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Can Depression or Stress Cause Acne?

Can Depression or Stress Cause Acne?

Have you ever wondered whether depression or stress could be the cause of acne and skin breakouts? The short answer is that there definitely is a strong connection between the mind and the skin, and the state of mental health has been proven to contribute towards various skin conditions, not only acne!

This is not to say that everybody who suffers from acne has depression, stress or anxiety. Acne can also be caused by poor hygiene, hormones, medication, climate, diet, lifestyle and genetics. Although conditions like depression and anxiety don’t actually cause acne, they can definitely make it worse.

How is depression or stress connected to acne?

Psychodermatology (also called psychoneurocutaneous medicine) includes skin and mental health professionals who focus on the connection between the mind and the skin. Various studies have been done on this topic, with a wide range of test subjects presenting various different skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, fungal skin infections and more. Not only were they observing various skin disorders, they were also observing various mental disorder, including anxiety, depression, PTSD and schizophrenia.

There are a few reasons why the link between the skin and the mind is so strong. Essentially, the skin and nervous system arise from a common embryological origin. This means that the skin and nervous system are constantly communicating with one another. Almost any skin disorder can be impacted by changes in the nervous system. A good example is seen in those who have eczema - their symptoms flare up during times of stress.

How your mental state can affect your skin:

  1. Stress is known to reduce the immune system. During times of stress or anxiety, the immune defence weakens and increases susceptibility to all sorts of infections, including skin infections and breakouts.
  2. Stress has been shown to increase sebum (oil) production in the skin, which can worsen acne. 
  3. Stress has also been shown to aggravate inflammation in the body and skin, leading to skin breakouts and flare-ups.
  4. People who suffer from depression or other mental health conditions may be more likely to neglect their health and self-care, resulting in poor hygiene, which affects skin conditions.
  5. Finally, people with nervous or depressive mental states often pick at their skin and acne pimples, which further worsens their skin condition and can even lead to long-term scarring of the skin.

     Acne management

    Psychodermatologists have put in concerted efforts to help those who struggle with acne (and other skin conditions) that is triggered by their mental state. Once they have a diagnosis of both the skin condition and mental condition, the treatment plan comprises of a dual approach, addressing both dermatologic and psychological aspects. Psychodermatologists will use a combination of medication, dermatological treatment, and most importantly, therapeutic treatment.

    The professionals have noted that treating only the skin does not produce the desired outcome. While treating the skin alone might help, the long-term solution works best when depression, anxiety or other mental conditions are focused on as the root cause that needs to be treated just as much as the skin.

    Common treatments used by psychodermatologists:

    1. Behaviour therapy and other forms of psychological therapy.
    2. Promote healthy skin with a daily, consistent skin routine. Improve the hygiene and balance of the skin with various topical products (see Rose Water for a cleansing, balancing and nourishing cleanser/toner).
    3. Stabilise hormone levels (see Don Quai for female hormonal balance).
    4. Antidepressants to balance neurotransmitters involved in mood (see MindSoothe for a natural mood tonic and antidepressant / see PureCalm for anxiety and panic attacks).

    Treatment may vary from person to person and can sometimes take a while to find the best treatment plan. Through patience and perseverance, both a healthy skin and a balanced mind are certainly attainable! 

    Have you struggled with skin problems due to your mental health? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

    If you have any health-related questions, please contact us or leave a comment below for FREE advice. We always love hearing from you!

    Saskia Michele

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