Why do we get spots when we’re stressed? Psychodermatology could reveal the answer

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Chloe Burcham
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why do we get spots when stressed

If you’ve ever suffered a major breakout when you’ve been under stress you’re not alone. But why is it that as soon as we’re under pressure, our skin flares up? It turns out that psychodermatology could reveal the answer. 

No matter what your skin type, there are periods in our life where we all suffer from breakout flare-ups. But if your skin is usually balanced and your skincare routine is pretty thorough – these sudden breakouts can be confusing and hard to treat. 

But it turns out that stress could be a key player in causing our skin to break out suddenly. Something that psychodermatology is beginning to explore. 

From stress-induced sebum production to anxiety-driven skin picking, keep scrolling as we look into the link between our brain and our skin health – plus the best ways of dealing with stressed-out complexions and anxiety-induced acne. 

What is psychodermatology?

Psychodermatology is an umbrella term for the practice and treatment of looking at the interaction between the mind and skin. It uses psychological techniques to address how your internal wellbeing is manifested in the skin. It’s been suggested that up to 75% of all skin-related issues can be put down to stress.

Stress provokes reactions in three main bodily processes: our body’s production of adrenaline, our central nervous system and our fight or flight response. This in turn can increase levels of cortisol (which can inhibit collagen production), boost the amount of sebum on our skin (leading to breakouts and acne) and increase inflammatory responses (causing dryness, sensitivity and redness).

Why do we get spots when we’re stressed?

If you’ve ever suffered a major breakout when you’ve been under stress you’re not alone. Over the last five years, the link between our brain and gut has been widely researched – and it’s this intrinsic link that also plays a part in our skin health. 

“Stress causes skin to produce more oil,” explains Charlotte Ferguson, psychologist and founder of Disciple Skincare. “This increased production of oil can easily clog pores, allowing acne to form. Stress also causes blood to flow away from the skin and towards parts of the body more vital to survival (that good old fight or flight response). This reduced blood availability can cause skin problems, such as aggravating acne.”

“Anxiety also suppresses the body’s immune system, which can adversely affect the body’s ability to fight off intruders – i.e bad bacteria. Feelings of anxiety can cause an inflammatory response in the body, which can cause the walls of pores to break – which can cause the body to respond with redness and inflammation around the broken pore.”

“Physical anxiety may also cause you to do things like spot squeezing or skin picking, which causes scarring and may spread bacteria – increasing the likelihood of a future breakout.”

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How to treat stress-related acne

“Treating acne holistically is the most effective way to achieve long-term clear skin,” advises Ferguson. “Looking at diet, sleep pattern and stress is a great place to start. Integrating adaptogens – natural plant extracts that help the body deal with stress – can be super helpful in combating internal inflammation. Take a test to see what you’re intolerant to – these can show what it is that inflames your body and causes a stress response.”

  • LOUM Stress Detox Enzymatic Cleanser

    LOUM stress cleanser

    LOUM is a skincare brand founded on the basis of psychodermatology. Each product is designed as a direct result of research they’ve carried out looking into the effects of stress on the skin. The Stress Detox Enzymatic Cleanser helps slough away dead cells and daily debris – perfect for oily, combination skin that flares up with stress.

    Shop LOUM Stress Detox Enzymatic Cleanser at Cult Beauty, £30

  • Disciple What Spot?

    Disciple What Spot

    With a trove of natural, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory oils, this hard-working treatment calms and shortens the life of blemishes for a clearer complexion. Apply to blemishes, blackheads and pustules with the stainless steel rollerball and allow the formula to work overnight reducing inflammation and redness.

    Shop Disciple What Spot? at Cult Beauty, £15

  • The Nue Co Destress Total Body Stress Support Supplement

    The Nue Co Supplement

    Support your immune response by feeding the body with vitamins and minerals before stress has a chance to take a physical effect on you. These hardworking supplements encourage your body to work to its peak performance, even when under pressure.

    Shop The Nue Co Destress Total Body Stress Support Supplement at Cult Beauty, £45

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Chloe Burcham