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How Does Stress Contribute To Acne?


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#1 epicdermis

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 04:34 AM

This week was a very stressful week for me. I had a lot of papers and projects due, and had to work nonstop with very little sleep.

The weird thing is, I got no acne all week long. Near the end of the week, my skin got a little bit itchy, and when I pressed certain spots, dry sebum would come out. It was as if I had gotten clogged pores, but there was no inflammatory response, so the sebum just stayed there and eventually reached the outside of my skin.

This got me thinking. Stress makes your body release cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation. It's a very simple and direct explanation of what I observed this week.

Obviously I'm not saying that people should stress themselves out to help treat acne symptoms, because stress has many other detrimental effects on your health. But I have to wonder: why do people say that stress contributes to acne?

Edited by epicdermis, 01 December 2012 - 04:35 AM.


#2 alternativista

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:35 AM

It screws up hormones and increases chronic inflammation. The same things a bad diet and poor sleep and other habits do. And these are the root causes of acne.

Status: Clear after 30 years. Wow, I guess it's been 6 years, now.

[ Story: Severe Acne since I was 10. 10+ years of Dermatologists, Antibiotics, topicals and ACCUTANE did nothing. Discovered oranges triggered the worst of my cystic acne = about 70% improvement. Tried some nutrient supplements like B-complex with zinc and C, saw palmetto and a BHA like the aspirin mask = more improvement, a lot less oily. Then, Diet changes = Clear.

Regimen: Anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, blood sugar stabilizing diet and supplements (for hormones, inflammation, aging, health). No soap or other cleanser except for hand washing! Water only or Oil cleanse. Aloe Vera mixed with niacinimide and a high linoleic acid oil for moisturizer and reduce pigmentation.

Diet effects acne in so many ways: hormone balance, inflammation, Insulin levels, digestion, allergies and intolerances, liver function, adrenal function, SHBG levels, sebum quality, cell function and turnover, nutrient deficiencies, body fat, etc. Basic advice: Eat, sleep, supplement and exercise like you are a diabetic. And eat real food!

For more information, see my Good Things for Acne thread *Moderator edit - Please refer to the board rules (see “Advertising/soliciting”, “Linking” and “Signatures”)*

When you eat stuff, Stuff Happens!


#3 Michelle Reece

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:16 PM

This week was a very stressful week for me. I had a lot of papers and projects due, and had to work nonstop with very little sleep.

The weird thing is, I got no acne all week long. Near the end of the week, my skin got a little bit itchy, and when I pressed certain spots, dry sebum would come out. It was as if I had gotten clogged pores, but there was no inflammatory response, so the sebum just stayed there and eventually reached the outside of my skin.

This got me thinking. Stress makes your body release cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation. It's a very simple and direct explanation of what I observed this week.

Obviously I'm not saying that people should stress themselves out to help treat acne symptoms, because stress has many other detrimental effects on your health. But I have to wonder: why do people say that stress contributes to acne?


It's more like if you're stressed out and obsessed over acne, you'll see more pimples than are actually there. Worse, if you start excessively pick at or scrub your skin, it can highlight existing pimples or create the illusion of more being there. So if you aren't focused on acne, you probably won't see as many pimples as if you were. Kind of like chronic ear ringing -- you ignore it and you don't hear it, but if you focus on it it'll be louder.

Very high levels of cortisol over a long period of time can cause acne, or at least an acne-like rash like in Cushing syndrome. But Cushing syndrome has cortisol levels far beyond the normal range and causes a bunch of other symptoms. Cushing syndrome is caused by tumors (especially on the adrenal gland) and taking too much steroid medications, not typical emotional stress.

People say stress causes acne because they often think correlation is causation. This partial truth has been perpetuated on the Internet for a long time to the point it has become accepted as fact.

#4 Jekester

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:51 AM

So stress is a main cause of acne? I get stressed out a bit, only for short moments though, generally because my patience is going thin and I am not happy with myself at the moment ( acne.) and I get short temper, making me get stressed easy when around others I know. So ... how do I stop this stress to help my acne? honestly, everyone gets stressed, it's impossible to avoid sometimes.

#5 alternativista

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:11 AM

So stress is a main cause of acne? I get stressed out a bit, only for short moments though, generally because my patience is going thin and I am not happy with myself at the moment ( acne.) and I get short temper, making me get stressed easy when around others I know. So ... how do I stop this stress to help my acne? honestly, everyone gets stressed, it's impossible to avoid sometimes.


It's a main cause if you have a problem with stress.

Status: Clear after 30 years. Wow, I guess it's been 6 years, now.

[ Story: Severe Acne since I was 10. 10+ years of Dermatologists, Antibiotics, topicals and ACCUTANE did nothing. Discovered oranges triggered the worst of my cystic acne = about 70% improvement. Tried some nutrient supplements like B-complex with zinc and C, saw palmetto and a BHA like the aspirin mask = more improvement, a lot less oily. Then, Diet changes = Clear.

Regimen: Anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, blood sugar stabilizing diet and supplements (for hormones, inflammation, aging, health). No soap or other cleanser except for hand washing! Water only or Oil cleanse. Aloe Vera mixed with niacinimide and a high linoleic acid oil for moisturizer and reduce pigmentation.

Diet effects acne in so many ways: hormone balance, inflammation, Insulin levels, digestion, allergies and intolerances, liver function, adrenal function, SHBG levels, sebum quality, cell function and turnover, nutrient deficiencies, body fat, etc. Basic advice: Eat, sleep, supplement and exercise like you are a diabetic. And eat real food!

For more information, see my Good Things for Acne thread *Moderator edit - Please refer to the board rules (see “Advertising/soliciting”, “Linking” and “Signatures”)*

When you eat stuff, Stuff Happens!


#6 Binga

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:16 PM

So stress is a main cause of acne? I get stressed out a bit, only for short moments though, generally because my patience is going thin and I am not happy with myself at the moment ( acne.) and I get short temper, making me get stressed easy when around others I know. So ... how do I stop this stress to help my acne? honestly, everyone gets stressed, it's impossible to avoid sometimes.


Start doing yoga/meditation, drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep.

#7 epicdermis

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:37 PM

It screws up hormones and increases chronic inflammation. The same things a bad diet and poor sleep and other habits do. And these are the root causes of acne.


I can understand how chronic stress might increase inflammation, if you develop a resistance to glucocorticoids. But if you have a bad week, the anti-inflammatory stress hormones should have the opposite effect, right?

#8 Michelle Reece

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 11:29 PM


It screws up hormones and increases chronic inflammation. The same things a bad diet and poor sleep and other habits do. And these are the root causes of acne.


I can understand how chronic stress might increase inflammation, if you develop a resistance to glucocorticoids. But if you have a bad week, the anti-inflammatory stress hormones should have the opposite effect, right?


Well, here's a problem with saying "stress can cause chronic inflammation": it's too vague. There are various 'inflammatory' chemicals: nitric oxide, histamine, IL-8 to name a few off the top of my head. It depends how much is increased, how long it lasts and its "location". Same concept goes with saying that "stress hormones have an anti-inflammatory effect [on acne]"-- what stress hormones and how are they anti-inflammatory?

In short, saying 'stress hormones cause chronic inflammation' is an ambiguous assertion.

#9 alternativista

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 09:43 AM



It screws up hormones and increases chronic inflammation. The same things a bad diet and poor sleep and other habits do. And these are the root causes of acne.


I can understand how chronic stress might increase inflammation, if you develop a resistance to glucocorticoids. But if you have a bad week, the anti-inflammatory stress hormones should have the opposite effect, right?


Well, here's a problem with saying "stress can cause chronic inflammation": it's too vague. There are various 'inflammatory' chemicals: nitric oxide, histamine, IL-8 to name a few off the top of my head. It depends how much is increased, how long it lasts and its "location". Same concept goes with saying that "stress hormones have an anti-inflammatory effect [on acne]"-- what stress hormones and how are they anti-inflammatory?

In short, saying 'stress hormones cause chronic inflammation' is an ambiguous assertion.


That argument is pointless. The specific chemicals involved are irrelevant to most people.. Chronic Stress causes chronic inflammation. That's what we need to know.

It also elevates blood sugar thru a couple of pathways which means increases the harmful effects of a SAD Diet.

This week was a very stressful week for me. I had a lot of papers and projects due, and had to work nonstop with very little sleep.

The weird thing is, I got no acne all week long. Near the end of the week, my skin got a little bit itchy, and when I pressed certain spots, dry sebum would come out. It was as if I had gotten clogged pores, but there was no inflammatory response, so the sebum just stayed there and eventually reached the outside of my skin.

This got me thinking. Stress makes your body release cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation. It's a very simple and direct explanation of what I observed this week.

Obviously I'm not saying that people should stress themselves out to help treat acne symptoms, because stress has many other detrimental effects on your health. But I have to wonder: why do people say that stress contributes to acne?


More likely your skin was clearer that week because of what you had done the prior weeks and are breaking out later as a result of your stressful week. Acne usually takes weeks to form.

Edited by alternativista, 09 December 2012 - 09:52 AM.

Status: Clear after 30 years. Wow, I guess it's been 6 years, now.

[ Story: Severe Acne since I was 10. 10+ years of Dermatologists, Antibiotics, topicals and ACCUTANE did nothing. Discovered oranges triggered the worst of my cystic acne = about 70% improvement. Tried some nutrient supplements like B-complex with zinc and C, saw palmetto and a BHA like the aspirin mask = more improvement, a lot less oily. Then, Diet changes = Clear.

Regimen: Anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, blood sugar stabilizing diet and supplements (for hormones, inflammation, aging, health). No soap or other cleanser except for hand washing! Water only or Oil cleanse. Aloe Vera mixed with niacinimide and a high linoleic acid oil for moisturizer and reduce pigmentation.

Diet effects acne in so many ways: hormone balance, inflammation, Insulin levels, digestion, allergies and intolerances, liver function, adrenal function, SHBG levels, sebum quality, cell function and turnover, nutrient deficiencies, body fat, etc. Basic advice: Eat, sleep, supplement and exercise like you are a diabetic. And eat real food!

For more information, see my Good Things for Acne thread *Moderator edit - Please refer to the board rules (see “Advertising/soliciting”, “Linking” and “Signatures”)*

When you eat stuff, Stuff Happens!


#10 Michelle Reece

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 03:18 PM




It screws up hormones and increases chronic inflammation. The same things a bad diet and poor sleep and other habits do. And these are the root causes of acne.


I can understand how chronic stress might increase inflammation, if you develop a resistance to glucocorticoids. But if you have a bad week, the anti-inflammatory stress hormones should have the opposite effect, right?


Well, here's a problem with saying "stress can cause chronic inflammation": it's too vague. There are various 'inflammatory' chemicals: nitric oxide, histamine, IL-8 to name a few off the top of my head. It depends how much is increased, how long it lasts and its "location". Same concept goes with saying that "stress hormones have an anti-inflammatory effect [on acne]"-- what stress hormones and how are they anti-inflammatory?

In short, saying 'stress hormones cause chronic inflammation' is an ambiguous assertion.


That argument is pointless. The specific chemicals involved are irrelevant to most people.. Chronic Stress causes chronic inflammation. That's what we need to know.

It also elevates blood sugar thru a couple of pathways which means increases the harmful effects of a SAD Diet.

This week was a very stressful week for me. I had a lot of papers and projects due, and had to work nonstop with very little sleep.

The weird thing is, I got no acne all week long. Near the end of the week, my skin got a little bit itchy, and when I pressed certain spots, dry sebum would come out. It was as if I had gotten clogged pores, but there was no inflammatory response, so the sebum just stayed there and eventually reached the outside of my skin.

This got me thinking. Stress makes your body release cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation. It's a very simple and direct explanation of what I observed this week.

Obviously I'm not saying that people should stress themselves out to help treat acne symptoms, because stress has many other detrimental effects on your health. But I have to wonder: why do people say that stress contributes to acne?


More likely your skin was clearer that week because of what you had done the prior weeks and are breaking out later as a result of your stressful week. Acne usually takes weeks to form.


The specific inflammatory chemicals are absolutely relevant. Not every disease has the same inflammatory response or will react to the same anti-inflammatory chemicals/drugs. Corticosteroids for example are used in asthma, but they are not effective against the inflammation in coronary artery disease so that's why doctors prescribe nitroglycerin and beta-blockers instead. Also, many of the inflammatory chemicals have different modes of action, like how nitric oxide regulates iron-containing proteins (aconitase is one of them) and histimine is involved in sneezing and nasal congestion.

How high certain inflammatory chemicals are increased are totally relevant, too, so doctors can figure out the proper dosage of the anti-inflammatory drugs. Good doctors won't prescribe dosages willy-nilly -- they will prescribe the most cost-effective dosage.

While cortisol can raise blood glucose levels, you have not specified if glucose level is in the range of a normal spike or how long it lasts and how it's exactly harmful. Nor have you specified if acne does measurably raise "inflammatory" chemicals in the blood stream or if most acne patients have elevated levels of C-reactive protein. You have not specified if the other stress hormones like norepinephrine or adrenaline are involved in the acne-stress connection, either.

#11 epicdermis

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 04:04 PM

More likely your skin was clearer that week because of what you had done the prior weeks and are breaking out later as a result of your stressful week. Acne usually takes weeks to form.


But my skin wasn't really clear; near the end of the week I had a few spots filled with dried sebum (they weren't red, so I didn't notice until I pressed on my skin and it came out). Normally, when my pores get clogged like that it leads to inflammation.