Nope, it isn’t just your period.
So you do all the right things (regularly wash your face, exfoliate, moisturise, and even wear SPF), but your skin still breaks out. I hear you.
The sad, sad truth is you can be diligent about your skincare routine, but if you're not addressing all of the possible acne causes, you can add Googling "why am I breaking out?!" to your evening routine.
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By now, most of us know that touching your face not only spreads coronavirus but it can also cause clogged pores, or that a certain time of month usually foreshadows a minor emergency around your chin. But what about those times when you wake up with a surprise breakout for no apparent reason? Turns out, there are a lot of things that can cause your skin to freak out—like your shower, for instance.
Keep scrolling for what causes breakouts and all the surprising ways you could be triggering your skin.
you're constantly on your phone
The issue: So we know our phones are bad for us when it comes to things like our vision or our self-esteem but did you know that your phone is not only secretly ageing you but it's also the reason behind your spots? There are two reasons behind this. First, your phone uses blue light which is super damaging to your skin. Secondly, your phone is riddled with bacteria. Your phone comes into contact with your hands, fingers, mouth, pockets, desk and handbag on a regular basis so every time you put your phone up to your face to call your mam, that bacteria is transferring right onto your face. Gross.
The fix: Switch to a hands-free headset, or use the speakerphone option on your phone. If you must speak directly into your phone, wipe it off with an anti-bacterial wipe first.
you're not reading your labels
The issue: Pretty packaging is an easy way to be swayed into selecting a skincare product. But actually taking the time to read the label is a crucial skincare step. It's important to understand that acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin (and sadly, one that doesn’t yet have a true cure). Therefore, further inflaming the skin is an absolute no-no. Certain ingredients are known irritants and can be more harmful than helpful in skin types that get easily irritated.
The fix: If you're prone to breakouts, you need to be extremely wary of labels indicating "fragrance," "parfum," or " "perfume" anywhere on the ingredient list. You should also stay away from any products that contain mineral oil or silicone as both of these ingredients are infamous for clogging your pores.
you're wearing a face mask when LEAVING THE HOUSE
The issue: So, you made (or bought) your own face mask and have been diligently wearing it for the past few months because you've realised wearing a mask could potentially prevent someone from getting sick and dying. Well done you, keep it up. But despite offering a vital first defence against Coronavirus, they come with their own set of problems. Feedback from frontline workers and folk in other countries who’ve been wearing face masks throughout lockdown is that repeated use can cause unwanted skin flare-ups. "Maskne" (the latest not-so-fun term to enter the coronavirus glossary) refers to acne breakouts that cluster around the mouth underneath the face mask.
The fix: Wash your face twice a day. Once before wearing your mask and double-cleansing when you're home for the day. Wash your mask before you wear it for the first time and wash it frequently to cut down on the amount of dirt and bacteria that can linger on the fabric (and then get transferred to your face). Better yet, invest in multiple masks that you can wear on rotation. Try avoid wearing makeup where possible, especially on the areas covered by the mask. A simple brow touchup and a lick of mascara and you're good to go. Oh, and you can also read our guide on how to treat maskne, here.
The issue: Here’s a crazy thought: water might be causing your skin to breakout—well, hard water, that is. Because of the high concentration of minerals, it doesn’t wash away soap and other products as effectively, leaving leftover residue that can clog your pores.
The fix: Get a water softener that you can attach directly to your showerhead. Or, try dry brushing to exfoliate your skin without water.
you're taking your anger out on your skin
The issue: You'd think that the more we scrub our faces, the better the results. Where in fact, it does the opposite. If you already have a breakout and decide to intensely rub your skin, all you're doing is spreading that existing spot's bacteria across your face causing it to spread.
The fix: Be gentle. Wash and exfoliate your face with a mild yet effective formula that contains chemical exfoliators and doesn’t require scrubbing, like glycolic and lactic acids.
you're od-ing on skincare
The issue: Raise your hand if at the first sight of a bump, you load up the area with spot treatments (hi, me). But it turns out all you're doing is overreacting by over-treating. Topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin and trigger it to produce even more oil and, in turn, zits. Additionally, the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin, making it look red and raw if you’re using all the things far too often.
The fix: You don't have to toss your usual spot treatment—just don’t overdo it. Two to three times a week or every other night on your spot should do the trick. And if you have a reaction, switch to over-the-counter 1 per cent hydrocortisone cream to calm the inflammation in the pimple and take down the redness.
The issue: Smoking is ruining you in more ways than one, my friend. Every time you light up a cigarette, you decrease the amount of oxygen that goes to the skin on your face. Smoking not only predisposes you to cancer, but it also causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin that leads to wrinkles and increased pore size. The carcinogens in the smoke also irritate your skin and dry it out, triggering it to produce more oil and, therefore, more breakouts.
The fix: Don’t smoke. It’s as simple as that. You’ll live longer and have clearer skin. Boom.
your partner has a beard
The issue: One of the most surprising acne causes? Your partner's beard. Long story short: As you two kiss, your smooth face creates friction against his prickly one, which stimulates your skin’s oil production. And an increase in oil = an increase in blemishes.
The fix: Short of saying it’s time to embrace babyface, there are steps you can take to minimise irritation. For example, use a fragrance-free lotion to create a barrier between his facial hair and your skin. Or, apply a cold compress right after your makeout sesh to instantly bring down inflammation.
you can't stop touching your face
The issue: Now, more than ever, we know the dangers of touching our face. Yet, resisting the urge to touch one's face is only getting harder. One study found that, on average, people touch their faces 23 times an hour. It’s tempting in the moment, but it’s never a good idea to play dermatologist because it’s nearly 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 blackhead pus out of your pore, you run the risk of pushing the bacteria deeper and making the problem worse. Oh, yeah, and you know when you rest your chin in your palm while you’re sitting at your desk? That action of touching your skin also can transfer bacteria from your hand onto your face.
The fix: Challenge yourself not to pick or even touch your face for unnecessary reasons. If you need to physically put something over your pimple to keep your hands off of it (and to prevent more bacteria from getting to the zit), try a pimple patch, a flat, flexible, drug-free patch that protects your spot and allows it to heal faster.
you drink lattes
The issue: An article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found a strong connection between dairy products and acne flare-ups. Here’s the reasoning: most of the milk we drink is produced by pregnant cows, and therefore contain high levels of hormones that can send your oil glands into overdrive.
The fix: Sub in almond milk or coconut milk if you take your coffee with cream. If you must drink dairy, avoid skim milk—surprisingly, researchers found that skim milk seems to be more inflammatory.
you're using the wrong washing powder
The issue: Some of the chemicals in certain laundry detergents can be too harsh for your skin. And once you slip on your clothes or use your towels, your complexion might react to the residue that’s left on the fabric, resulting in breakouts on your face, back, bum, chest, back, etc. If you recently switched to a new detergent because it was on special offer (no judgement) and noticed a few breakouts ever since, that might be your problem.
The fix: Choose a detergent that’s fragrance-free, dye-free, and dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin.
Main image by @yarashahidi on Instagram