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Acne & Stress in Women

Acne & Stress in Women Acne & Stress in Women


Acne is defined by the Women's Health Information Center as "a disorder that causes outbreaks of skin lesions commonly called pimples." The center feels that men and women are affected differently by acne with women's acne often related to hormonal changes. Acne affects women for many reasons. Stress may be a contributing factor.


According to the National Women's Health Information Center, acne is not caused directly by stress. The center states that acne may be a side effect of medications used to treat stress and anxiety. Acne may be the result of physical changes caused by stress. Conversely, stress may be caused by acne's effect on your social and emotional well-being.


Stress can cause our adrenal gland to produce higher levels of androgens. Androgens are typically considered a male hormone. In women, androgens are responsible for strong muscles and bones, and overall well-being. "Higher androgen levels can lead to more acne," according to The website further states that this is "especially true in women, who produce a much larger percentage of their androgens in the adrenal gland than men." This theory may explain why women seem to have more skin breakouts then men during times of stress.


Dr. Christos C. Zouboulis, vice chair of the department of dermatology at the Free University of Berlin, believes that, "A stress-related hormone that affects the release of oils in the skin may be a potential cause of skin disorders such as excessively dry or oily skin, explaining the link between stress and acne breakouts." If you suffer from continually dry or oily skin, which may be worsened by stress, consult a dermatologist for treatment.


Decreasing stress and keeping your skin clean are your best methods of fighting acne. Determining the cause of your stress and eliminating that cause will be your best stress-management technique. Getting a good night's sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercise may help to reduce stress. The National Women's Health Information Center states that you should wash your face twice daily with a mild soap and avoid harsh scrubbing. Also keeping your hair clean will keep excess oils away from your face.


Hormones are commonly the culprit of persistent acne in adult women. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Hormones likely play a role in the development of acne." Hormonal changes occurring each month as part of the menstrual cycle can trigger acne. Acne often develops a few days prior to the first day of the menstrual period and can last throughout the cycle. The emotional stress caused by this type of acne can lead women to pick at their skin. The Mayo Clinic suggests discussing the use of oral contraceptives to regulate hormones to control this type of acne.

Other Causes

Other Factors in a woman's life may cause acne. These conditions may also provoke stress, compounding their effects. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome--or PCOS--is a disorder caused by female hormones. PCOS is caused by increased levels of androgen--a type of testosterone--which can lead to severe acne. Women without PCOS may also develop acne related to hormones as their female hormones fluctuate throughout their menstrual cycle. Pregnancy and menopause can also trigger acne, related to hormonal changes. Finally, stopping birth control pills can also cause acne.

Expert Insight

The American Academy of Dermatology says, "Beyond the direct physiological effects of stress, patients under stress also tend to neglect or abuse their skin." The academy also states that stress can lead to neglected skin-care routines and an increase in nervous habits, like picking and scratching. Acne may be "more inflamed or more persistent" as a result of stress. Dermatologists recommend stress management as well as good skin care to treat skin conditions related to stress.

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