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How To Beat Stress Acne When Stress Has The Upper Hand

stress acne

If you’ve been struggling with breakouts for a while and have tried everything to keep them at bay then you’ve come to the right place for potential clarity. Rather than dealing with the one-off breakout from not drinking enough water, you may be temporarily treating stress acne which will stick around for as long as your stressors do. In this article, we’ll cover how stress contributes to your acne problem and how you can address it in the long-term and short-term.

How To Tell If You Have Stress Acne

You know what pimples look like, but sometimes acne has the most mysterious origins from dirty pillow cases, to bangs it can feel like acne doesn’t need a big excuse to appear. Acne is that enthusiastic neighbor that needs no invitation to the party.

So, how can you tell if your acne is stress acne as opposed to all of the other acne causing circumstances? Well, you have to be more in tune with your feelings. If you know you’ve been feeling overwhelmed for some time and on top of that you can’t control your acne flair ups, you may be experiencing stress acne.

If your skin feels uncontrollable after a stressful breakup, problems at work, or other problems at home, then it’s likely stress acne. If you’re otherwise cool, calm, and collected but are struggling to tame your acne there may be other factors at play including your environment or diet.

Where Do You Get Stress Acne?

Stress acne most commonly appears on the forehead, but it can make a home anywhere on your body depending on your cortisol levels.

How Stress Causes Your Acne Flair Ups

Stress on its own doesn’t affect acne directly. What it does is it indirectly accelerates the acne growth process. So how does this happen? When you’re stressed, your skin releases particular hormones which in turn increases oil secretion in our skin that leads to more frequent clogging of skin follicles. These three particular hormones are cortisol, neuropeptides and adrenal androgens. When secreted in large amounts in a short time, these hormones inflame the sebaceous glands which are responsible for oil generation for the skin.

When stress acne occurs, you’ll not only see an increase in the number of whiteheads on your skin, but also notice your skin getting red and itchy at random throughout the day. For the average adult, stress acne once in a blue moon until their late thirties is common. If it’s occurring to you more frequently within a matter of days and weeks, the basic treatment measures that we’ll discuss below will probably not be a good enough solution and you should consult with a dermatologist at your earliest convenience as repeated acne growth will eventually leave a lot of unwanted marks and scar your face in an unpleasant manner.

Preventing Stress Acne

When it comes to stress acne, prevention is the best method for long term results. What’s important to consider is that changes to your lifestyle improve your overall health. Where acne is the symptom that further alerts you there’s a problem, stress is the insidious culprit that needs to be managed. Stress contributes to overwhelming amount of detrimental mental and physical conditions. So, while you’ll definitely be able to alleviate your stress acne with the below methods, you will also be dramatically improving your overall well-being and quality of life.

Learn Stress Management Techniques

If you want to address the root causes of stress acne, then you must address the root cause of the stress. To tame your stress acne in the long term, you’re going to need to tame your mind and your surroundings. Change the situations that can be changed and find new ways to engage with the ones that can’t. For example, tell bad boyfriends to hit the road, ask for fewer responsibilities at work, change jobs entirely, or cut expenses to alleviate your finances.


Give your brain a break with by meditating daily. You don’t even need to meditate for a long period of time, even five minutes without thought can go a long way. While, meditation is a surefire way to reduce stress don’t forget about FUN. Trust me, you’re not having enough fun. NO ONE is having enough fun, because you can never have too much.

Have More Fun

If quieting your mind sounds difficult then jam pack so much fun into it that there’s no room for stress. Go see more movies, throw yourself into your favorite hobbies, focus on funny entertainment, and get more active. Chances are, you already know what activities delight you, so do more of those.

Breathing Exercises

Lastly, and perhaps the most helpful, practice breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are so clutch for managing stress because you can address stressors right when they present themselves instead of letting them grow.

Treatment: How To Get Rid Of Stress Acne

We’ve covered how to prevent your stress acne in the long run, but that doesn’t necessarily address the current explosion on your forehead. For that, you’ll want to call in the reinforcements, topic acne treatments. Depending on the severity of your breakout there are a plethora of ways to address stress acne quickly. Here are a few tips and products that can help you eliminate your stress acne in the short term.

Salicylic Acid & Benzoyl Peroxide

Don’t see the word “acid” and freakout. Salicylic acid is your best friend when it comes to getting rid of stress acne because it clears pores that lead to the inflammation you know as zits. Salicylic is incredibly common in skincare products that tout complexion clearing so it’s often found in exfoliants and facial cleansers alike. Benzoyl Peroxide is also a heavy hitter when you’re addressing a stress acne breakout because it helps kill bacteria. When you use both of those chemicals in conjunction they make for a 1-2 punch that will knock your stress acne out, sometimes overnight.

The best way to utilize both ingredients gently is to use a facial cleanser with salicylic acid one night and treat your skin with benzoyl peroxide the next night. CeraVe is arguably one of the highest rated salicylic acid facial cleansers on the market, it’s available on Amazon for $9 at the time of publishing. While you’re shopping for your stress acne cure, make sure to include benzoyl peroxide in your cart as well.


If you feel like your breakout isn’t one that warrants chemical reinforcement you can always try a warm compress. Warm compresses work by increasing circulation to the area and softening the sebum in the pimple for draining. This option isn’t the overnight results sort of treatment but it’s definitely a gentle alternative for less serious breakouts.

Use Retinoids

Retinoids such as Retinol can also be very beneficial for treating stress acne. Retinoids are artificial compounds that the skin can absorb easily and contains the same properties as Vitamin A. Retinoids work deep within the pores to keep them from clogging which is a way to chemically prevent breakouts before they even form. Body Merry is a popular retinoid moisturizer available on Amazon that prevents breakouts while nourishing your skin.

Alternative Solutions

There are a slew of alternative acne treatment solutions that many swear by, still the jury’s out on whether the claims hold up to testing. For example, use of tea tree oil topically has been cited as effective for acne treatment as well as tannins and fruit acids like glycolic acid. If you’re feeling curious and are interested in experiment with these dermatologically unconventional treatments please do and leave feedback about your results in the comments section.