Take the pressure off dealing with your stress acne.  

Stress and acne, two of the most naturally unfortunate parts of growing up. I want to say I blame puberty for both of these, and I suppose in a way that’s feasible. Puberty is what kickstarts acne with all its chemical imbalances and of course, with those chemical imbalances come the onslaught of hormonal imbalances. And what do hormonal imbalances bring? Stress. In some form or another, at least. Stress and acne. Acne and stress. They both suck, no matter how you slice it.

While they’re pretty powerful mood-dampeners by themselves, they bring a whole new level to awful to the equation when one breeds the other. I have a breakout? Insert the debilitating self-consciousness and worry about what others think when they see it. I have stress? Here’s a pimple, or twelve. A vicious, vicious cycle that we continue to perpetuate, simply because the idea of acne has been ingrained into our minds under the category: Freak Out. We’ve been conditioned to panic the second we see any impurities and it’s awful because most of the time, we don’t have any control over the said impurities. 

The question becomes how to deal with both stress and acne. Is there a way to combat one, and that will affect the other? Or do we have to tackle each individually for a successful result? While I think that tackling both individually is the most effective way to deal, I know that managing one and reaping the rewards of those effects is also a possibility. If I’m only choosing one, my approach is going to change. Battling acne is often more physical, while stress is more mental and emotional. Obviously, all three elements affect both but when the common causes of each are broken down, they usually fall into those categories.

Acne is often a physical product of an improper diet, problematic facial products or a lack of self-care. The self-care aspect can be broken down into things like the amount of sleep and exercise a person gets. By creating a regular sleep and exercise routine, our bodies have a chance to function properly and it lessens the workload the chemicals in our bodies have. Unfortunately, sometimes our body needs a little more help (I know mine always does) so using certain products to help battle the acne makes the effort that much more effective.

I have a trio of favorite products at the moment but I’m always looking for more to add to my collection. Two of the products are cult classics and should be no surprise to anyone (I’m here to reiterate their amazingness because when something’s this good, it deserves it) but I’ve also thrown in something for people with a more natural preference in products. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion have been raved about until the entire industry was blue in the face and I have no intention of breaking that streak.  A lot of times, products receive hype that they don’t necessarily deserve but that is not the case with these two. Not only do they actually work to reduce acne, redness, and inflammation, but they do it at lightning speed. If I go to get with one of these on my face — or if I’m in a serious crisis, both–, when I wake up I look like a completely different person. My spots have all decreased in size, some are completely gone, and the redness that usually overtakes the right side of my face (yes just the right, it’s weird) has become a faint pink. I can deal with pink.

My natural alternative to the two beauties listed above is pure lemon oil. Now, let me preface this with a warning. Do not put this straight on your face. Lemon is extremely acidic, which is why it is so effective in treating acne. It literally “burns” out the bacteria, but if you don’t dilute this oil it will burn your face. I usually dilute my lemon oil with Jojoba oil, which is also a great product if you’re trying to salvage your complexion because it’s both anti-bacterial and extremely hydrating.

There are some arguments over whether or not natural products work as well as synthetic ones and while I stand by the fact that the lemon oil works just as well as the two chemical acne solution, the truth is the oil takes a bit longer to work. Both the Drying Lotion and the Niacinamide serum are overnight miracle makers, while the lemon oil takes a few weeks of continual use to really be effective. The wait time and effort required can often be a turn-off when it comes to natural products but I honestly think that in the grand scheme of things, natural is the way to go. Better for your body, better for the earth — who cares if it takes a little while longer?

There are some people who will choose to tackle to stress side of this situation rather than the acne side. I applaud those people because they must have a much stronger mental energy than I do. Dealing with stress seems to be a never-ending wormhole, once sucked in, there’s no escape. At least not for myself, you might have better luck. Because I am perpetually stuck in the rabbit hole that is stress, I’m not exactly a reliable source on how to eliminate stress, but I can share with you the ways that I attempt to combat it. Attempt being the operative word.

Something I’ve recently decided to do is set aside one day a week completely for myself and what I want to do (or not do). I call these my “meditation days” but the reality of it is, it’s usually just me lounging around in my sweats –sometimes I see how long I can forego putting on pants– watching movies, ordering in food and avoiding most any kind of social interaction possible. I try not to use social media, I shy away from texting, and I leave my phone on do not disturb. I also put a restriction on doing any work. Anything I do must be “mindless” in a sense. I take this time to edit photos because I find it a very relaxing and repetitive task that doesn’t require my brain to be actively firing as I spend an hour shifting the temperature of a photo back and forth by five points.

I take this day to paint my nails, do a face mask and if I’m feeling particularly frivolous, a hair mask too. I tidy my space, do laundry, maybe even clean my makeup brushes. I tick off necessary activities that allow me to space out but still allow me to feel as though I’ve done something with my day. Although I will admit, if my stress has been particularly vicious, I will not remove myself from the warm and comfort of my duvet and mountain of pillows barring the need to pee and retrieve food. Nothing productive happens in that even. I won’t look at photos, I won’t wash my socks and I certainly won’t attempt to tidy anything. On those days –granted they only come around once in a blue moon– it’s just me, my blanket, a pizza and some feel good, early 2000’s television masterpieces.

There’s an underlying bias in our society that views day like that as guilt worthy and intangible. We very much live in a work, work, work society and I find that we often push even the most basic forms of self-care to the back burner because of our visceral need to be productive. While productivity is fantastic and very much the bedrock of our society, I think that the amount of pressure placed on its importance can be quite toxic. Yes, we should be productive, but we also shouldn’t feel bad for taking a few hours, or even a whole day off from productivity. It’s unhealthy to be “on” all the time, and yet it is something that we normalize.

Alongside taking my day off, I also try to partake in some popular de-stressing activities. I dabble in yoga every now and again, I try my hand meditation, and I go on walks to enjoy the fresh air and scenery (trees calm me). None of these acts are miracle workers but a little here and a little there does make a difference.

There’s unfortunately not more I can say to the stress angle, particularly because if I had it all figured out, we would be having a very different conversation. I’m about to head my own advice on tackling my acne –if I don’t take it, why would anyone else– and slather my face in pimple perishers. As for my stress, wish me luck. I’m going to need it.


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