Stress can affect your body in a number of ways—find out how to keep your skin in check.

When you're stressed and life's feeling overwhelming, self care can often fall to the bottom of your list of priorities—we've all been there.

However, there's nothing as frustrating as waking up after a long day and looking in the mirror at none other than a brand new stress-induced breakout.

Unfortunately, stress and skin care often become a vicious cycle: you've been stressed, you break out, and then you're newly stressed about having a zit smack dab in the middle of your face.

Like everything acne related, there's no one way to cure or treat it, but there are a few things you can do to calm your skin and prevent these breakouts. Keep reading for a few tips that you can incorporate into your skin care routine right now.

acne, stress, skin care
Dealing With Stress Acne? Here’s How to Tackle These Troublesome Breakouts
| Credit: Getty Images

How does stress cause acne?

When you experience stress, your body reacts in a variety of ways, including some you may not notice. One of the reactions that most directly affects the skin is the overproduction of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates oil glands. If you're producing excess oil, your pores can become clogged, and that's where you'll see a breakout.

This is why stress acne typically shows up on the oiliest parts of your face, as opposed to hormonal acne, which you may see on your jaw or cheeks. Take note of where you're seeing breakouts, as targeting the cause of the acne may be the most effective way to treat it.

How can I prevent breakouts?

It may be obvious, but we have to mention the root cause—avoiding stress would help clear your skin. However, that can be extremely difficult to achieve in today's modern world, so we'll leave that advice to mental health professionals.

acne, stress, skin care
Reach for a cleanser with clarifying BHAs like this one from StriVectin
| Credit: Courtesy of StriVectin

StriVectin, Multi-Action Clear Gentle Daily Clarifying Cleanser, $29,

In the meantime, make sure you're removing excess oil without stripping your skin's natural barrier. We recommend reaching for a cleanser with clarifying BHAs or a serum with niacinamide.

While it may be tempting to go without moisturizer if your skin is feeling oily, don't skip this crucial step, as your skin may respond by producing even more oil. Instead, reach for something water-based that won't clog pores or feel heavy on your skin.

acne, stress, skin care
Look for a lightweight, water-based moisturizer.
| Credit: Courtesy of Target

Neutrogena, Hydro Boost Water Gel Face Moisturizer, $24.99,

How can I treat breakouts?

Adult, stress-based acne can be very different from the acne you had as a teen, so we recommend spot treatments rather than all-over treatments. Look for products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

We're also huge fans of hydrocolloid patches for two reasons: they help cure a pimple faster, and they prevent you from picking at it.

acne, stress, skin care
Cover up and treat breakouts with a powerful patch.
| Credit: Courtesy of Target

Hero Cosmetics, Mighty Patch Original Acne Pimple Patches, $10.99,

Main takeaways

Stress acne can be tough, but it's not impossible to conquer. 

Focus on preventing excess oil build-up, but don't over-exfoliate, as being too harsh can damage your skin barrier and make matters worse.

If stress is causing you to skip your full skin care routine, that's okay! Focus on just washing your face and moisturizing if you can.

Be gentle with your skin, but don't forget to be gentle with yourself first.