System Akvile Guide to Stress Acne


If you feel like your acne flares up when you’re stressed,
you’re far from alone. 

The stress in our lives is almost constant, and on most days it seems to start the moment you wake up. You roll over in bed to turn off the alarm on your phone only to see a full screen of notifications, you check your emails on your way to work or even over the weekend, and taking time out just doesn’t feel like an option with so many deadlines and so many personal things to organise. 

It’s no wonder that we all feel so stressed out all the time. And, if you’re prone to acne, the stress levels can cause your skin to break out even more than usual, leading to, you’ve guessed it, yet more stress. Yep, we’ve all been there! Join us as we look at the link between acne and stress and what you can do to break the cycle and be kind to yourself and your skin. 

Although it is commonly believed that acne only affects teenagers, adult acne is on the rise for both men and women. Recent clinical studies show that acne now affects between 40 and 55% of the adult population aged between 20-40. 

Women, acne and stress

Acne is a growing problem for adult women with many women experiencing adult female acne, which presents itself when they’re over 25 years of age. 

There are three different types of adult acne - persistent, new-onset, or recurrent. Those with persistent acne have already experienced acne breakouts during their teenage years and continue to have them into adulthood - this type of acne affects around 75-85% of women with acne. New onset acne means that you first get acne in adulthood, this is rarer and affects 20-40% of women. Finally, there’s recurrent acne, which means that acne first presents itself during the teenage years before clearing up for a bit and returning sporadically into adulthood. 

One big reason why adult acne is on the rise for women is because women have taken on more responsibilities in recent years that have increased stress levels big time. Today, women feel more pressure to work outside their homes to contribute to a steady family income, all while managing their home and family lives too. This is a unique situation for women around the world who are currently in their 20s, 30s and 40s. When you combine workplace stress with household responsibilities, skincare products that irritate or worsen acne prone skin, monthly hormone fluctuations and/or hormonal contraceptives, and then add Instagram into the mix, it’s no wonder so many women are struggling with acne prone skin today! 


What is stress?

Stress is very personal. What might cause stress to someone doesn’t always affect someone else in the same way. We all have different stress thresholds too, so some people might be able to take on a lot of responsibilities and seemingly glide through it whereas someone else might struggle. 

Stress is felt by all of us when we feel like we are struggling to cope with daily difficulties related to finances, work, relationships, environment, and other situations. Whether it’s feeling like your mind is overrun with too many things to think about, or feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or feeling like everything is spiralling out of control, we all feel stressed out when we are faced with real or imagined challenges or threats to our well-being. 

Stress is our body’s natural defense against these real or imagined threats and it triggers our ‘flight or fight’ response, meaning that our body gets flushed with hormones to prepare us to either confront the problem head on, or run away. 

The three different types of stress and how they affect your skin

There are actually 3 different types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. It’s important to familarize yourself with all of them as all three have different effects on your acne prone skin. 

Acute stress is the stress that you feel in a particular moment and is usually brief. It’s the stress you feel after an argument with a friend or the stress of preparing to give a presentation or go on a date. This normally has the effect of making your skin break out once or develop one or two pimples but it usually doesn’t last for too long. 

Episodic acute stress is most often felt by those of us who feel like we live in a state of chaos. If you constantly feel under pressure or in a rush then you’re probably experiencing acute stress overload. In this state, you probably feel like your skin is constantly breaking out, which leads to more stress and more breakouts over a longer period of time. 

Chronic stress is the most dangerous type of stress as it’s the most serious. It usually stems from childhood trauma or a deep-seated feeling of being hopeless. If you’re suffering from chronic stress i.e. constant stress which shows no sign of going away, then it can take a lot longer for you to get your acne breakouts under control. There’s some evidence that chronic stress can affect the immune system in ways that slow healing so you will probably find that your acne breakouts will last a long time. In fact, psychological stress can mean that your skin takes up to 40% longer to heal. 

If you’re struggling with constant stress, you should seek the advice of a counselor or doctor. It’s only once you have found some good methods for coping with your stress that your skin will start to calm down. 

How does being stressed affect my acne prone skin? 

It’s long been thought that stress has an effect on acne prone skin, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that dermatologists started to understand why. 

In 2003, researchers at Stanford University found that college students had more acne flare-ups during exams, when they reported feeling more stressed, compared to times when they didn’t have to write exams. They also found that as the stress levels increased so did the severity of the acne. This was one of the first studies to show a link between the two! 

Now it’s generally accepted that acne gets worse when we’re under stress. An observational study found that daily stress exacerbated acne in a third of adult female patients, but the reasons why are less than clear. Stress doesn’t cause acne but if you have acne prone skin already, then it is believed that the hormones that are released when you’re stressed aggravate your acne.  

Stress and breakouts 

The theory on how stress affects the skin is linked to an increase in cortisol - a stress hormone - and androgens which are released when the body is stressed, these hormones then trigger an increase in sebum production and blocked pores.

When you’re feeling stressed, your brain will release cortisol - otherwise known as the stress hormone. Cortisol spikes result in ‘transepidermal water loss’ as the cortisol weakens your skin barrier, this makes your skin feel really dry and inflamed, which means that your acne can get worse. 

What’s more, it’s not just your brain that can trigger cortisol, your skin can feel also trigger cortisol when it’s under stress from extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation etc. causing your acne to flare up. So you might find yourself in a situation where the stress from the brain affects the skin, and then the stress from the skin is heading to the brain, resulting in a cycle in which your skin and brain are constantly trying to get back to normal. 

The other main culprits are androgens - a group of hormones including testosterone, which stimulate the skin to produce sebum. And, when more oil is produced the hair follicles in your skin can become blocked, which ultimately allows more p. Acnes to grow. 

So, the more stressed you are, the more androgens are released, which means more sebum is produced, which means more acne breakouts.

But, it’s not only hormones that make your acne flare up. Feeling stressed out can also cause you to have trouble sleeping, choose to eat junk food (we know it’s comforting, but put that doughnut down), and break away from your skincare routine — all of which can aggravate your acne prone skin and lead to more breakouts. 

When we’re stressed we also tend to itch or scratch our skin more because stress causes an increase in nerve signalling that causes itching. So, you could also be aggravating your skin by picking and scratching it. Even though it’s insanely tempting, the worst thing you can do is pick or squeeze your spots as you’ll just make the situation worse and you might be left with scars. 

Acne Excoriee 

If you’re constantly picking at everything on your skin and feel like you can’t stop then you might have a condition called Acne Excoriee, otherwise known as ‘picker’s acne.’ This condition means that means you compulsively squeeze your spots and scratch at your skin to the point where it bleeds and scabs. If you feel like this then you should consult a dermatologist, as the constant picking and scratching can lead to severe infections and scarring. 

How to break out of the cycle?

Unfortunately, for so many of us stress = breakouts = more stress = more breakouts! So you need to work out how to break out of the cycle. Here are some tips to help you manage your stress levels. 

1) Stick to your skincare routine. Whatever else is going on in your life, you need to stick to your routine and not get tempted to add anything crazy into the mix. If you stick to cleansing, exfoliating, moisturising and targeting pimples every day then this is the best way to get your acne back under control.

2) Start learning to meditate. Meditation is proven to help reduce your stress levels. This is because meditation affects the body in the exact opposite way to stress as it triggers the body’s relaxation response and restores your body to a calm state. And, if you practice meditation on a regular basis you can even build up a resilience to stress which will help you to manage your stress levels in the future. A good way to start is by setting aside one minute of meditation into every day - set the timer for a minute, turn off your phone, and concentrate on breathing for a whole minute. 

3) Schedule in some much needed ‘me time.’ Whether it’s taking a bath, setting aside some time to read your book, watching a movie you want to see, or taking yourself out to a restaurant, we all need to factor in some time to reconnect with ourselves sometimes. Taking some me-time is the best way to relax and re-energize. 

 Used literature: 

System Akvile Skincare System

Four perfectly balanced products 
Treats all signs of adult prone skin 
Has soothing agents
Has anti-inflammatory agents

We believe in demystifying skincare

There is no topical skin treatment that acts against all four of the major problems of acne prone skin: attached skin cells (hyperkeratinization), sebum over-production, bacteria and inflammation.

We’re all about keeping it simple with 4 products and 1 routine to help you to choose and to use skincare that actually works with your skin.

adult acne prone skin
Adult acne prone skin
acne prone skin skincare solution
System Akvile skincare


Let's be friends!

Subscribe to our emails to get your hands on exclusive content, guides, and skincare wisdom!