Breakouts are the worst. So, what causes this skin disorder ruiner of first dates slash everything? Mainly the overproduction of oil; blocked hair follicles that don't allow the aforementioned oil to leave the pore, which often results in a clogged pore; and the growth of bacteria inside the hair follicles called P. acnes. However, along with the above factors and genetics, which plays a role in how your body reacts to different hormones in your body and can cause acne, there are certain patterns you could be repeating on a daily basis that can cause you to break out or can even exacerbate your already annoying issue. Here are some of the most surprising triggers — take heed, acne-prone people, so you, too, can have blemish-free, glowing skin!
1. You're using products that contain pore-clogging ingredients. Mineral oil is a super-heavy moisturising agent found in some lotions, but it's also known to clog your pores and break you out. Silicones in skin care and cosmetics are also another ingredient on the list to watch out for that can clog your pores. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Make sure all the skin care products you're using are labeled "noncomedogenic," which means your makeup or skin care has been specifically formulated not to clog your pores. That said, even if the product is "noncomedogenic," if you're using it continuously and your breakouts continue to get worse, make an appointment with your dermatologist, as you could be allergic to another ingredient in the product that is causing your issues.
2. You're OD'ing on spot treatments. Overusing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil and possibly blemishes. Those ingredients can actually make the appearance of your pimples look worse, since the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin if used too often, making the pimple appear even redder and harder to conceal than if you had just left it alone. (Tip via Samantha Wright, a licensed aesthetician and Skinovator at the Dangene Institute.)
What you can do differently: Instead of dousing your zit with a spot treatment, apply a dab of OTC 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, like Aveeno One Percent Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, onto the spot two to three times during the day to take down the inflammation and redness. Then conceal it by simply covering it up with a concealer, like Clinique Even Better Compact Makeup, which has antibacterial ingredients to keep the formula bacteria-free and your face clear.
3. You're eating spicy foods. Spicy foods often contain tomatoes and peppers, which contain acidic lycopene that can be an irritant to some people, throwing off their skin's pH levels and triggering breakouts. However, it isn't just spicy foods that can irritate your skin. Some people have an aversion to dairy, bread, or other types of foods — how your skin reacts to what you eat just depends on your own personal make-up. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Take a break from eating spicy foods (if your skin is irritated by a certain ingredient, you'll recognise tiny whiteheads or even blemishes in a rash-like pattern around your chin or mouth) for a month to see if that's the cause of your issue.
4. Your hair products are wreaking havoc on your skin. The sulfates (cleansing agents), heavy moisturising agents, and silicones that your shampoo, conditioner, and stylers contain can seep into your pores, clogging them and resulting in chest acne, bacne, or pesky pimples along your hairline. (Tip via Wright.)
What you can do differently: When washing and conditioning your hair in the shower, tilt your head over to the side to keep the product's residue off your face, chest, and back as you rinse it away. And be sure to wash your face last when you're in the shower to make sure you haven't accidentally gotten any product on your skin that could break you out later.
5. You're scrubbing your skin too hard. A lot of people with acne think that the more you scrub your skin with a washcloth, rough exfoliants (like crushed apricot seeds), or cleansing brushes, the smoother your skin will be, but in reality, the problem will only inevitably get worse. What happens when you do that is you scrub the active acne and the blemish bacteria gets spread across the skin, worsening the condition.
What you can do differently: Gently wash and moisturise your face with a gentle yet effective system (cleanser, toner, moisturiser) that contains pore-clearing ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids and glycolic and lactic acids. That way you keep the scrubbing to a minimum. Wright recommends Obagi Foaming Gel, Toner and Exfoderm Lotion, her favourite system to suggest for Dangene's acne-prone clients.
6. You're a make out bandit and your boyfriend has a beard. Sure, some dudes look hot with a beard (i.e. Ryan Gosling in The Notebook) or even a five o'clock shadow, but your BF's facial hair isn't doing your pretty face any favors when it comes to breakouts. So what gives? Well, as you and your guy hook up, your smooth face rubs against his hairy one, creating friction, which causes his prickly hair to stimulate oil production on your face, causing blemishes and even beard burn. (Tip via Jeanine Downie, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey.)
What you can do differently: Kindly ask him to shave his beard in the name of flawless skin. Or beg him to condition his beard with coconut oil, so it doesn't feel like tiny swords stabbing your face every time you kiss and leave you with acne.
7. You smoke. Every time you light up a cigarette, you decrease the amount of oxygen that goes to your face. This not only predisposes you to cancer, and causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin that leads to wrinkles and increased pore size, but the carcinogens in the smoke also irritates your skin and dries it out, triggering your skin to produce more oil and possibly more breakouts. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Don't smoke. It's as simple as that. You'll live longer and have clear skin.
8. You can't stop picking at your pimples. It's tempting in the moment, but it's never a good idea to play dermatologist, because it's impossible to pick your own pimple and not make a red mark that could turn into a scar. Even worse, when you try to press the plug or oil or puss out of your pore, you run the risk of pushing the bacteria deeper or spreading it around underneath your skin, multiplying your pimples.
What you can do differently: Challenge yourself not to pick or even touch your face for unnecessary reasons, since you can transfer bacteria onto your skin that way. Not touching your face works wonders for your complexion and allowing your zits to heal on their own leaves your skin scar-free. (Tip via Wright.)
9. You're not releasing pent-up stress properly. Stress triggers acne and acne results in more stress, so it's a very vicious cycle. Basically, when you're under pressure, your skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone that then increases oil production and clogs pores. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Work out regularly, meditate, take time out of your busy schedule to focus on yourself — all of these things will help you release stress, so your body doesn't continue to release hormones that will only harm your skin.
10. You're using the wrong detergent. Some chemicals in laundry detergent can be too harsh for your skin, and once you slip on your clothes or lie on your pillow, your skin might react to the residue that's left on the fabric, resulting in breakouts on your face, back, butt, chest, etc. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Choose a detergent that's fragrance- and dye-free and dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin, like Tide Free and Gentle High Efficiency Liquid Laundry Detergent.
11. You're wearing a lot of hats or constantly touching your face. Anything that can trap sweat and bacteria against your skin and clog your pores, like the lining of a tight hat, can cause zits to crop up. Also, touching your face or resting your chin in your hand while you're sitting at your desk can transfer bacteria from your hand onto your face and brew blemishes. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
What you can do differently: Yes, hats are fashionable, but switch up your style and go without wearing one for a bit to see if that's the root of your pimple problem. Also, keep your hands away from your face. Seriously, it's super easy to do.
12. You're not washing your face/body after you work out. Skipping the shower right after working out or not washing your face, at the very least, allows the makeup, dirt, bacteria, and oil that was already on your skin mix with sweat — all of which will find a nice home in your pores, settling into your warm skin and causing breakouts to brew.
What you can do differently: Wipe your face, chest, and back down before you work out with facial wipes, like Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, to remove your makeup. Then, if you don't have time to shower immediately after the gym, use another fresh facial wipe to clear away any sweat and bacteria on your skin to minimize the chance of new pimples popping up.
13. You're still a sun-worshipper. You're probably already aware that lying out in the sun and going to tanning beds cause skin cancer, but if that still hasn't stopped you from hitting the beach without sunscreen or the proper protective gear (aka that chic sun hat), perhaps this will. Contrary to popular belief, the sun isn't healing your acne, it's actually making it worse. What happens is, as your face gets red from the sun, it makes any breakouts you might already have blend in, creating the appearance of clearer skin. But what's really going on is the sun causing your skin to dry out and triggering more oil production, which can lead to more zits.
What you can do differently: For starters, stop going to tanning beds. Period. And if you are in the sun, make sure to slather on a titanium dioxide- or zinc-based sunscreen (these are natural sun protectants and their formulations usually contain fewer chemicals, so they won't break you out as easily), and wear a sun hat or ball cap to shield your facial skin from harsh rays.
H/T Cosmo US