You Ask, We Answer: Does Stress Really Cause Acne?

Final exams, wedding planning, a deadline looming – stress happens to everyone.

As if dealing with the uncomfortable feelings of stress isn’t enough, many of us also find that our acne gets worse during such times.

Is this just a myth or is there more to it?

What Does the Science Say?

While stress is not a direct cause of acne, research over the years has found a relationship between stress and acne flare-ups1. So yes, it’s not just in our heads.

Stress may not trigger breakouts for those who are not prone to it, but if you already have acne, stress may make it worse. You might have also noticed that the more stressed you are, the more pimples pop up.

A Stanford University study from 2003 found that its sample of students had more stress during exam time (understandably) as well as more severe acne2. Beyond that, they discovered increased acne severity was significantly associated with increased stress levels. This suggests that emotional stress from external sources may have a significant influence on acne.

Why is this the case? There are several reasons:

Increase in Oil Production

As you might already know (because we talk about it so often), at the root of all acne is a clogged pore. What causes pores to clog up is a build-up of dead skin cells, dirt, and excess oil.

When we’re stressed, our bodies release more of the hormone cortisol. This causes our sebaceous glands to ramp up production of oil, leading to more clogged pores and acne3.

A study of cultured (aka artificially grown) cells also found that cortisol, at a higher level, decreased the synthesis of hyaluronic acid (HA) by 50%4. Because HA is our skin’s natural moisturizer, this finding supports the link between increased cortisol levels and oil production. That is, having less HA can dehydrate skin, leading to more oil being produced as compensation.

If you find your skin is oily but dehydrated, you’ll love having the Matte Hydrator in your routine. Formulated with medical-grade ultra-low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, it will easily absorb into skin and leave a clean, matte finish.

Slower Healing

One study investigated the effects of psychological stress on wound healing. Researchers studied 13 women caring for a relative with Alzheimer's disease (a likely source of stress) and 13 controls. All the women underwent a 3·5 mm punch biopsy wound. What the study found was that wound healing took significantly longer for the caregivers than the controls, suggesting stress could negatively affect wound repair5.

This means that when stressed, wounds, including acne, can take longer to heal. And when pimples stay longer on the skin, they can be more susceptible to increasing in severity.

Poorer Lifestyle Choices

Apart from what goes on inside our bodies when we’re stressed ,the negative emotions we experience can also lead us to poorer habits and choices. We could be eating more sugary foods, sleeping less, or deprioritizing our skincare routines. These can all lead acne to worsen.

How Can I Reduce Stress?

Whether you’re facing short-term stress from a big event you have right now, or more chronic stress from the many responsibilities in your life, it is crucial to find ways to manage it. If not for the sake of your skin, for your overall health.

What is relaxing to others may not be to you so give yourself time to find what works. Many people have benefited from yoga, meditation, exercise, extra sleep, and aromatherapy so consider making room for these in your schedule. You could also try knitting, painting, talking to a friend, or anything that makes you happy and helps you unwind.

While reducing stress can help give you clearer and healthier skin, it is important to note it should not be considered an acne treatment. You still need proper skin care to not only clear current acne, but prevent them from forming in the future.

A bonus is that your skincare routine can be a wonderful practice in mindfulness, which can help you slow down and relax!

Feeling stressed about skincare and all the options out there?

Clearly Basics is a skincare line made for acne-prone and sensitive skin. This means all our formulations are gentle enough to care for vulnerable skin yet effective enough to clear clogged pores and prevent future breakouts. Shop the line here.

Clear Out

$49.90 USD $39.90 USD (حفظ 20%)

سواء كانت حمراء أو بثور ملتهبة أو رؤوس سوداء مستعصية ، فإن كل حب الشباب يبدأ بمسام مسدودة. يتغلغل Clear Out في العمق ليطرد هذه السدادات باستمرار قبل أن تتحول إلى حب الشباب. هذا يعني أن البشرة تبقى صافية للأبد.

If you have more questions, we’re here to help! Get in touch with us via Messenger chat or Instagram DM (@clearlybasics).


  1. American Academy of Dermatology: Adult acne
  1. Annie Chiu, BS et al., 2003: The Response of Skin Disease to Stress
  1. Herbert P. Goodheart, MD, 2006: Acne for Dummies
  1. H Larjava et al., 1980: Cortisol decreases the synthesis of hyaluronic acid by human aortic smooth muscle cells in culture
  1. Prof J.K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD et al., 1995: Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress

Disclaimer: This article should not be interpreted as personal medical advice. For medical-related matters, please consult your dermatologist.


تسوق الآن


تعرف على ما يقوله الآخرون حول Clearly Basics.

Based on 2549 reviews
Skin Type: Combination
All I can say is wow

Got all the acne products on a whim and they did not disappoint! I have noticed such a difference in the texture of my skin. I have tried so many acne products and felt like nothing was working. The clearly basics range has lasted me soooooo long and I saw results in just 3 weeks! Really happy with my experience, I would highly recommend those with acne to try this brand. Love it!

Power Duo*
Chuan Ling T.

Adult acne is a new thing for me- I’ve had clear skin growing up so the outbreaks were very stressful! I did everything and anything I could, from watching YouTube reviews, trying out cult products to professional advice, but nothing quite did the job. So how the power duo panned out for me was definitely a pleasant (-ly hugeeee) surprise. I do acknowledge that my acne challenges are not on the extremely severe end, but I must say, emotionally the positive outcome of using both the power duo encouraged me to wear my skin as it is again. It’s really worthwhile trying as it is also a no fuss duo; hence the currently gild of my staple skincare products.

Calm Down*
Kimberly C.

The entire Clearly Basics product line is the only one that has cleared my skin. I tried any product you can think of including doctor prescribed medication and ointment and nothing worked. After having acne for over 15 years I am so happy to have clear, radiant skin!

I have maybe seen some improvement but nothing amazing yet. Have used the product as instructed, religiously. Will try another bottle and stick to it for a few more months.

I love all of clearly basics! They made my confidence rise because I finally feel comfortable without makeup.
This cleanser is amazing 👏
My skin doesn't feel tight afterwards and now I don't get that mid day shine near as bad.

I love everything from clearly basics! It totally changed my life by clearing my acne. Now they have a new sunscreen and it's great.
It doesn't have a smell or leave your face white or greasy. Best of all it doesn't cause breakouts!

The products are just amazing!! My results in 4 months of using clear out extra strength!!

Clear Out*
Sophie C.

Love this product 👏🏽

Works really well! Enjoy using this face wash, never stings or dries out my acne prone skin !

Clear Out*
Emma S.

Worked really well in quite a short amount of time! I now see long lasting results, my skin is healthy and my acne is finally under control! The first product I have tried which works and is actually affordable!

I struggled with lots of painful cystic acne so tried the clear out product. Found by the end of the first bottle a lot of the smaller spots were not coming back and the more painful larger ones were coming back less inflamed. I was happy with the results from the first bottle so I ordered another, this is halfway through the second bottle and can see most of the acne on my cheeks has gone! I still get cystic acne in the T area but it is much less painful than before. Definitely recommend, but takes time to see real results.

Clearly Basics has been an absolute life saver! Not an over night miracle, be patient and stick with it, amazing products

I saw a huge reduction in new pimples and any new pimples scars healed and disappeared a lot quicker

Power Duo*
Anne F.

I have struggled with acne since I was 12 years old. All through my teenage and adult life my skin has been unpredictable and the breakouts have been constant and so frustrating. I’ve tried everything you could imagine but nothing worked reliably. Clear Out and lighten up have been a total game changer for me and I couldn’t be happier with the results

Acne Care Kit*
Sinead C.

I started using clearly basics at the beginning of the year. I have struggled with acne most of my adult life and when I saw a video from a customer on instagram, everything she described is exactly what I had done…had hormonal acne on chin and jaw line in particular. I had been to the doctor, was referred to a dermatologist and had been on medication, tried all sorts of creams and gels with no success.

I cannot believe this actually worked. I would say I saw results within the first month and probably took around 4 months so really clear up. I have continued with using it and now only get the odd spot at that time of the month but use the calm down on it. It has given me my confidence back and now I’m working on reducing the scaring. I use clear out each evening, the TLC in the morning, lighten up twice a day (but that is a small bottle so doesn’t last long) and then have tried both the so fresh and balancing cleansers. For me it really worked so would highly recommend.

Tightens pores and brightens and smoothes skin. This was my first bottle but I will continue to purchase. I use day and night.

I already use CB balancing cleanser and clear out extra strength, two years ago my skin was spotty, blackheads, raw and very visible. I wondered if the TLC would make a difference in my routine but it has, a glow and radiance I didn’t expect. This is no filter I’ve just woke up. I turned 50 this year the clearly basics range is also an amazing anti ageing tool!

Power Duo*
Mamtha J.

Tried every product out there from proactiv to slurp! None worked, they infact aggravated the condition! Tried clearlybasics as last resort and oh boy it works! Worth every penny! First time in 20 years, stepped out without wearing base makeup! Never thought this day would come!

I suffered with acne for years, and when I finally learned to stop the acne I was left with red and brown scars and hyperpigmentation. But I started using the clearly basics Lighten up cream and Dark mark defends, followed by the moisturiser, and I saw a dramatic difference within days! My scars have lightened so much and most of them are gone. I find this moisturiser is also very hydrating but not greasy, it is absorbed into my skin effortlessly, and it wears beautifully under my makeup. I've now been using the products for 6 months and will continue to use it!

Power Duo*
Laura S.

This stuff changed my life!!!!
After reading the reviews I never thought it would work for me in the same way as it had for other people, as my skin was so bad and cystic. But after just a few months of using this and cutting down on dairy, my skin was 10 times better!
I’m still religiously using the Power Duo and don’t think I’ll ever stop 😊

Clear Out*
Leah N.

It's such a relief to finally have found something that works. I've had acne since I was around 11 and like most people, I tried so many different products and 'hacks' to try and get rid of the spots but nothing really helped.
I was hesitant to try clear out because of the price but I was reassured by the money back guarantee.
To be honest, the purging process they warn about was pretty severe for me. Mine lasted for the entire first bottle and I was so ready to give up. I contacted customer service and they offered me a refund or 50% off my next bottle, reassuring me it would be worth sticking with it. I agreed to persevere and I'm so glad I did! About half way through the next bottle I really noticed improvements and by the end, my skin was the clearest it had ever been. I've completely stopped having breakouts and only occasionally get a spot or two during my cycle. Overall my skin is smoother and I have much less redness and a more even skin tone. I keep using clear out nightly to maintain my nice new skin and I'll happily keep buying it knowing how well it works for me!

Clear Out*
Mandy R.

After a few weeks the results were already visible (right photo). Now the red spots are also less visible!!

Acne Care Kit*
Keiwing W.

My son has serious acene problem and the acene comes back when he stopped taking the anti- biotics. After trying the products, the acene starts to dry up. The result is amazing after one month. Now, trying to apply the product to lighten up the marks.

Calm Down*
Cara W.

This works amazing. As soon as you see a bump, put a small amount on. I’ve used many acne spot treatments and this is by far the best !!

Clear Out
Veronica Ilenya Ranieri

"My skin has changed in better after using these products, they are practical and are not aggressive towards the skin.
I was ashamed of going out in public because everyone was pointing out my acne and scars, but since I started using clearly basic, I found a new me. Thank you changing my life!!"

قد تختلف النتائج الفردية