The Link Between Stress and Acne: A Naturopathic Perspective Part 1

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Whilst many factors can contribute to the development of acne, stress is a significant contributor that is often overlooked. In this blog, we will delve into the ways in which stress impacts various bodily systems and functions, and how these effects can contribute to the occurrence of acne outbreaks.

The Connection between Stress and Acne

Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but when it becomes chronic, it can take a toll on your body. Chronic stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, otherwise known as ‘the stress hormone’, which increases oil production in your skin. This excess oil can clog your pores and lead to the development of acne.

Stress and hormonal imbalances:

Elevated levels of cortisol can also disrupt the delicate balance of other hormones in the body, including those involved in regulating the skin’s sebaceous glands, such as oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Raised androgens such as testosterone have been linked to acne, and a condition called Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). But what came first, the chicken or the egg. This is why hormonal acne is more complex than simply an imbalance of the hormones, especially if stress or inflammation are the drivers.

Stress and the digestive tract:

Stress can have a significant impact on our digestive system, including contributing to constipation. When we’re stressed, our body’s stress response can disrupt normal digestion and slow down bowel movements. This can lead to constipation, as the stool moves more slowly through the digestive tract, causing it to become hard and difficult to pass. The accumulation of waste material in the colon can result in toxins being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, which may trigger inflammation and contribute to skin issues like acne. Additionally, constipation can impair the body’s natural detoxification processes, hindering the elimination of waste and potentially increasing the burden on the skin to remove toxins.

Stress and inflammation:

Stress also causes inflammation in your body, which can worsen existing acne. Inflammation triggers the release of cytokines, which are molecules that play a role in the development of acne lesions. Stress can also weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off acne-causing bacteria. 

Stress and poor sleep hygiene

There is a strong link between stress, poor sleep, and acne. When we’re stressed, our body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which can disrupt the balance of other hormones involved in skin health. Additionally, stress can lead to poor sleep quality and duration, impairing the body’s ability to repair and regenerate the skin during the night. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation in the body, which can worsen existing acne and hinder the skin’s natural healing processes. Moreover, stress and sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making the skin more susceptible to bacterial infections and inflammation.

In conclusion, stress can be a significant contributor to acne, but there are natural ways to manage both. By incorporating naturopathic approaches like functional testing, a healthy diet, supplements, herbal medicine, exercise, mindfulness, better sleep hygiene and a gentle skincare routine, you can support your body’s natural healing processes and reduce the impact of stress on your skin. Keep an eye out for my next blog on Naturopathic Approaches to Managing Stress and Acne.

Blog Post written by resident pH Clinic Naturopath Aimee Woods. Learn more by following Aimee on Instagram @aimeewoods_naturopath or via her website

pHClinic Team

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