7 Ways to Get Rid of Stress Acne


Stress breakouts are a thing, so here are 7 ways to get rid of stress acne.

Does Stress Cause Acne?

When we feel stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn stimulates oil production. Excess oil can clog your pores and lead to acne. (1, 2)

Stress also causes a cascade of other chemicals to flood the body, including androgens, the male hormones that can trigger acne, and inflammatory chemicals, which again can contribute to problematic skin. (3, 4)

One of the first studies that showed a link between stress and skin was published in 1953 in the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine. When researchers conducted a purposely stressful interview with acne-prone individuals, they reported an acne flare-up within just a few days. (5)

A similar recent study involving college students found that acne increased during examination time. (6)

Another study found that fear and weeping were associated with increased sebum production. (7)

A more recent study looked at the effect of stress on female medical students between the ages of 22 to 24 found that an increase in stress severity strongly correlated with acne severity. (8)

Other studies have shown that psychological stress increases oxidative stress, free-radical production, and low-grade inflammation in the body. (9, 10) These all play a role in the genesis of acne (and wrinkles). 

Stress also lowers the blood level of important clear-skin nutrients, like magnesium and zinc. (11, 12

How To Get Rid Of Stress Acne?

Sip On Matcha & Green Tea

Green tea is noted for its ability to lower stress hormones in the body, thanks to its high levels of EGCG and l-theanine. While organic green tea is beneficial, matcha green tea contains significantly more of the phytochemicals believed to play a role in the anti-stress effects.

Though green tea does have a small amount of caffeine, it’s gentler on the body and better tolerated than coffee. Thanks to its unique blend of phytonutrients, green tea helps you both focus and calm down.

Try this Iced Coconut Matcha Latte or Mango Matcha Smoothie Bowl

Exercise Regularly (But Not TOO much)

Exercise is a great way to blow off some steam (and reduce cortisol levels). I’m sure you’ve felt the mood-boosting effects after a workout, and it turns out there is research to back up the post-workout high.

Research shows that regular exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes the mood, and improves sleep.

Aim to work out at least 3 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Even a brisk walk counts. Personally, I aim to walk 1 hour a day and do 30-60 minutes of pilates, HIIT, or yoga 3 times a week.  

However, be careful not to over-exert yourself. Working out too hard or too much – especially for women – can cause a spike in cortisol and hormone imbalance, which can lead to acne. 

How To Get Rid Of Stress Acne

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is important for healthy skin, metabolism, and weight.

An epidemiological study out of South Korea found that stress and lack of sleep were two key factors that aggravated acne amongst 1,236 people (smoking, alcohol consumption, and menstruation were the other factors). (15)

Lack of sleep can alter hormone levels and result in an impaired ability to process and store carbohydrates. Even skimping on sleep for as little as 1 week can produce significant changes in appetite control and glucose regulation. This can increase the risk of acne. (16)

Aim to sleep for 8 to 9 hours a night. If you need a little help try this Lavendar Melatonin spray short term. 

Practice Breathwork

Breathwork is my favorite method for reducing stress and helping me feel calm and grounded. It’s incredibly powerful, yet is so simple and FREE.

How you breathe day to day either makes you feel more anxious or more calm. Do you breathe out of your nose or your mouth? Do you breathe into your belly or your chest? Do you take deep breaths or short breaths? They all impact your mood and your mental state. Wild, right?

I highly recommend the book Breath by James Nestor to learn more about how your daily breathing impacts your mind and health, and how to optimize it.

To take it a step further, consider practicing breathwork. I’m a huge proponent of the Wim-Hof Method and do it most mornings. I’ve introduced so many friends and clients to it, who are now hooked too.

I use his app most days.

Practice Meditation

Meditation can provide a deep state of relaxation and a calmer mind. I know so many of us resist it, but I promise you if you can push through the resistance, you’ll find an infinitely calmer you. Research shows meditation reduces cortisol levels, which means less stress breakouts. (17)

If you’re new to meditation, opt for one of these free guided meditations by Deepak Chopra.

Practice Mindfulness

Being mindful of your everyday actions and feelings can help control stress levels. Some easy examples of incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle include taking a moment to pause instead of reacting to a stressor or becoming aware of your thoughts so you can then step back and ascertain whether they are true or not.

Being more mindful helps to prevent stressful feelings (and cortisol spikes) before they happen.

Change In Mindset

While physical activities can help you blow off some steam and calm the mind, it’s important to not rely solely on the physical to ease your stress. True stress reduction comes from changing your perspective.

There is no such thing as a life without stressors. It’s how we perceive and react to those events that determine our stress level. I highly recommend the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie to help you change your perspective on stress. 

When you learn how to control your thoughts and keep your calm, it becomes easy to get rid of stress acne (and prevent it, too!).

Other Ways To Get Rid of Stress Acne

Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your skin, too.

Dark leafy greens, omega-3 rich wild fish, avocado, and chia seeds are just a few of my favorite anti-stress foods.

Limit or avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and other low-quality foods as they tend to exacerbate stress and stress hormones. (18, 19)

For more skin-clearing recipes and skincare tips and check out my Clear Skin Plan, a doctor-approved, science-backed 90-day program to clear your skin from within

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Hi, I’m Maria and I’m an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.

I help busy women lose weight or clear up their acne by developing healthier eating habits, based on a plant-based paleo diet.

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