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Let’s picture the scene. You’ve got an exciting night out planned. You’ve got your outfit sorted, a brand new bright red lippy and your dream team are all excited.
Or, you’re getting ready to face someone you haven’t seen in a while, and you want to look the part.
Looking and feeling good is all part of life. Whatever it means to us, looking and feeling good is good for our confidence and mental wellbeing. So we don’t want something as annoying as a lone spot or a full on acne breakout to spoil the party.
But how do we plan for skin that’s free from spots and blemishes?
Understanding what might be causing our skin to misbehave can help us manage things. Or at least it might help us plan things as much as we can around our periods and times of stress if we know them to be the cause of our breakouts.
Sudden Acne - What Could Be the Cause?
The causes of acne are widespread, ranging from our genetics (thanks mum and dad) to certain medications and even life events such as puberty, pregnancy and the menopause.
Two of the main reasons we get a sudden outbreak of spots or acne are our stress levels and our hormones. Neither of which are easy to control or manage.
So let’s take a look at the effects of both stress and hormones on our skin, and how we can recognise the difference between stress related acne and hormone related acne.
Stress and Acne Breakouts
Stress causes lots of physical symptoms - headaches, heartburn, indigestion, plus emotional ones, such as anxiety and insomnia. It’s a complex biological response to when we’re feeling under physical or mental strain, but can stress cause acne breakouts? It turns out, yes.
When we experience stress, we release the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a type of androgen, or male sex hormone, that’s present in both biologically male and female bodies.
Excessive cortisol then triggers the release of sebum. Sebum is the wax like, oily substance that’s naturally produced by the skin. It helps to keep the skin moisturised and acts as a barrier helping to protect the skin from the elements. Without it, we’d had very dry, cracked, irritated skin.
But in people with oily skin, generally, the skin is overproducing sebum, which can lead to acne. In people with acne prone skin, it’s often due to an overproduction of sebum too. When sebum is overproduced, it can block the pores, trapping dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells and pollution. This can then lead to spots and acne breakouts.
So in answer to the question, can stress cause acne, yes it can, due to the release of cortisol and subsequent overproduction of sebum.
What Does Stress Acne Look Like?
Acne caused by stress, or stress acne, tends to form on the oiliest parts of the face, where sebum production is highest.
Therefore, if you’re experiencing adult acne that affects the forehead and nose, you can pretty much bet that it’s being caused by stress. The T zone, that is the forehead, nose and chin tends to have the most sebaceous glands that produce sebum making these typical stress acne areas.
At the same time, you might notice that your skin in these areas feels greasier and that your pores are more open and visible. Your skin might also feel itchy and inflamed when you’re having a stress acne outbreak.
Hormone Related Acne
So, what have our skin and acne breakouts got to do with our non stress related hormones? Well, quite a lot, actually. As it isn’t just stress that causes a fluctuation in hormones. What causes hormonal acne? Our sex hormones.
Life events that are largely controlled by hormones, such as puberty, are often linked with outbreaks of acne. This is because during puberty, testosterone levels rise. Testosterone is a male sex hormone, or androgen, present in the bodies of those that are biologically male. But testosterone is also present in biologically female bodies, too.
This increase in testosterone signals to the skin to start increasing the amount of sebum it produces. Hence, the greasy skin that’s common in our teenage years.
But what about other times in our lives?
Having a period, being pregnant, breastfeeding and going through the perimenopause and the menopause all cause changes in the level of hormones in our bodies, which can trigger an increase in sebum levels. This can then lead to hormone related acne.
So if you’ve noticed an increase in oil and spots around the time of your period for example, then at least you now know why…
What Does Hormone Acne Look Like?
Hormone acne as an adult usually causes spots around the bottom half of your face, including your lower cheeks, chin and jawline. They’re generally going to take on the form of blackheads, whiteheads or small spots with a yellow head. If they tend to form in the same place on a regular basis, cysts can begin to form that are painful, angry and red.
During puberty, hormone acne usually affects the T zone - the forehead, down the nose and onto the chin. They can often appear red and angry.
Remember, we are describing ‘typical’ teenage and adult hormone acne here, there’s always an exception to the rule. Your period spots might affect your whole face and even your chest and back.
Other Possible Acne Triggers
Of course, stress and hormones aren’t the only causes of acne, they’re just among the most common.
Other acne causes can include certain skincare products and makeup if they’re oil based and not non pore blocking (also known as non comedogenic) and certain medications. Some prescribed drugs, such as steroids, lithium (used to treat depression and bipolar disorder) and some epilepsy drugs can cause acne breakouts.
Acne can also be down to ‘mechanical’ reasons, such as wearing a tight headband or hat for long periods of time. This can cause sweat to become blocked in the pores, leading to spots and breakouts along the forehead.
Smoking can also lead to acne breakouts since it causes inflammation that can affect the skin.
Caring for Acne Prone Skin
At Sönd, we developed our ever growing range of alkalising skincare products with acne prone skin in mind.
Why? Because we have acne prone skin ourselves, and we simply couldn’t find the skincare products we were looking for - products that worked for our skin, made from natural yet effective ingredients that didn’t strip our skin of its natural, protective oils.
Our complete skincare range has been developed with experts to nourish the needs of all skin types, be that oily, dry, sensitive or acne prone.
We made them using our signature alkalising silica salt complex to hydrate and promote healthy skin cell renewal deep within the lower layers of skin. (Which is often where the causes of spots and acne breakouts manifest themselves.)
Whilst we can’t take away the stresses and strains of your life or help to manage your hormones, we can help with your everyday skincare.
Use our range of skincare products to give your skin the best chance of behaving and not letting you down when you least need it to. Leaving you ready to go shine at the bar, spa, office or wherever. Whatever shoes you’re wearing.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.