Stress Breakouts: What Causes Them & How to Clear Them

by | Updated: January 4th, 2019 | Read time: 4 minutes

Family get-togethers, lots of travel and seasonal festivities this time of year can really cause stress levels to soar. Sometimes getting the best of us, stress can seep down from our brain to our bodies, manifesting in a number of physical reactions that can show up on our skin, too. A spike in stress can affect everything from how skin functions to how skin looks.

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that controls a wide range of responses in the body. Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels go through regular fluctuations regulated by your internal clock, with peak levels at early morning and lowest levels around midnight. Stress can significantly disrupt this cycle, causing cortisol levels to spike, which can have a major impact on everything from the immune system to inflammatory responses.

Stress also signals the release of epinephrine, which can decrease blood flow to the skin, alter immune and inflammatory functions and affect the production of collagen1. These responses can really take a toll on your skin.

Brunette Woman Checking Her Skin for a Stress Breakout in the Mirror |

Combat oil and inflammation with calming, anti-blemish products

A surge in cortisol and other hormones can cause an increase in inflammation and send your sebaceous glands into oil-producing overdrive. This creates the perfect storm for oily skin, an increase in blemishes and other related skin problems.

Aside from taking the necessary steps to ease your stress levels (deep breathing, taking a walk outside, etc.), you can reach for skincare products that help to rebalance skin and control oil. An anti-blemish, gentle, reparative serum, such as the MyChelle Clear Skin Pore Refiner, helps minimize surface shine and refine pores to deliver a matte finish.

Plump with peptides & plant stem cells

Cortisol also triggers a spike in blood sugar, which damages collagen and elastin through a process called glycation. Collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping skin plump and smooth, and when damage occurs, your skin loses volume, which can result in fine lines. Muscle tension from those stressed-out faces you make when the pressure’s on can also lead to permanent wrinkling.

Address these stress reactions with a peptide serum or a mask with plant stem cells. Plant stem cells promote healthy skin renewal, while peptides can help skin appear visibly firmer, softening the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and boosting elasticity.

Reach for retinol to restore luminosity to dull, dry skin

Your skin is made up of layers — the very top layer being the stratum corneum, which is made up of dead skin cells and functions as a barrier between your skin and the external world. This protective layer creates a surface seal that’s essential for skin hydration. Stress affects the functionality of this barrier, damaging the skin’s ability to retain water and resulting in moisture loss that diminishes luminosity and creates dull, dry, flaky skin.

Get back to glow with luxurious creams and serums formulated with retinol (vitamin A) and other antioxidants. Retinol can help promote skin renewal, improve texture and restore radiance.

Calm flare-ups with soothing ingredients

Many pre-existing inflammatory conditions can be triggered or worsened by stress. Hormones released when the body senses increased stress levels can suppress your immune system, aggravating allergic and inflammatory diseases. Psoriasis, acne, eczema and atopic and contact dermatitis can all act up when you’re stressed out.

We always recommend talking to your doctor before starting a new skincare regimen, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. While the best solution to these flare-ups may be to resolve what’s stressing you out in the first place, you can topically address symptoms with products formulated with natural ingredients, such as a day cream with nourishing plant extracts and oils meant to soothe and calm irritation.

Stress and skin conditions have a tricky, cyclical relationship: Stress results in exacerbated skin conditions, and those skin reactions create more stress and anxiety, which then worsens said skin conditions.

No one likes to hear the words, “Just relax,” so what can you really do to break the cycle? Try some breathing exercises, meditation or yoga, or simply walk outside in the fresh air and do your best to keep the stress levels down. A healthy, balanced diet is also a great way to reduce stress and improve your complexion. Load up on leafy greens packed with vitamins and antioxidant-rich berries.

When all else fails, speak with your doctor and/or mental health specialist to develop strategies that will help get you back to center.