The Regimen

Regimen Roadblock No. 1: Stress

Woman getting into her car and holding a cup of coffee


There are times when it seems you’re doing everything right with your regimen, but you’re still breaking out. What gives? It could be that your regimen needs some tweaking. But more than likely, there’s something else is getting in the way. One of the biggest influencers on the skin, other than the products you’re using, is something over which we have limited control. It’s something that has immediate and lasting effects on physical health, emotional well-being, and the appearance of your skin. And right now, it’s largely inescapable. Let’s talk about stress.


When you get stressed, your body’s defense system is challenged. You’re more likely to get sick. How many times have you woken up with a sore throat after pushing your body too hard or skipping sleep? Your body suffers first at its weakest link. For those who are acne-prone, the sebaceous follicles are the weak link.


The acne process going on under the surface of the skin is a constant cycle of disruption and repair. Dead skin cells and sebum create impactions, which then cause follicle walls to tear open. The body views the impaction of dead cells as a foreign invader and sends white blood cells to attack. But the enzymes intended to dissolve the impaction have no effect on the keratin plug. They do, however, effect the follicular wall and surrounding collagen. So the body’s defense system actually makes things worse, deepening the fissure of the follicle, damaging tissue, and potentially leading to scarring.


When you’re healthy, relaxed, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep, your body is more resilient and the acne cycle is weighted toward repair.


When the body is weakened by stress, the cycle shifts toward disruption; the healing process is interrupted, the cascade of inflammation begins, and you may see an immediate stress response. So even though pimples typically take about thirty days to form and rise to the surface, stress is like a match, igniting a flare-up that can appear overnight.


In acne-prone skin, comedones, the seeds of pimples, are continually developing under the surface of the skin, like smoldering fires. When the stress-weakened body can’t put them out, they escalate into full-blown infernos. 


In the case of adult skin, fewer new comedones are developing, but the dormant seeds of previous flare-ups remain. Under stress, the weakened body abruptly remembers these seeds as foreign invaders, and the white blood cells attack, creating new flare-ups. That’s why, even though you may not have had a breakout for years, you can suddenly find yourself staring down an angry red bump. 


The more frequently the cycle leans on disruption, the more the follicles are weakened, and the slower the healing process becomes. Stress reduction is imperative. Unfortunately, we are living in extremely stressful times. There is a lot you cannot control, but understanding exactly how stress affects your skin may help you find more ways to combat stress.


Focus on the things you can control.


Get as much quality sleep as you possibly can. Sleep is your body’s repair system. It will boost your body’s defenses and also give you a rest from worries.


Examine the things that are causing you stress and make adjustments where you can. Recognize the things that are out of your control and relieve yourself of the worry surrounding them. 


Get exercise. Even if you can’t get outdoors, there are plenty of ways to get exercise indoors. Some yoga and exercise apps are offering their online classes free to help people cope during the Covid-19 lockdown. Down Dog is offering their entire library of yoga classes free until June 1st with no card required, so you don’t have to worry about canceling if you don’t want to continue beyond that time.


Relaxation techniques like meditation can be beneficial. In a study involving 30 grade II acne patients, the group was asked to visualize the healing process of their skin in addition to using their acne products. Their progress was compared to a control group of similar patients using the same products. During the period of the study, the first group saw a 25 percent reduction in acne lesions compared to the group relying on conventional therapy alone.


Bottom line, stress interferes with the healing process in the follicle. Prolonged stress can have a lasting impact on your skin. To achieve your best results, stress management must be part of your acne regimen.

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