Manage Stress (and Sebum)
If you're not careful, all this worrying about acne is going to give you acne. Many people notice a link between feeling stressed out and experiencing acne breakouts. Some stress behaviors certainly contribute to bad skin: lack of exercise, nervously touching your face, not bathing or maintaining proper hygiene and maybe even poor diet (researchers go back and forth on diet's role in acne).
But the body's chemical reaction to stress itself can play a major role in your skin's appearance. When we undergo stress, the hypothalamus prompts other cells to produce and release stress hormones, one of which is cortisol. These hormones prepare you for a "fight-or-flight" situation -- your heart rate quickens, your perception becomes sharper, and your skin produces more oil. This oil -- sebum -- is produced by glands found inside hair follicles. It travels up and out of the hair follicle, taking with it dead skin cells. When it reaches the surface, it forms a protective coating. When sebum and dead skin cells get backed up in the follicle, this is due largely to one of two reasons: something on the skin's surface has blocked the pore (like makeup or dirt), or there is an increased production of sebum (which occurs during puberty). When you get stressed out, you boost sebum levels, and your skin pays the price.
Even if you have your stress levels in check, you might have acne that just hasn't responded to any of the treatments we've listed. What else might help? See the next page.