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Handling Stress Breakouts

By Manna Zel

Intuitively, your skin knows its own breakout patterns, whether due to food, hormones, lifestyle—or maybe you just don’t have a go-to skincare routine. As Youth To The People’s Director of Education, Laura Cline, explains, stress is also a common cause of breakouts, whether that stress occurs internally or externally. Stress can present itself differently on your skin—rough, dry patches; redness; inflammation; itchiness—but it’s often exacerbated by the lack of a routine. 

Click here to learn how a routine can ease stress.

If your stress breakouts often occur on the same part of your face, it might mean that that’s where you touch your face most, where your skin produces more oil, or where it has more dead cells. According to Cline, hormones and cortisol levels are linked to stress and can lead to breakouts.

“There are a lot of little factors that we might not have top of mind that could be contributing to it, but more often than not, you’re already producing more oil in that area,” Cline says.

Though it’s possible to treat your stress breakouts similarly to acne, Cline recommends specifically targeting and treating the areas where you’re breaking out. “Make sure you don’t have dead skin cells built up, because bacteria loves to eat dead skin,” Cline says. “Use a detoxing mask for stress breakouts and keep your skin hydrated.”

Establishing a regular skincare routine is key to getting ahead of skin stress before it starts. If you start to feel stress coming on, try throwing in an extra face mask that week and do your best to stick to your skincare routine. Try to avoid eating ingredients like refined sugars and dairy, which Cline says contribute to acne. If you’re heading into finals week or a busy time at work, Cline recommends stocking up on adaptogens and antioxidants. Adaptogenic blends—specifically those involving ashwagandha, rhodiola, and schisandra—will help reduce cortisol levels.

Above all, be mindful of your mental health. If you’re experiencing a stress breakout, try to locate the root of that stress. “Come at it from a true wellness approach,” Cline says. “Our hearts and minds affect everything, including our skin.”


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