Guest Blog By VeganAcneSufferers
Anyone who's ever had the unfortunate experience of having a pimple form right before an important event may wonder if stress caused the blemish.
It always seems to happen that way, doesn’t it? We stress for days or weeks before a big event – what will I wear, will my skin be clear, will people like me? And then – BAM! You get a pimple. Or, you may just suffer from anxiety or be prone to stress, and experience acne any time something happens in your life that causes you stress.
Nearly everyone has some form of stress in their life, and stress is extremely subjective. This muddies the waters a little bit in trying to determine if stress can actually affect our skin. Sometimes we have stress and we don’t break out, and other times we do. Some people are under immense amounts of stress and never break out.
So, is stress the cause? Does stress even affect our skin?
The first question has an ambiguous answer. It’s really difficult to narrow down the cause of your acne break outs to a specific causal factor – but we can say that stress may be the cause, and yes, stress can affect our skin.
We know that the nervous system, which processes our stress, can have an impact on skin conditions like psoriasis. Observations suggest that the nervous system plays a role in psoriasis based on the symmetrical distribution of plaque on the body, the increase in nerve fibers and their neuropeptides in involved psoriatic skin, and reports of disease exacerbation and onset linked with psychological stress or following skin trauma. Also, the finding that psoriasis goes into remission following loss of innervation, nerve function or nervous system injury provides compelling evidence of a contributory role for nerves in sustaining disease. Essentially, if you interrupt the nerves' path to an area of a patient's skin affected by psoriasis, the psoriasis improves. In addition, the condition improves if you inject local anesthetic into psoriasis patches. This information strongly suggests that nerves play a role in how psoriasis operates.
So, if our nervous system can impact our skin, it is logical to assume that stress can, as well.
But it’s not enough to assume – we need to know.
Many types of cells in the skin can be regulated by neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, which are chemicals released by the skin's nerve endings. Stress can result in the skin's nerve endings releasing an increased level of these chemicals. When this occurs, it can affect how and at what level our body responds to many important functions, such as sensation and control of blood flow, and can contribute to the symptoms of stress that we feel. In addition, the release of these chemicals can lead to inflammation of the skin, which is a very important precursor in acne.
For example, several studies have noted a significant association between acne severity and stress levels. One study in particular studied the possible relationship between stress and acne exacerbation by evaluating changes in acne severity during non-examination and examination periods. Not surprisingly, patients with acne experienced a worsening of the disease during examinations. Furthermore, changes in acne severity correlated highly with increasing stress, suggesting that emotional stress from external sources may also have a significant influence on acne.
Another study found that the interpersonal stress associated with the ending of a committed marital relationship can impede recovery of the stratum corneum barrier function of the skin. Twenty-eight women who were going through a divorce or a separation and 27 women who reported high levels of marital satisfaction underwent a tape stripping procedure on both cheeks.
Socially stressed women had a more delayed skin barrier recovery following the tape stripping procedure, compared to less stressed women. This means that the skin of these women is more susceptible to damage, to oxidization, to bacteria, etc.
In conclusion, stress can affect your skin; in the right environment, stress can even result in acne breakouts. If you tend to notice that you break out more often when you’re stressed, it might be worthwhile to experiment with some stress reduction techniques like mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, reading a book, going for a walk, etc.
Stress can be seriously detrimental to your overall health, and so learning to find stress coping strategies is imperative, not just for your skin, but for you.
I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!
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