How To Handle Stress Breakouts

Acne, bye

by Tamim Alnuweiri

When you’re a teenager, breakouts and hormonal acne are par for the course. But when you’re an adult, these things take on a different shape; acne feels unfair and like a cruel joke. This is perhaps especially true for stress-induced breakouts, which are surely their own circle of hell. After all, these breakouts occur because you’re already stressed, but then the ensuing acne leads to... more stress!

Prior to having stress breakouts, I honestly thought that the idea of stress physically materializing on my body was impossible, but I soon found out that it’s all too real. During a short-lived term at a heinous office job, I began to notice I was breaking out on all the days I was there. It changed from week to week, but I was getting a lot of sudden rashes, which I quickly determined weren't from other allergies. One day when I was whining to my mother (as any woman in her twenties should do), she suggested that this condition was probably brought on by the stress of this job. Still, though, I was wary about the whole concept; like, there’s no way my body could be that cruel to me, and externally mirror my internal agony, right? And yet, I was tired of looking like I fell asleep in a vat of oil, so I decided to consult some experts instead of falling down the WebMD blackhole.

I reached out to Marisa Martino and Adriana Martino, co-founders of Skinney MedSpa and its in-house skin-care line, to find out if stress breakouts are even a real thing. They were very quick to assure me that anxiety breakouts are very real, because “when you are stressed your body produces excess cortisol, a hormone that will cause you to overproduce sebum, thus clogging your pores and causing breakouts.” 

According to Marisa and Adriana, there are two types of stress breakouts which match two basic types of stress. The first is short-term or momentary stress, which occurs in situations where your adrenaline spikes. The increase in adrenaline triggers your body’s nervous response which causes an outbreak of rashes and/or hives. 

The second type is longer-term daily stress which “increases oil production due to an abnormal hormonal response.” This type of stress is likely the one you’re most familiar with and often the one wreaking the most havoc on your life. This acne tends to be characterized by “less superficial breakouts,” and because life is fun and amazing, these breakouts can spread to or occur anywhere your body—especially your chest and back.

And now for the remedy. The first step, according to Marisa and Adriana, is one you’re definitely familiar with (it’s the same thing that’s repeated by every dermatologist, medical professional, and skin-care guru on the planet): “Keep your skin hands-free.” Easier said than done, of course; we’re all human, and I have a particularly hard time not picking at irritated skin, but still, you should try to minimize the amount of contact you’re making, because it will truly only make it worse. 

Marisa and Adriana recommend a few other things, too, for managing your stress-induced skin flare-ups. First, their own Skinney Medspa Chemical Peel, which they say “works really well, not only for exfoliating the skin but also for helping to heal and kill any bacteria on the surface on your skin associated with breakouts.” As I’ve battled my way through my own bouts of rashes and deadline-induced stress breakouts, I’ve learned to rely on Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Masque which is like liquid gold for your face. After wearing it, I feel like my skin finally learned to relax, unwind, and take a bath or something; it always soothes my all-over face breakouts. 

For deep boils or cysts, I would recommend Renee Rouleau’s Anti Cyst Treatment which will minimize the boil before you have time to agonize over how to cover the small but mighty skin-mountain village with concealer. If you’re having some serious deep cystic acne that needs to be eradicated ASAP, Adriana has more professional dermatological recommendations, such as “a cortisone injection and combined therapies like LED Blue Light therapy, [which are] great for soothing the skin and drying out any surface breakouts.”

If you’re unfortunate enough (as I am) to have your stress materialize most often via chest rashes and breakouts, don't worry: We can get through this together. To combat this type of hell, I smear Shiseido Ibuki Multi-Solution Gel on the big ones, as well as Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer all over. Technically, the Kiehl's is meant for your face, but it still works well on your chest, back, arms, or other appendages. 

Lastly, if I know that I'm about to enter the eye of the stress storm (exam week, parents visiting, the impending rapture), I switch out my regular face wash for Murad’s Oil Control Mask, which can be used less intensively as a cleanser. I’ll also switch out both my facial and body moisturizer for KLAIRS Soothing Cream.

Regardless of what’s going on in your life, the key is in trying to remain calm or at least not add to the external stress by stressing out internally. Just try to relax and remember that your skin will come back from whatever you’re going through, just like you will.