We’ve all experienced it: you have a stressful event coming up, exams or an interview, and suddenly your skin is out of control. You haven’t changed anything, you’re still eating well and keeping up your skin routine, but your acne begs to differ. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Why Stress Acne Happens

Stress acne is a result of overactive hormones in your body responding to stress. So while stress doesn’t directly cause acne, it definitely adds to it, especially if you’re already prone to breakouts. According to Michael Green, a dermatologist based out of New York, “Acne is an inflammatory disease that can be exacerbated by hormones released during stress, which increase inflammation.”

This inflammation in your body causes the oily glands on your face to go into overdrive, as well as other hormones in your body that are triggered to protect you (think cortisol, the number one stress hormone). So your body starts trying to fight off the stress, and your sensitive skin begins to bbreak out causing redness, itching, and increased whiteheads and blackheads (and sometimes even cysts).

How To Stop Stress Acne

Even if you can’t prevent the acne from happening, you can battle it once it starts. First stop? Drugstore.  “Topical benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which are both over-the-counter, can be directly applied as a spot treatment to individual lesions or over the general affected area if it doesn’t cause too much dryness or irritation for you,” says Robin Evans, a dermatologist out of Connecticut.

Aside from topical treatments, ice works to reduce pain, swelling, and redness, and can also reduce the size and visibility of painful breakouts. If stress acne happens a lot, consider changing up your skincare routine to better fight breakouts, and maybe check out a dermatologist too.

How to manage your stress

A good way to stop stress acne breakouts is by reducing your stress. The toll that prolonged stress has on the body is really unhealthy, so doing what you can to minimize it (and its effects) will be good for your health overall.

The best way to do this is by taking care of yourself and practicing self-care. So even if spa treatments are not in your budget, you can still give yourself a facial every once in a while.