Stress and Acne.




Archives of Dermatology

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Acne
Professional Data: Acne


Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disease, affecting 80% of the population between the ages of 12 and 25.1 It usually has a limited life span of its own; however, some cases may persist for years and the more severe cases may potentially lead to scarring and disfigurement. The lesions of acne are generally classified as inflammatory or noninflammatory, and occur most frequently on the face, neck, chest, and back.

The causes of acne are very complex and involve many different systems and chemicals within the body. Hormones, enzymes, and the immune system all interact together resulting in different reactions in each individual. Understanding this complex system has kept dermatologists busy for decades.

Acne is considered an inherited disease, although it is impossible to know which members of a family may suffer from the disease, and which members will not. Acne is not caused by greasy foods, and is not caused by dirt. Avoiding all greasy foods may help curb obesity, but will likely not affect acne. While keeping the skin clean is always recommended, excessive washing of the skin to remove dirt may actually interfere with some treatment programs. For this reason, when visiting a healthcare professional regarding acne, it is important to request information on how to care for the skin at home.

Many people believe that stress may aggravate acne, but a recent study stated that this information is anecdotal. These researchers wanted to study the relationship between acne and stress. A group of 22 college students volunteered for this study and all participants had acne. Students stress levels and severity of acne were measured during examination and non-examination periods. The results of this study found that acne sufferers may endure worsening of acne during stressful periods. The researchers also concluded that, “emotional stress from external sources may have a significant influence on acne.”2


1. Leyden JJ. Therapy for acne vulgaris. N Engl J Med. 1997;336:1156-1162.
2. Chiu A, et al. The response of Skin Disease to Stress. Arch Dermatol. Jul2003;139(7);897-900.