If we can all agree on something, it’s that breaking out is a total pain. After all, we’ve all had to deal with an embarrassing zit (or 20) at some point in our lives. Acne can start as early as the age of 12 and can pop up well into our 40s. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects up to 50 million Americans every year.
Acne can range from mild cases, from a pimple or two, to more severe breakouts, like deep-rooted cystic acne. Without treatment, acne can leave dark spots and sometimes even permanent scarring and uneven skin. It’s no wonder why that in 2010, people spent more than $3 billion on acne treatment; by 2017, people coughed up a stunning $4.1 billion, according to Grand View Research.
Unless you’re incredibly lucky, it’s not that easy to stop breaking out. So what causes it exactly? For starters, acne occurs when a thick, oily substance called sebum secretes from oil glands, mixes with dead skin, clogs the pores, and forms at the surface as a pimple. Unfortunately, there are other things in your day-to-day routine that can cause this to happen. It can be especially hard to crack down on sudden breakouts. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are 15 reasons why your acne might be acting up.
1. Ironically, Your Acne Spot Treatments
When you start to feel like you are breaking out, your first instinct may be to grab your go-to spot treatment ASAP. But it turns out your acne products may be working against you.
Acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are intended to dry out your zit, but that’s not all it dries out.
If you use too much or too often, it can over dry and irritate your skin, causing more acne or hyperpigmentation, according to Teen Vogue. Give your skin a break every once in a while, and don’t attack a new zit with every acne product in your cabinet.
2. Your Period Is About To Come
It’s that time of the month again. Maybe you’re feeling extra moody and experiencing some cramps. You may also have a few unwelcome guests, AKA dreaded period acne. According to Flo, during menstrual cycles, women experience shifts in hormone levels.
These fluctuations cause an increase in that thick, oily substance, sebum, which can build up, clog pores, and cause acne flare-ups around your period.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common, as more than 60 percent of women experience period acne.
3. You’re Using Dirty Makeup Brushes
It’s not every day that you think to clean your makeup brushes, but maybe you should.
Your brushes can collect all sorts of dirt, oil, and bacteria that can cause acne and even dermatitis, according to ELLE.
Ideally, you want to clean your brushes after every use. If you don’t have time to give your brushes a daily cleanse, shoot for doing a light cleaning with warm water and gentle soap at least once a week to keep breakouts to a minimum.
4. You’re Exfoliating Way Too Much
Using a face scrub to exfoliate as part of your routine can be great for your skin. Do it too much, however, and it could cause breakouts.
“When you do exfoliating correctly, it can help to rid acne by clearing out dead skin cells that clog pores,” celebrity skin expert and registered nurse Jamie Sherrill told HuffPost. “But when you’re overdoing it, you’re also getting rid of all those healthy skin cells, which protect your skin’s natural barrier.”
When you strip the skin of its natural barrier, it can cause hypersensitivity and worsened acne. Um, no thanks.
Avoid physical exfoliants when you are actively breaking out, as these can spread the acne-causing bacteria all over your face.
5. Your Pillowcases Might Be Dirty
If it feels like you’re doing everything right and your acne isn’t going away, you might want to wash your pillowcase.
Think about it. You spend a significant amount of time with your face on your pillow, which has gathered oils from your face and hair, dirt, leftover makeup, and bacteria, according to Allure.
Try making a habit of changing your pillowcase at least once a week to minimize any acne flare-ups.
6. You’re Wearing Hats Too Often
We love hats. They’re cute and can protect you from the sun, but if you notice a few zits on your forehead after wearing them, it might not be a coincidence.
When you wear a hat for long periods of time, it can build up sweat and bacteria causing pores to clog up, Harper’s Bazaar reports.
If you do decide to wear your hat a lot, try washing it more!
7. You’re Working Up A Sweat At The Gym
If you make time to go to the gym or do a quick workout at home, props to you! It makes you feel good inside and out, plus exercise is a great stress reliever.
But who knew something so good for you could mean trouble for your skin?
After working up a sweat, it can mix with oil, dirt, and makeup and seep into your pores, according to Bustle. So make sure to shower and wash your face right after working out to keep your skin from breaking out! It also helps if you take off your makeup before your next workout sesh.
8. Your Hair Products Can Be Causing Body Acne
You might be safe from post-workout acne if you shower right after, but there’s something else in your bathroom that could be causing acne: your hair products.
According to The Zoe Report, your hair products may have pore-clogging ingredients like sulfates and silicones, which could explain why you’re breaking out.
These ingredients can cause buildup, which can cause breakouts on your face or back. If you need a heavy conditioner, consider investing in a body wash that can help break down this product buildup.
9. Your Shower Water Is Too Harsh
Nope, we’re not done with acne-causing shower habits yet. If it’s not when you shower or what you’re using in the shower that’s causing breakouts, it could be the water itself.
According to Well+Good, tap water can be considered “hard” water, meaning it contains heavy metals that might not wash away soap or other bath products properly. This leads to zits.
But there are shower attachments you can get to filter your shower water if you think it might have an effect on your skin. Water Right Group has a great method to test whether or not you have hard water.
10. You Lead A Jet Set Lifestyle
Anyone who’s been on an airplane can tell you how dry the air is when you travel. New York City-based dermatologist Patricia Wexler told Allure that humidity typically drops to 20 percent more than normal levels. The dry air can cause your skin to go haywire.
“If your skin is normally dry, this can lead to the buildup of oil under the dehydrated skin cells,” Dr. Wexler said. “If your skin is naturally oily, this will only increase oil production.”
Be sure to chemically exfoliate your skin and apply the proper moisturizer before hopping on your next adventure. Drink plenty of water, too!
11. You’re Touching Your Face A Lot
It might be a nervous habit or you could have something on it, but either way, touching your face frequently could be the reason why you’re breaking out.
Think of all the things you touch and how all the potential dirt and bacteria are being transported right to your face. Yuck.
According to HuffPost, not only can touching your face spread bacteria on the surface of your skin, but also below the skin, potentially causing damage and leading to even more breakouts.
12. Your Laundry Detergent Has Irritating Additives
Laundry detergents can contain chemicals, dyes, and fragrances that can be really irritating for your skin. They can potentially cause acne (even the cystic kind) and rashes.
According to Well+Good, even if your laundry machine goes through the rinse cycle, it can still leave behind detergent that can cause breakouts.
This may not affect everyone, but if your clothes smell floral fresh and your face looks anything but, try switching to a dye- and fragrance-free laundry detergent and/or fabric softener.
13. A Change In Seasons Or Weather
If you think your skin acting up between seasons or when you’re on vacation in a totally different climate, it’s not all in your head.
According to Proactiv, heat and humidity can increase oil production and cause breakouts.
But it’s not just the warmer months that can lead to you breaking out; the transition to cold weather could make your acne worse, too. During the winter, it can get cold and windy, and the humidity tends to drop. This can lead to dehydrated skin, cause more oil production, and cause some acne.
14. Your Phone Screen
If you find you’re breaking out on your cheeks, it could be because you’re talking on the phone too much.
One dermatologist told Refinery 29 that the friction caused by rubbing your phone against your skin could lead to breakouts. Another said the culprit could be bacteria and dirt on your phone being transferred to your face.
If you need (or want) to continue talking on the phone, consider using headphones or earbuds instead of holding the phone up to your ear. Some phone cleansing wipes can also help eliminate product buildup on your device.
15. You’re Spending Too Much Time In The Sun
We all love a little fun in the sun, but too much can be bad for you in a few ways.
Laying out sans sunscreen and going in tanning beds can cause skin cancer, and it can also be the reason why your acne is acting up.
When you’re out in the sun for too long, your skin sheds more dead cells. This can clog your pores and lead to blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.
When To Talk To A Doctor
If you find you are changing everything about your skincare routine and you are still breaking it, it may be time to speak to your dermatologist.
Some stubborn acne requires prescription treatments, which can include antibiotics, topical creams, or something stronger.
Give your dermatologist a history of your struggles with acne and hopefully, they will be able to help clean up your skin.