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Louise Chang, MD
March 7, 2007 – The largest study ever conducted on acne and stress levels
confirms what many have suspected for years: Stress can make acne worse among
Researchers found teenagers who were under high levels of stress were 23%
more likely to have increased acne severity.
Stress has long been thought to aggravate acne, but researchers say this is
the first large-scale study to confirm the relationship and look at possible
"Acne significantly affects physical and psychosocial well-being, so it
is important to understand the interplay between the factors that exacerbate
acne," says researcher Gil Yosipovitch, MD, professor of dermatology at
Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in a news release.
Yosipovitch says the results suggest stress-related inflammation may be to
blame for the breakouts.
In the study, published in the Swedish journal Acta
Dermato-Venereologica, researchers looked at the relationship between
stress levels and acne severity in 94 teenagers in Singapore with an average
age of 15. Most of the teenagers had mild to moderate acne.
Researchers measured the teens’ self-reported stress levels and acne
severity at a time of high stress (just before midyear exams) and at a time of
low stress (two months after the end of exams).
At the same time, they also measured levels of sebum, the oily substance
that coats the skin and protects the hair and plays a major role in acne.
Researchers say sebum production is known to fluctuate with variations in
temperature and humidity, and Singapore was chosen for the study because its
temperature and humidity are consistent throughout the year.
The results showed that sebum production did not vary significantly during
low or high stress periods.
But acne severity was significantly related to the teens’ stress levels.
"Our research suggests that acne severity associated with stress may
result from factors others than sebum quantity," says Yosipovitch.
"It’s possible that inflammation may be involved."
Researchers say acne is an inflammatory disease, and previous studies have
shown stress can trigger inflammation in the body.
SOURCES: Yosipovitch, G. Acta Dermato-Venereologica , March 2007; vol
87: pp 135-139. News release, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical
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