Thanksgiving can be a super fun holiday, but the family time it usually entails can be a massive source of stress. Unless you’re a very rare specimen, family time involves some tension, whether it be the kind that ends in knock-down screaming fights, or quiet, tense, passive aggressive dinner conversation. And to add to the stress, family drama can also mess with your skin. In one of life's unfair little cosmic jokes, stress causes acne, which of course only causes more stress.
Blame it on the Cortisol
Researchers aren’t sure exactly why stress causes acne, but they’re fairly certain that it's a major cause of it. Many studies have found a huge correlation between stress levels and acne, including a well known study at Stanford University that saw increases in acne for the majority of college students around the time of their exams.
One big factor in this is the hormone our body creates when we’re stressed. When we experience stress, either physiological or psychological, our bodies produce more cortisol, our main stress hormone. Increases in cortisol trigger an increase in oil production, which leads to more acne.
Acne or the Egg
Then there’s the fact that when we are stressed, we tend to do things that exacerbate bad skin, like eating lots of sugar and comforting starchy foods, and not getting a lot of sleep. Melatonin, a hormone your body produces while you sleep, is also responsible for stimulating your immune system and fighting bacterial infections, which means that if you’re not getting much sleep, acne has a chance to thrive. And insulin spikes, as a result of eating food high on the glycemic index (which include white bread, potatoes, pumpkin, and sweets- so basically, everything we eat on Thanksgiving) increase our oil production, again leading us to acne.
Breath, Breath Out
So what’s a stressed out guy or gal to do? Over the Thanksgiving weekend, try to make time to exercise- not only will it help you to release some stress and tune into your body, but it will also give you a great excuse to get some time away from the fam! And while it would be crazy not to indulge in some Thanksgiving stuffing and pie, try to keep it healthy and low-glycemic for the rest of the day(s) around the main meal, so your body doesn’t go into insulin production overload. Also take a peek at our guide to lowering stress for some good ideas on keeping your mental state calm, no matter how many times your mom asks you if that’s really what you’re wearing.