Addressing Collegiate Acne: How School Stress Leads to Breakouts

It would be wonderful if we only had to experience acne during high school. But unfortunately, acne can follow us into our college years. School stress can contribute significantly to your experience with acne in college. 

This article will offer tips on treating acne and addressing school-related stressors. But first, let’s explore how school-related stress can lead to unhealthy skin. 

The Relationship Between School Stress and Unhealthy Skin 

Although there are many potential reasons for your breakouts in college, stress is likely one of them. College students face many stressors as they get their education. 

For example, there’s hardly any time for sleep between studying, working, and socializing. Tight budgets typically result in an unhealthy diet of snacks, energy drinks, and fast food. Exams prompt high levels of anxiety. And being far away from home can adversely affect mental health. 

These things can prompt chronic stress that leads to acne. This is because stress raises your cortisol levels and causes your skin glands to produce more oil, which worsens acne. Inflammation and bacteria also result from stress and lead to breakouts and blemishes. 

It’s important to note that stress acne is different from purging. Many college students experience skin purging because they try various products to create a skincare routine. If a breakout only lasts a few days after using a new product, your skin is probably purging. If it lasts a week or more, it’s likely acne and probably stress-related. 

It’s essential to know the difference to identify the true source of your breakouts and treat them appropriately. 

Tips for Treating Your Acne 

You aren’t alone if you’re struggling with acne due to school stress. Treating acne isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Instead, there are many tips, tricks, tools, and perspectives on best treating collegiate acne. 

Try different approaches until you find the best treatment for your unique case of acne. But generally, the following tips can get you started on your journey to healthier skin: 

  • Study your skin 
  • Get adequate rest 
  • Don’t pick your pimples
  • Touch your face as little as possible 
  • Be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking 
  • Talk to your doctor about topical creams and oral medications
  • Contact a board-certified dermatologist if your acne is severe 
  • Adopt a simple skincare routine that includes washing your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser and keeping it hydrated with a moisturizer 

Tips for Addressing School Stress 

In addition to treating your acne, you must have a plan for navigating school stress. Here are four tips to help you address school-related stressors as healthily as possible. 

Improve Your Mental Health 

One of the worst parts about school-related stress is that too much of it can harm your mental health. For example, stress can exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression. It’ll get more and more difficult to concentrate. Insomnia, fatigue, and burnout can arise too. 

You must treat your mental health to fend off the above. Start by taking pride in your appearance. Let your creativity loose in your fashion and how you style yourself daily. Wear outfits that make you feel more confident and productive.

You can also nurture your mental health by:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Exercising and eating well daily 
  • Seeing a therapist or counselor 
  • Taking breaks throughout your day 
  • Making self-care a part of your everyday 
  • Making time for hobbies and activities, you’re passionate about

Addressing your mental health will help you deal with school stress and, by extension, your issues with acne. 

Create a Support System 

The last thing you want to do is keep your stress inside until it becomes too much one day. Instead, you need people to lean on to help you healthily navigate school and life stress. 

Loved ones can offer support during challenging times. They can be there to help keep you motivated and on top of your studies. You can also depend on them to get you out of your dorm for much-needed socializing. 

Make friends with other students at school. Get out and about in your city to connect with people at different events, restaurants, bars, etc. The goal is to create a diverse support system that remains by your side throughout your collegiate years and beyond. 

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute 

Waiting until the last minute to get something done is incredibly stressful and anxiety-provoking. But unfortunately, many college students make this a regular practice. Cramming the night before an exam, rushing through an assignment the morning of, and pulling all-nighters are normalized in college. 

However, students’ mental, physical, and emotional health are paying the price. Instead of adopting procrastination, dig into time management. Schedule your day to ensure you complete your to-do list on time, if not early. 

Doing so will help you fend off procrastination and the stress that comes with that. It’ll also ensure you get adequate sleep and enough personal time to unwind and prepare for the next day. 

Show Yourself Grace and Understanding 

As much as you want school to be a smooth ride, the reality is that it won’t be. There will be times you love the experience and times you don’t. You’ll excel at some things and fail at others. And there will be a ton of situations that are out of your control. 

The uncertainty of the college experience is stressful enough. Don’t add to that stress by beating yourself up when things are tough. Instead, show yourself grace and understanding. You aren’t perfect and won’t get it right all the time. 

Give yourself a break and simply do the best you can at the time.  


Acne can be tough on your skin and self-esteem. But knowing what’s causing your breakouts is critical in treating them. 

School-related stress causes many college students to experience another bout with acne, much like the one they had in high school. You can use the tips above to treat your acne and address your school-related stress to bring your skin back to good health.