Stress And Acne: Why Your Mood Can Affect Your Skin

Fluctuating hormones can cause stress acne & stress breakouts.

You wash your face religiously. You go to the dermatologist and follow all the other skin-care rules. But you’re still suffering from acne. So what’s up? It turns out stress could be causing the problem.

“When you get stressed, you can break out,” Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist in New York City, tells “You have a stress gland called the adrenal gland, and it puts out cortisone to deal with stress. When it puts cortisone out, a little bit of male hormone leaks out with it. In a man it doesn’t make a difference because it is miniscule compared to his normal amount of male hormone. But in women it makes a big difference.”

It’s that male hormone that then calls the oil glands to make more oil, and oil is the root cause of acne. If you have too much oil, you are much more likely to have acne breakouts when you’re stressed. “That stress can be emotional, or it can be physical, meaning not getting enough sleep, or changing multiple time zones,” Dr. Schultz explains. “It is very real.”

Women are affected by this more than men are because women normally have such a small amount of the male hormone in their blood that the small amount that leaks out with the cortisone represents a meaningful increase in women’s blood testosterone level. In men, who have a lot of testosterone, the small additional amount doesn’t have much of an impact.

In fact, hormones can play a major role in women’s acne. “Women do get breakouts related to fluxes in their hormones as they go through their menstrual cycle,” Dr. Schultz says. “There are many women who will tell you that they regularly break out before their period, during their period of after their period. And they get breakouts often in the exact same spot. This is hormonal acne.” According to the doctor, hormonal acne is especially prevalent on the jawline and the upper neck.

While all women are affected by these hormones, some techniques to lower stress can help lower cortisol levels. Go for a walk, take deep breaths or try meditating. Calm skin is happy skin!