How Anxiety Causes Acne and What You Can Do About it Now!

How Anxiety Causes Acne and What You Can Do About it Now!

Anxiety can cause a lot of negative effects in your body, including acne. Find expert tips on how you can combat acne if you suffer from anxiety.
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Anxiety Can Cause Major Acne – Expert Tips on How to Combat Acne for Anxiety Sufferers

Depression and anxiety affects  the majority of American adults in one way or another. With that being said, many individuals may be wondering, “Can anxiety cause acne?” Multiple medications have been linked to causing mild-cystic acne with the main ones being Lithium, Wellbutrin, and Lexapro.  If you are reading this, you are like the rest of us who battle anxiety from daily requirements, demands on our time, the need to take care of our bodies, and the desire to be our best self. If you are battling with your acne as well, our heart goes out to you. Let this article give you some insight into how depression, anxiety, and some of the treatments themselves can affect your skin. Before you continue reading, please give yourself a genuine compliment, and smile. Even if you are reading this alone, smiling increases happiness instantly.

Does Anxiety Cause Acne? Understanding the Causes

The link between anxiety and acne is not merely anecdotal; scientific studies have demonstrated a significant correlation between the two. Here's how anxiety can contribute to the development of acne:

1. Stress Hormones and Acne Flare-ups

When we experience stress or anxiety, our bodies release cortisol, a stress hormone that can stimulate oil glands in the skin. This excess oil production can clog pores, leading to acne breakouts. Additionally, cortisol triggers inflammation, worsening existing acne lesions and making them more painful and inflamed.

2. Psychological Stress and Skin Health

The connection between mental health and skin conditions is well-documented. Psychological stress can disrupt the skin's natural barrier function, making it more susceptible to environmental aggressors and acne-causing bacteria. Ultimately, stress compromises the immune system, reducing its ability to combat acne-causing pathogens effectively.

3. Anxiety-Induced Skin Picking

People experiencing heightened anxiety levels may engage in skin picking behaviors as a coping mechanism. Constantly touching or picking at the skin can introduce bacteria into hair follicles, leading to acne formation. This habit can exacerbate existing acne lesions and increase the risk of acne scarring.

4. Hormonal Imbalances and Acne

Anxiety can also contribute to hormonal imbalances, particularly in women, leading to hormonal acne. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as increased androgen production during periods of stress, can stimulate sebaceous gland activity and contribute to acne development.

Anti-Anxiety Medication That May Cause Acne


Lithium is mainly prescribed to combat bipolar disorder. Acne is a side effect that affects one-third of its patients. Doctors aren’t entirely certain why the antipsychotic drug causes acne breakouts but Dr. Amy Derick of Illinois speculates, “Lithium probably simulates in some way what the skin would experience when it has a bacterial infection.” This simply means when lithium is taken, it stimulates the neutrophils (white blood cells) to move from the bloodstream to the skin. Neutrophils are usually the first on the scene when a bacterial infection occurs. Which in turn causes inflammation and tricks the skin into thinking it's under bacterial attack and creates pimples.


Wellbutrin is well known for helping patients struggling with depression, but as a stimulant it’s also very well known for causing cystic acne

When I took Wellbutrin after college my chin, neck, chest, and spinal cord erupted in painful cysts- within five days. Men and women up to 80+ years old have reported getting acne from Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin works to lower depression by raising testosterone, similar to anabolic steroids. In fact, it raises testosterone by so much, bodybuilders actually take it before competitions to bulk up. So unless you are a bodybuilder with no skin concerns, please ask your doctor for other non-acne causing solutions. Or better yet— look them up yourself and start seeing what makes sense for you. Nutrition and exercise are critical here.


15% or more of people struggling with depression and anxiety suffer from insomnia. To make matters worse, lack of quality sleep can aggravate acne. Lexapro’s side effects also include weight gain and indigestion, which both can increase the chances of your skin breaking out. Lexapro is one of several antidepressants that cause acne

Did you know that Serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of calm and peace) are dramatically affected and depleted by modern day technology and modern day adulthood. This happens on a daily basis, especially for those of us who wake up to an alarm. Anxiety can literally start the minute you wake up. This constant tug of war on our senses is what creates most people’s’ depression, and if you experience moderate to severe acne, it makes the anxiety double. When your anxiety doubles, guess what happens to your acne. The inflammation doubles. Cycle repeats.

If you have ever broken down and cried in front of your bathroom mirror the way we have, you know exactly what we are talking about.

Now is a good time to force a smile :)!

How to Help Reduce Anxiety Naturally 

While anxiety and depression may cause acne in some cases, there are several things you can do right now to control your overall emotional stress level and feel more relaxed. Plus, limiting your stress may help you support healthy skin and avoid acne-prone skin down the road.

Here is what you can do IMMEDIATELY to start feeling like a happy human again:

  1. SLEEP: Be fully asleep by 10pm and set a peaceful alarm for 7.5 hours from then. That’s a 5:30am rise. This will actually be EASY because the human sleep cycle is increments of 1.5 hours. Set your alarm for either 6 hours (1.5 x 4) or ideally 7.5 hours. You’ll wake up to it as you exit the REM cycle. Leave no light on while winding down and eliminate all caffeine by noon. Your regenerative hormones start working by 10:00 but not if you are still up. When your body does not regenerate properly, it is generally impossible to beat depression or anxiety. Your skin would stay in a constant state of turmoil, causing acne breakout problems in the process.
  2. HYDRATION: Drink Water. Drink a full,hydrating glass of H20 right when you wake up. Get yourself a gallon jug, or a Hydro flask that is 1 Liter  minimum (4 Liters equals 1 gallon, so you pick). 1 gallon of water is the ultimate secret for clearer skin. Acne directly calms down when your body is properly hydrated with a minimum of 1 gal water per day, but it directly stops healing when you’re not consuming enough H20. If you are not measuring your water, then you are not drinking enough. We have found that acne patients who all thought they were drinking enough water were only getting about 1/4 of the amount they need. CHECK YOU PEE color, it should be mainly clear with a slight hint of yellow. Anything darker than that means you are dehydrated. Period.
  3. DIETING: AVOID DIETS (unless it’s an anti-acne diet). Diets are a man-made cheat code for folks who don’t care about their bodies. Instead, understand human nutrition, how digestion works, how gut health relates to acne, and how dieting increases cortisol which is our stress hormone. This same stress hormone also changes the very composition of your skin’s oil, making it thicker, stickier, and nearly impossible to dissolve without using harsh chemicals. Prioritize fiber in your morning routine to balance blood sugar and cortisol. 
  4. NUTRITION: Everything you put in your shopping cart should be organic. You may have less control over the source or quality of your food ingredients when dining out, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying life!That’s why everything that you purchase from a store needs to be the very best quality. Organic veggies are DELICIOUS if you use this basic cooking start point! (Organic garlic + organic olive oil + sea salt). It's crucial for your well-being and mental health. Respect yourself by feeding your body well.  It's the first step to beating anxiety and feeling like a happy human again.
  5. EXERCISE: If you think your anxiety or depression is causing acne, it’s time to get active. Bounce a ball, dance in your room, go for a 12 minute walk, do yoga or pound weights— just do something to move your body. Exercise is mandatory for a healthy mind, we are simply programmed for it. Just like a car needs oil changes to run smoothly, your body needs movement to thrive. Neglecting exercise drags down your metabolism and mental health, affecting your overall well-being.
  6. ATTITUDE: Always seek the silver lining! Turn it into a game and see your skills skyrocket! For example, stuck in traffic? Flip it: 'Bonus time to jam to my favorite song!' Crank up the music,  roll down your window and say hi to your best friend, fresh Oxygen, and boost your mood. Your skin will thank you for the positivity!
  7. CHECK IN WITH YOU: Ask yourself what the nature of your anxiety is. Could it be simple procrastination that has spiraled out of control? Is it stress about money? Identify and SEPARATE the sources so they don’t gang up on your mind.
  8. MEDICATION: Explore 5HTP as a natural alternative to medications like Lexapro and Wellbutrin. It's the body's own serotonin precursor, crucial for mood and sleep. Unlike prescriptions that disrupt serotonin balance and gut health, 5HTP supports holistic wellness 

Struggling with anxiety and depression is tough enough, the last thing you need is to add the stressor of an acne breakout on top of it. If you are prescribed acne-causing medication, please consult with your physician and esthetician to determine the best route to clear skin and clear mind. For those seeking a natural supplement for hormonal acne, MINDBODYSKIN® 2 is an ideal option, especially designed for individuals taking SSRIs, antipsychotic medications, or mood stabilizers, providing a comprehensive approach to addressing both acne and mental well-being.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you know that something is just not right inside. Trust yourself–your body is trying to communicate with you.

We genuinely hope these 8 remedies strike a chord with you. Try one this week, and as you see results, embrace another. Every journey begins with a single step. By adopting these practices, you'll notice a remarkable change in your acne, skin tone, and overall vitality.