Study of Psychological Stress, Sebum Production and Acne Vulgaris in Adolescents
Gil Yosipovitch, Mark Tang, Aerlyn G. Dawn, Mark Chen, Chee Leok Goh, Yiong Huak Chan and Lim Fong Seng
Sebum production is thought to play a major role in acne vulgaris in adolescents. Psychological stress may exacerbate acne; however, it is not known whether the perceived association between stress and acne exacerbation is due to increased sebum production. The aims of this study were to determine: (i) if psychological stress in adolescents is associated with increased sebum production; and (ii) if stress is associated with increased acne severity independent of, or in conjunction with, increased sebum production. Ninety-four secondary school students in Singapore (mean age 14.9 years) were enrolled in this prospective cohort study. During a high stress condition (prior to mid-year examinations) and a low stress condition (during the summer holidays), the following were evaluated: (i) self-reported stress level using the Perceived Stress Scale; (ii) sebum level at baseline and at 1 h; and (iii) acne severity. The prevalence of self-reported acne in this study population was high (95% in males and 92% in females). Most subjects had mild to moderate acne. Sebum measurements did not differ significantly between the high stress and low stress conditions. For the study population as a whole, we observed a statistically significant positive correlation (r=0.23, p=0.029) between stress levels and severity of acne papulopustulosa. In adolescents, psychological stress does not appear to affect the quantity of sebum production. The study suggests a significant association between stress and severity of acne papulopustulosa, especially in males. Increased acne severity associated with stress may result from factors other than sebum quantity.