6 Unexpected Causes For Your Acne Breakout
Whether it’s time to renew your passport, take a professional headshot or snap a wedding photo, you always take great care to ensure you look your best. After all, these photos will be with you for a long, long time. To your horror, the big day arrives and one look in the mirror tells you that no amount of concealer can hide the angry red zit that has appeared in the middle of your forehead.
Frustrated? We all know the feeling.
Breakouts happen when sebum and dead skin cells clog up your hair follicles. Bacteria trapped in the pores feast on the sebum, releasing fatty acids that cause swelling and inflammation. But you already use a facial cleanser twice a day, avoid oily and fried food and meditate to reduce stress. What else could be causing these flare-ups?
We’ve got you covered. Here are 6 unexpected causes of acne you might not have considered before:
- Excessive phone use. In the digital era, we bring our smartphones wherever we go. They never leave our side: at the dining table, in the bedroom and even in the bathroom (admit it; it’s true). Yet we don’t often clean them, leading to a build-up of dirt and bacteria on their surfaces. Little actions we don’t think about – putting our phones to our ears for a quick chat; touching our faces after we text our friends – can transfer bacteria from these devices onto our faces and encourage pimples to form.
- Not drinking enough water. When we think about acne, our natural reaction is to buy the strongest cleanser we can find to rid ourselves of oily skin. So it may come as a surprise to learn that dry skin can also be responsible for your breakouts. When we don’t drink enough water, our skin can become dry and dehydrated. To compensate, it produces excessive oil which clogs pores and encourages bacterial growth. In order for our skin to be healthy and pimple-free, not only must we remove excess oil and sebum, we also have to make sure the skin is well-hydrated.
- Wearing a mask. Perhaps the one most relevant to our current times is the dreaded “maskne”. Wearing a mask for long periods of time causes it to rub and chafe against our cheeks. This can lead to a lesser known type of acne – acne mechanica – where pimples start to appear due to friction or pressure on the skin. Healthcare workers and those in other occupations where one has to wear a tight mask or helmet for long periods of time are more likely to suffer from this kind of acne.
- Air pollution. If you’ve found that your acne flare-ups coincide with the yearly haze period, it’s not just you. Scientists have found that cases of acne appear to be more common in places with high air pollution. Fine particulate matter in the haze – soot and dust particles for instance – can clog up our pores and adversely affect our skin. It’s not just the haze either; pollutants such as exhaust from motor vehicles and gas emissions from factories can wreak havoc on our skin, causing inflammation and acne breakouts.
- Using too many skin or hair products. Department stores are filled with aisles and aisles of skin and hair products. But using too many skincare items at once can expose your skin to multiple active ingredients, some of which can irritate or stress out your skin and cause it to flare up. Hair products especially tend to be oil-based in order to lock-in the moisture in your hair. But using too much can leave excess oil behind every time your hair touches your face. Just like sebum, the oil in hair products can clog up pores and cause a build-up of bacteria that can lead to acne.
- Medical conditions or medicines. Certain medical conditions and medicines can make you more prone to acne flare-ups. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a disorder affecting 6-18% of women internationally – leads to hormonal imbalances in the body that stimulates excessive oil production. Medications such as oral steroids – commonly used for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease – can cause breakouts on the face, chest and back, while birth control pills can improve or worsen acne depending on their active ingredients.
How To Get Spot-Free Skin
Keeping your skin clean and free of excess sebum is crucial to achieving spot-free skin. Be sure to wash your face thoroughly to remove makeup, oil and dirt that accumulates over the course of the day. Use only a few skincare products that are non-comedogenic (do not cause blocked pores) and avoid harsh cleansers that dry out your skin. If pimples still start to appear, you can try one of the treatments below.
Over-The-Counter and Pharmacy Options – Over-the-counter (OTC) spot treatments containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid kill bacteria and shed dead skin cells that can clog pores. Adapalene, another commonly used ingredient, belongs to a category called retinoids which decreases inflammation and prevents the formation of new pimples.
Prescription Medications – If these don’t work, you may want to consider prescription-strength medications. Oral antibiotics target acne-causing bacteria on the skin, while certain birth control pills can help reduce acne flare-ups while providing contraception at the same time. However, these do require a prescription from a doctor.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you’ve been plagued by stubborn acne that just won’t go away, seeking professional help may be your best bet.
At Zoey, licensed doctors on our platform are readily available to help you identify the root cause of your acne. From spot treatments to antibiotics and birth control pills, they’re well equipped to treat acne breakouts so you can be well on your way to blemish-free skin.
Getting started with Zoey is simple and fuss-free. After completing an online medical evaluation, book an appointment with our doctors from the comfort of your own home. Any medications you are prescribed will be delivered free of charge straight to your doorstep within 4 hours.