Can Depression Cause Acne?

Our skins have a habit of showing how we feel inside. You turn red when you blush or from anger, just like you turn white when you are afraid. Interestingly, our skin does not only react from emotions; it also does from mental health.

For many that have experienced depression, you will understand that the effects often combine psychological, emotional events to cause significant physical results. The subject of this article, however, is – can depression cause acne?

Can Depression Cause Acne?

There is no direct link between depression and acne. However, without proper care, low self-esteem can cause fluctuation in hormonal levels.

The mind and the skin intersect at some point, and depression can cause an inflammatory response. When it does, it weakens the skin’s barrier function and allows more irritants. Apart from this, the skin also loses moisture, and general health behavior changes.

Depressed people often neglect their skin and don’t keep up with hygienic practices. As a result, they set up their skin for bacteria invasion, clogs, and ultimately acne. Hence, although not directly, acute depression can pave the way for acne.

When you are depressed, chances are that you will be anxious. Unfortunately, anxious and depressed people do too much to try to combat acne when it breaks out. For example, anxious people pick acne, use different products, and gradually slip into a vicious cycle that can irritate the skin and cause acne. That can easily lead you into thinking that it is the depression that caused acne.

A depressed person automatically alters self-perception. When depression is combined with anxiety, your skin perception changes, and everything looks out of place. If you noticed, acne breakouts are common during periods of heightened or chronic stress. This is an indication that your emotions can affect your skin.

Psychodermatology is a discipline that combines the mind and the skin to find common ground. At the intersection of the neuro-immuno-cutaneous system, there is an interaction between the immune system, nervous system, and skin.

As a result, they all continue to interact and affect each other at different points in a person’s life. When you feel depressed, the stress hormones can increase and trigger events that can cause a breakout. In essence, your emotions can cause physical reactions.

As part of psycho-dermatologic disorders, Secondary psychiatric disorders have negative impacts on the body image and self-esteem of patients with disfiguring skin. Hence, although being depressed doesn’t automatically translate to acne-like other prominent acne-causes, it can manipulate other factors and contribute to acne. Hence, it is crucial to understand the skin-mind connection since it can affect your mental health.

Like we established, depression does not automatically cause acne. However, it can make it worse through heightened stress, irritation, anxiety, and nonchalant hygiene.

Related: Can Acne Cause Depression?

Can Stress From Depression Cause Acne?

As part of the mind-skin connection, stress can cause your acne to flare up. There is a significant difference between negative and good stress. When you are stressed, the body produces hormones like adrenaline that actively increase the blood pressure to react to certain external situations.

Over a long period, a consistent increase in stress can disrupt your metabolism. Apart from this, it can affect your sleep, put you off balance, and affect digestion. Not long, the effects manifest on the skin in the form of itchy patches that can cause redness and blemishes.

When you are tensed, the body releases cortisol and other stress hormones to reduce the stress level. However, when the stress level does not drop, it keeps producing the hormones.

Unfortunately, the hormones can increase oil production and cause a breakout. Stress-related hormones often send the oil glands into overdrive. Since an adult’s skin has more cell turnover, it is more prone to dead skin-cells buildup. The combination of excess dead skin and oil can clog the skin pores and cause acne.

Apart from this, during periods of heightened stress, the skin’s barriers are compromised, and it loses some of its abilities to protect itself. This can lead to inflammations and other skin complications like dehydrated skin and more oil to create bacteria-breeding grounds.

Emotional stress is associated with acne since the body produces hormones neuropeptides and inflammatory cytokines that all influence the sebaceous glands. In essence, although not directly, depression can lead to a sharp and consistent increase in your stress levels. When it does, it can contribute to factors that cause acne. Besides, stress also slows down wound healing. Hence, it will take longer for your acne to heal.

How Does Acne Affect Mental Health?

We just saw how depression can lead to acne. Quite unsurprisingly, acne causes depression too. This is quite obvious and quite commonplace too. The relationship between the two is interwoven and often causes deep psychological issues.

Different studies have revealed that acne vulgaris is linked to depression and feelings of anxiety. There is no undeniable bond between the skin and the mind. Like natural machines, our bodies will malfunction when certain parts don’t work as they should. Experts have found out that mental health contributes to skin problems like acne, and vice-versa.

During times of depression, anxiety, and stress, the skin risks a higher chance of flaring up existing skin conditions. In most cases, the flare-ups are restricted to breakouts, skin sensitivity, redness, dry or tight skin, and full-blown acne.

Most skin conditions are associated with psychic and physical trauma. Depression, for example, is associated with acne. Studies have shown that many people with acne deal with depression than people who don’t. Whether as teenagers or adolescents, there is a strong association with depression, although it is more prominent in adults.

While adults deal more with depression, teenagers often face rejection from their colleagues, affecting their self-esteem. 5% of people with acne and depression are known to entertain suicide thoughts.

Hence, more than the physical effect, acne, when paired with depression, can be psychologically tiring. Apart from depression, most people with acne also experience a case of severe anxiety.

Acne is linked to low self-esteem and is often evident in people with it as they often avoid social gatherings and miss out on many things in life. Social-phobia from acne or social anxiety disorder makes people with acne fear leaving home for crowded places.

Regardless of the age-group, acne causes low self-esteem and can result in physical scarring and other symptoms like frustration, self-consciousness, embarrassment, and anger. In adults, it sometimes means turning down interviews, refusing a hangout, and avoiding events and places where others will have to see their acne.

How To Treat Acne Linked To Depression?

Unlike regular acne treatment, you need to treat your skin and mental health once your acne is linked with depression. Whether the depression contributed to your acne or is a product of the acne, you must treat it to feel better.

If acne caused depression and affected your mental health, treating acne will help with other feelings. However, if you were depressed before you started having breakouts, you should treat the depression first before moving on to acne treatment.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Since people react differently, you can try CBT to manage how you feel, act, and feel. The therapy breaks down problems into smaller parts to find practical ways to deal with the problem positively.

It involves behavioral activation, interpersonal therapy, psychoanalytic therapy, and mindfulness. The combined effort from the therapy will help you understand your thoughts to use them to transform your actions. A therapy like this will help deal with your depression and other associated mental health challenges.

A Healthy Lifestyle

Lifestyle changes are also powerful tools that not only help with depression but help with acne as well. Simple routine changes like more sleep, exercise, and healthy food will contribute towards reducing your breakout.

For example, when you pay more attention to your hygiene, you will pay more attention to your skin. Sleep has a strong effect on your skin as well and helps with stress reduction. When you are less stressed, you reduce the activities of stress hormones, and they, in turn, don’t affect oil glands to produce more oil.

Health Care

Sometimes, depression can be caused by medications and other medical conditions. If drug interaction causes depression, you might need therapy to help you solve and prevent it. In this case, you should visit your doctor for depression treatments and recommendations. While at it, your doctor will prescribe solutions to your acne.


Depression and acne are linked in more ways than you can imagine. Although depression does not directly cause acne, acne is known to cause depression directly. Nonetheless, depression is linked to other acne-causing factors like stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, etc. If you discover your breakout is linked to depression, you should seek professional help.

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