Is Stress Acne Real?
Just as puberty causes acne in even the most perfect complexion, menopause can have similar effects on our skin. In fact, many women experience acne during the menopause transition. One of the most common offenders is stress acne.
What is Stress Acne?
Stress acne is the increase of acne or the sometimes sudden appearance of new acne caused by high levels of stress hormones for prolonged periods of time. Stress itself is not the only cause of acne, and usually influences several other factors. However, stress does have a significant impact on the skin’s immune response.
When we experience stress, stress hormones signal the glands in our skin to produce more oils, primarily sebum. This occurs in the sebaceous glands. When the sebaceous glands release these oils, they start to gather around hair follicles on the skin and clog up skin pores. The buildup of these oils increases acne and contributes to worsening acne. Chronic stress causes these glands to release oils more frequently. This can make it difficult for women with naturally oily skin types or cystic acne to clear their skin.
Additionally stress hormones make it more difficult for immune cells in the skin to perform as effectively. Stress changes cellular regularity throughout the body, including the skin. When stress hormone levels are high, immune cells in the skin start to suffer and can’t perform their roles well. This is because stress hormones affect how much energy these cells have to perform their tasks. When this occurs, immune cells that would fight off bacteria buildups in the skin have a harder time reducing acne.
How To Reduce Stress Acne
While we can’t eliminate stress in our daily lives, there are ways we can help support healthier skin to reduce the impact of stress and the risk of stress acne. There are a few ways that women can help lower stress acne, and the overall impact of stress. These include things like making changes to diet, consuming nutrients to help support immune health, and utilizing stress-relief techniques to help manage stress levels.
What are some specific things you can do to help support skin health and lower stress acne?
Since stress hormones contribute to the increase of oils released by the sebaceous glands, finding ways to help reduce oil production is a key step in managing skin health and acne. So how can women better regulate oil production in their skin? They can drink water. Drinking water helps the skin stay hydrated and when the skin is properly hydrated, it doesn’t need to release as many oils onto the skin’s surface.
When skin is dehydrated, the sebaceous glands release oils onto the skin’s surface to help hydrate it. This helps prevent skin cells from becoming dry and damaged. However, the overproduction of sebum and natural skin oils contributes to bacterial buildups that increase acne. So to help combat this issue drink plenty of water. Water helps maintain moisture in skin, and supports immune cell regulation. So be sure to drink 96 ounces (12 cups) of water every day.
Eat Less Sugar
Another surprising dietary element that contributes to acne is sugar, particularly refined sugar. Refined sugars are sugars that have undergone an intensive refining process. A good example of refined sugar is granulated sugar found at the supermarket. Consuming high quantities of sugar stimulates the inflammatory response by causing blood sugar to spike. When the body experiences high blood sugar it triggers the body’s inflammatory response. This causes your skin to inflame, which aggravates bacterial buildup that causes acne.
So to help reduce this inflammatory response and help lower acne problems, it’s important to avoid high quantities of sugar in a daily diet. Limit the consumption of refined food products as much as possible. Avoid products that have added sugars, like added sugar fruit juices, to help reduce the risk of inflammatory spikes in the skin.
Eat More Antioxidants
There’s a reason the body requires antioxidants. Antioxidants help the immune system eliminate free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that contributes to infections and cell damage. Without antioxidants, immune cells have a hard time fighting off infections and it becomes more difficult for skin cells to repair themselves after they’ve been exposed to UV rays, wind, and other aggressive environmental influences. These external factors can also exacerbate acne, giving the immune system more difficulty to repair cells that have been damaged which reduces their impact on helping reduce acne.
So, what foods can women eat to gain more antioxidants to help support their immune system response?
- Citrus Fruits: Oranges, lemons, limes - citric acid is an excellent antioxidant and a precursor to collagen production that is essential to helping repair skin cells and tissues
- Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries - many berries are full of antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress done by UV ray damage
- Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, swiss chard - leafy greens are some of the most nutritionally dense food sources and are packed full of antioxidants
Balance Gut Bacteria
The gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in regulating the immune response throughout the body. Many bacterial strains can even help the body absorb nutrients to maintain healthy skin. However, when gut microbiota are imbalanced, what happens to skin’s health?
An imbalanced gut microbiome can make it more difficult for the body to gain nutrients that help regulate immune cells in the skin, repair skin cells, and fight against bacterial buildups in pores that cause acne. How so? Gut bacteria help maintain many metabolic processes, one of which is to produce metabolites that specifically help immunomodulation.
Immunomodulation is a series of regulatory processes that modulate or change the production, release, and activation of immune cells throughout the body. Immunomodulation is constantly happening inside the body and your gut bacteria play a critical role in that. Gut bacteria release metabolites that help support the immunomodulation process, which can help the body more effectively support the immune response in the skin.
So support this process by supplying your gut microbiome with healthy, good bacteria in the form of probiotics. Probiotic supplements can help supply your gut microbiome with enough bacterial strains to support healthy population levels of beneficial bacteria that can regulate the body’s immune system. This can help your skin gain the nutrients it needs to support itself and regulate its immune response more effectively.