and even see positive effects on your skin health.

  1. Develop a bedtime routine to help you fall asleep. A routine may aid in signaling to the body that it is time to wind down, helping to improve the quality of sleep.
  2. Ensure a dark and quiet sleep environment, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and limit exposure to screens before bed to improve your sleep.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise not only improves skin health by enhancing blood circulation and reducing stress but also boosts self-confidence and overall sense of wellness.

Exercise is known to reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can help combat skin issues such as acne and inflammation. Engaging in activities like yoga, running, or dancing can improve your mood and promote a sense of happiness and well-being, ultimately enhancing your self-esteem and confidence levels.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients may help acne prevention.

Incorporating foods with high levels of antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can help combat free radicals that contribute to skin issues like acne.

Consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and walnuts, can help maintain skin hydration and reduce inflammation.

Avoiding foods that are high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats, which can worsen acne.

It's also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day to flush out toxins and keep the skin moisturized.

Seek Support and Talk to Someone

Seeking support and engaging in open discussions about emotional wellbeing can promote psychological health, mindfulness, and help you cope with stress.

Seeing a mental health professional may be helpful if you are having trouble dealing with stressors in your life. When you feel heard and supported in addressing your mental health concerns, you are more likely to develop healthier coping mechanisms and build emotional resilience.

Use Skincare Products With Stress-relieving Ingredients

Incorporating skincare products with stress-relieving ingredients in your beauty routine can enhance skin health.

Look for products that contain soothing botanical extracts like chamomile, lavender, and green tea, known for their calming properties.

When to Seek Professional Help?

It is advisable to see a dermatologist when acne persists despite preventive measures and impacts self-confidence or clear skin goals.

Dermatologists are experts in diagnosing and treating acne. Consulting a dermatologist can provide personalized treatment plans tailored to your skin type and specific needs, which can lead to significant improvements in your skin's appearance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the link between stress and acne breakouts?

Stress can lead to increased production of hormones like cortisol, which can cause an increase in oil production and inflammation in the skin, leading to acne breakouts.

How can managing stress help prevent acne breakouts?

By reducing stress levels, you may help balance hormone production and decrease inflammation in the skin, ultimately reducing the likelihood of developing acne breakouts.

What are some effective stress management techniques?

Some effective stress management techniques include regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities you enjoy.

Can certain foods help or worsen stress-related acne breakouts?

Yes, foods that are high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats can worsen stress-related acne breakouts. Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help support overall skin health.

Are there any over-the-counter products that can help with stress-related acne breakouts?

Yes, look for skincare products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinoids, as these can help clear pores and reduce acne breakouts.

Can seeking professional help for stress management also improve acne breakouts?

Absolutely. A licensed therapist or counselor can help identify sources of stress and provide tools and techniques to manage it effectively. By reducing stress levels, you may also see a decrease in acne breakouts.