Skin Care and Self-Care: How To Survive Midterm Stress Breakouts

By: Meaghanne O’Connell –

Midterms are here, which pretty much translates to the week of added stress, late nights, and a breakout that makes me want to crawl under a rock. We’re talking breakouts with excessive oiliness and annoyingly painful blemishes that pop up as the week goes on.

When I first experienced horrible stress breakouts, my first thought was to conceal. I would sit at my desk, desperately dabbing foundation and concealer over any blemishes to try and hide them. As the day went on, I would start to see the concealer bunch up around my acne, somehow becoming oily and dry all at once. It was the most frustrating feeling because I almost felt as if I was drawing more attention to my acne rather than hiding it.

My stress breakouts got so bad that I sometimes became more fixated on how I felt about myself and whether or not people were looking at my large, angry blemishes. But over time, I’ve learned to manage them when they come up and I’ve gathered some holy grail products and pro-tips that get me through midterms week as best as I can.

The most important rule: remove your makeup every single night. Studying is hard and sometimes all you want to do at the end of the night is crawl into bed, but do yourself a favor and take off your makeup first. Even if you don’t wear makeup, your skin takes in a lot of bacteria and dirt throughout the day. A celebrated choice for makeup remover, and for your wallet, is the Garnier Micellar Water. It washes away impurities and leaves a clean slate for your face to be washed.

Another pro-tip is to wash your face with a cleanser specific to your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, make sure you find a gentle cleanser that won’t irritate you, such as Cetaphil. If you have super acne prone and oily skin, use a face wash with salicylic acid like Neutrogena Daily Acne Scrub, followed by a gentler daily cleanse such as Philosophy Purity to stop your cheeks from drying out.

Last summer, I discovered my holy grail “I can’t live without this or I’ll die” product: Dr. Thayers Witch Hazel. It’s a natural toner that keeps your skin feeling fresh and moisturized, reduces redness, and even fights acne to help breakouts to subside quicker. For anyone struggling to keep inflammation under control, witch hazel is miraculous.

During a break out, my skin tends to get oily just hours after I’ve washed and toned it. I would touch my face in class, just to feel how oily it was. My frustration built and I wondered how I could stop it. I tried everything from oil reducing face washes, to mattifying foundations and even baking my face with powder. Throughout all of this, I had forgotten about a product I used all the time as a preteen when I dealt with puberty related acne: blotting sheets. Now, I keep a pack of them in my bag at all times. Every few hours when I start to feel grease building up around my nose and mouth, I use a blotting sheet and dab all of that excess grease from my face. Using the blotting sheets has not only helped stop midday pimples from popping up, but has restored a little bit of my confidence knowing that I’m not shiny from oil.

It took me a long time to accept that stress breakouts were something  I’d have to deal with frequently in my life and as a college student, stress breakouts can pop-up at any time of year. But I now know that breakouts don’t have to rule my life and I can focus more on acing that presentation and less on my blemishes and imperfections.