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Is Instagram Making You Break Out? Here’s What You Need to Know About Envy Acne

We all remember an adolescent day or two when we looked in the mirror, and there it was: an inflamed, unbecoming blemish on the one day we didn’t need it (picture day, prom night, first date, etc.). As the story goes, those pimples were likely caused by some combination or hormones and stress. The latter is a feeling we unfortunately are all too familiar with as we’re coming up on two years of a global pandemic (among other traumatic things happening, um, constantly). But we’re not here today to talk about stress pimples. We’re here to talk about another skin culprit you’ve probably never heard of: envy acne.

That’s right, acne courtesy of jealousy. What was once a feeling reserved for running into your ex and his stunning new girlfriend at a bar is harder to escape than ever, thanks largely to apps like Instagram and TikTok consuming hours of our days. Jealousy and, as a result, envy acne, is getting harder and harder to avoid.

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But beyond just making us feel like crap sometimes, our obsession with social media, and the envy that it sometimes causes, can actually wreak havoc on our skin. That “gut-wrenching” feeling you get when you see your best friend from college on a yacht with Kendall Jenner in St. Tropez? It actually does exist inside your gut, or what Dr. Zandra Palma, MD, who focuses on mind-body connection at Parsley Health, refers to as the “second-brain,” and can cause skin freak outs and other issues. Dr. Palma says she has seen the impact of stressors like negative emotions, jealousy and insecurity impact the gut in ways that have a direct connection to our appearance. “Let’s call it the gut-brain axis” Dr. Palma explains. “The gut feeds information to the brain, and therefore the body’s organs, like the skin. With inflammation, that system is dysregulated, causing the stress signal to impact your skin condition.”

 Dr. Ellen Marmur, board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, adds that, “Stress comes in good and bad forms. Travel, promotions, weddings—all good things, but they amp up your sympathetic nervous system and increase stress factors on the skin. Illness, COVID-19, moving, job changes and break-ups are negative stressors which could be worse due to prolonged emotional dysregulation like depression or anxiety.”

Sigh. So for those of us (read: most of us) who don’t have the luxury of picking up our bags Eat, Pray, Love style, ditching our devices and leading a life of spiritual contentment 24/7, what do we do to achieve beautiful, healthy, acne-free skin? Dr. Palma recommends her patients partake in a social media detox every so often, and be intentional about how they engage with the media—avoiding heated arguments, staying away from negative news cycles, etc. It can be challenging to control what we consume, despite curated news feeds, followership and yes, we’ll say it, the magical “mute” button. Nonetheless, consciously choosing to consume humorous or uplifting content in a world of meh feels really good and can actually give us the #glowup we’ve been looking for.

So if you have one eye in the mirror right now, wondering what caused that pesky pimple, take a moment to turn inward, unwind and do what makes you feel good in your skin. It’ll probably help you look good, too.