It can be easy to put breakouts down to diet or time of the month, but actually, other factors are at play, too. We wanted to find out if jaw tension plays a role in hormonal breakouts. Turns out, it does, but it’s less straight-forward than jaw tension being a direct cause.
Rather, “jaw tension is a manifestation of stress,” says Dr Daniel Glass from Dermatology Clinic London. “That jaw tension – a bi product of stress – can then lead to hormonal breakouts” – but the stress is the root cause.
He goes on, “hormones are incredibly important in dermatology, especially when considering the role of psychological stress in triggering, or exacerbating, common skin conditions such as acne. There is increasing evidence that stress hormones such as CRH, ACTH, prolactin and substance P can aggravate acne and stress hormones have an effect on the sebaceous glands found within the skin, which can lead to a worsening of acne levels. However, the level of stress required for this to occur varies from each individual. There is evidence that both the stress from exams and sleep deprivation can make your acne worse.”
Unfortunately, it’s a catch 22. The more stressed you are, the greater possibility there is of a skin concern, and the more aggravating the skin condition, the more stressed you become. As Dr Glass says, “When we feel anxious or stressed we can either wash more, scratch more, and do behaviours that make our skin flare up. Plus, people have a tendency to touch their skin a lot more when feeling anxious or stressed,” which can do damage.
It gets worse. “It is common that we react to all of this stress by becoming depressed, which has a direct impact on our diet. Many people turn to sugary foods and alcohol in times of despair. New findings have shown links between a high glycaemic load diet and symptoms of acne, suggesting that a low GI diet may help prevent flares of acne,” says Dr Glass.
Skin specialist Dr David Jack agrees that “when we suffer from jaw tension it generally means we are highly stressed.” He goes on, “sebum is produced in skin glands and cells which also carry stress receptors like cortisol. When stressed these are amped up to produce more sebum which will cause more blockages and hence more breakouts.” As jaw tension is a manifestation of stress, it stands to reason that jaw tension and breakouts may be experienced simultaneously, as both are rooted in stress.
Dr Jack elaborates: “Our lymphatic system is designed to carry fluid, nutrients and waste material between the body tissues and the blood. Lymph nodes filter fluid and catch foreign substances which then are destroyed by the lymphocytes,” he says. Lymph nodes can become swollen from illness, infection, or – you guessed it – stress. Dr Jack goes on, “when the lymph nodes are blocked, this disrupts the filtration process, which elevates levels of toxins in the lymphatic system. This results in higher levels of toxins in the fluids which causes breakouts.”
Clearly, stress is very much the root cause of everything here. When we’re stressed, we can clench or stress our jaw, which in turn be linked to hormonal breakouts. Clamping down on stress, then, is what we should be aiming for. While saying ‘just relax’ is much easier said than done, finding coping mechanisms, whether it’s calming apps or simple mantras, is a good place to start.
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Charlotte is a London girl through and through. She sweats through spin and puffs through Pilates to justify trying the latest restaurants and devouring copious amounts of sweet potato fries, burrata and bread – preferably on holiday. Her favourite destinations include Italy, the Maldives and anywhere where the sun’s shining and there’s a strong breakfast buffet. She’s obsessed with walking, visiting farmers’ markets and reading. She’s also learning to cook. Wish her (and her husband) luck.