Don’t stress – we’ve got a cure for acne!

Clinical studies show that stress can increase acne in two ways. Firstly, by stimulating adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones that stimulate spots and secondly, by slowing down the healing process.

A study of 22 students conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine in 2002 proved conclusively that exam stress worsened their existing acne. According to the researchers, their findings indicated that “Subjects who had the greatest increases in stress during examination periods also had the greatest exacerbation in acne severity.” (Arch Dermatol. 2003;139:897-900). They also noted that worsening of diet during stressful periods contributed significantly to flare-ups of acne in these students.

Acne occurs under stress when adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys, secrete norepinephrine and epinephrine and adrenal cortex secretes male hormones. It is these male hormones that stimulate the sebaceous gland to secrete more sebum, which ultimately results in the formation of acne.

It has also been established that psychological stress can decrease the wound healing capacity of immune systems up to 40%. This factor doubles the impact of stress on acne.

A study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2003), found that a chemical relationship possibly exists between acne and other skin disorders and stress. This study focused on the effect of stress on a particular part of the brain called the hypothalamus and detected that in stressful situations this part released a chemical called corticotropin -releasing hormone (CRH). The oil glands of skin are known to produce both CRH and CRH receptors. So, when the CRH receptors came in contact with extra CRH, it induced sebum production by oil glands which ultimately resulted in exacerbation of acne.

The studies demonstrated that stress not only affects acne flare-up, in general it worsens the overall skin condition. It induces the adrenal glands into overproduction of cortisol, a steroid, which in turn makes sebaceous glands produce more oil and make skin extra oily. This is the reason why, in stressful periods, people with acne experience more inflamed, pus-filled papules than simple whiteheads or blackheads.

PPU relaxing visualisations combat stress and so help to relieve the symptoms of acne and related skin disorders.


Alexa B. Kimball, MD, MPH et al. (2003) The Response of Skin Disease to Stress Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress, Stanford University, USA.

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