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Stress at the root of pimple problems, study results show

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Was it just a coincidence? Or just stress?

Probably stress, according to a study from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., which found that stress does indeed cause acne. ,”

On the morning of her "My Super Sweet 16" bash on MTV, blonde-haired Amberly woke up with a giant pimple protruding from her nose.

Was it just a coincidence? Or just stress?

Probably stress, according to a study from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., which found that stress does indeed cause acne.

The study, released earlier this month, followed 94 high school students with average acne during periods of high and low stress.

The study was conducted in Singapore, where the more consistent weather means there are steadier levels of sebum, a male hormone that can clog pores.

Scientists found that students were 23 percent more likely to break out when they experienced phases of high stress, such as before an exam.

James Berman, a dermatologist for the Milwaukee Skin Center, 7400 W. Brown Deer Rd., said stress increases hormone levels in your adrenal glands, located above the kidneys.

"The hormone, cortisol, increases during stressful times, and is a precursor to sebum, which is food for bacteria," Berman said.

Sebum plugs up pores and leads to an acne lesion – blackheads – or to whiteheads if bacteria gets in, said Jennifer Sobczk, a physician's assistant in the office of Brookfield dermatologist Marie Nakata.

Berman said exercise, music and dealing with social or personal issues could help relieve stress.

Thomas Taft, director of educational development and assessment in the School of Dentistry and a stress management expert, said exercise is a No. 1 stress reliever.

"Even though you may have mental stress, physical exercise is very effective," Taft said.

Taft also recommended using the progressive muscle relaxation technique to reduce stress.

He suggested following a prototype in which muscle groups are alternately tensed and relaxed, beginning with foot and hand muscles, then moving to larger muscle groups.

Taft said to combine this with deep breathing.

"The physical action tends to take stress away, lower blood pressure and your respiratory rate," Taft said.

Ruth McShane, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing, said it is helpful to use a focus word when doing breathing exercises.

"Use a favorite word that has meaning for you," McShane said. "It will induce a relaxing response – the antithesis of a stress response."

Taft also suggested using an imagery technique.

He said to assume a comfortable position and imagine something pleasant – a warm day on the beach or hiking in the mountains.

"Focus on it and let yourself become part of the picture," Taft said.

Yoga also works as a stress reliever, Taft said, because it combines exercise and meditation.

Taft suggested meditating on positive thoughts to replace any negative ones.

Stress relievers:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation- alternate tensing and relaxing muscles, starting with your feet and hands. This helps to reduce blood pressure and the respiratory rate.
  • Imagery-focus on a pleasant picture in your mind, and become part of the picture. This helps to relax the body.
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises-take long breaths and focus on a favorite word. This induces a relaxing response.

Courtesy of Thomas Taft and Rose McShane

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