For many women, it’s a given that pimples will be popping up right before and during the start of menstruation. But it might not be as obvious that breakouts also happen during periods of stress, along with the worsening of other skin conditions.
Tori Stanley, an esthetician at Beautif-EYE, a spa and threading studio in Scottsdale, Arizona said in an email that stress can lead to a host of problems, including aging of skin (yes, wrinkles).
“The condition of your complexion is always good for measuring stress levels,” Stanley said. “The skin is the largest (and most visible) organ in the body so it tends to register stress fairly quickly.”
“While everyone's skin may act differently, stress can cause unevenness, breakouts, dullness and dehydration,” she added. “Healthy skin means everything is functioning properly, which means diet, toxic exposures, stress and exercise.”
Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist and author of “Skin Rules,” said in an email that when people are stressed, they tend to have poor diets, which then can worsen or trigger skin conditions like acne.
She said she tells patients to remove high-glycemic foods, like sugar-filled donuts, as well as dairy from their diets, because they both can trigger acne in some people. Medication can help as well.
“In acne, stress has been shown to increase oil flow (making breakouts more likely),” said Dr. De Fiori, a dermatologist at Rosacea Treatment Clinic. “This is because corticotropin-releasing hormone, sometimes simply called ‘the stress hormone,’ directly stimulates the manufacture of sebum.”
“Sebum protects skin against damage because it contains Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, increased production of which can be seen as a manifestation of preparing for fight or flight,” Fiori added in an email.
Dr. Lawrence Mark, a dermatologist at the Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center, said in an email that neurodermatitis and prurigo nodularis are both skin conditions that are closely linked to stress.
“People become stressed, they may have obsessive compulsive behaviors and they just can’t help themselves, picking at their skin,” Mark said.