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reasons why your skin is breaking out

Unexpected breakouts are like that uninvited party guest that just won't leave. 

reasons why your skin is breaking out

We know that constantly touching your face or using your phone too much can cause pores to clog, and we know when 'Aunty Flow' arrive every month it can wreak havoc around your T-zone and jawline. But it's the surprise pimple that appears overnight that has us scratching our heads like that nonchalant post first date text.

So you ask yourself "why am I getting pimples?". Turns out, there are heaps of things that can cause your skin to freak out and cause acne and inflammation. Frustrating, right? We asked Dermatologist Kathleen Eusebio-Alpapara what triggers breakouts and adult acne.


What causes skin breakouts?

Your comfort food.

Let's face it, chocolates, cakes, pasta, pizza, ice cream, potatoes, and white bread are the most common food we eat to relax and comfort us when we feel depressed. We drink alcohol on the couch after a tiring day or sodas every meal to quench our thirst. We prefer lattes to ice americano, and a splash of milk will never be enough for our coffee.

Foods rich in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index can trigger acne flares. They cause sugar spikes, pushing our pancreas to release insulin to lower high blood sugar. However, high insulin hormone levels prompt the skin to make more skin cells (keratinocytes) in the basal layer. These skin cells migrate to the skin's surface and become corneocytes (dead skin cells). These may accumulate, among acne-prone skin, forming white and blackheads that can clog pores. Furthermore, insulin enhances androgen synthesis, which leads to more active oil glands and severe skin breakouts.

Your moisturiser

Your acne medications can cause dryness in acne-prone skin, so naturally, you lather up on a moisturiser. The problem is, not all moisturisers are suitable for acne-prone skin. Ingredients that promote absorption and thickening agents like isopropyl myristate are highly comedogenic products that can clog pores and make acne worse. Natural products like coconut butter and cocoa butter are also highly comedogenic.

Your blush

Having rosy cheeks has a price, especially when your blush has D&C red colours. D&C red colours represent a perplexing mixture of different types of red dyes and pigments. Some of these colours are mild to moderately comedogenic, like D&C red 3 and 36. So when pimples on cheeks suddenly appear the next day after the last night's date, this might be the culprit.

Your hair products

Have you ever heard of pomade acne? Yes, it is caused by using pomade or pomatum, a greasy, waxy or water-based hair styling product. This is used by everyone who wants to make their hair follicles shiny and slick. Some promade products are made up of lanolin which can be comedogenic.

Another product is brilliantine, a scented oily substance used to make men's hair glossy, which is also comedogenic. These hair care products might be triggering breakouts on your temples and forehead without you knowing it.

Your facial treatments

Rejuvenating facials are super popular beauty treatments but they can also cause acne on cheeks. Some facials have 3 steps of vigorous massaging with creams, steaming (with hot towel or a steaming gadget), applying a face mask containing adsorbents and astringents and some even offer comedone extraction or "pimple popping" after steaming. Some of the active ingredients of these masks and astringents can further irritate one's face, causing more severe acne breakouts.

There is a right way to perform comedone extraction, so make sure you see a trained skin expert to perform this procedure. If not done correctly, it can worsen acne, leading to more acne scars, painful lumps and infection.

Dietary Supplements

Beware of those supplements being sold online, especially when marketed as muscle building supplements. Dietary supplements that aggravate acne contain vitamins B6 and B12, iodine, whey protein, and "muscle building supplements" that may potentially be contaminated with anabolic androgenetic steroids.

Anabolic steroids may cause hormonal changes, leading to excess sebum production. It can also alter our skin's natural lipids increasing the density of Cutibacterium acne on the skin.


How do I stop my skin from breaking out?

Learning about acne triggers can make it easy for you to prevent acne-causing bacteria. Here are some tips from Dr Eusebio-Alpapara.

Shift to healthier food cravings.

Instead of having a slice of cake for dessert, eat fruits instead. Instead of cow's milk, use nut milk like unsweetened almond or oat milk. Honey instead of refined sugar. Black coffee or tea rather than lattes or milk tea. Always choose healthier alternatives.

Ask a dermatologist.

They can help you find the most suitable skincare products for your skin care routine, like prescribed acne medications for spot treatments to reduce breakouts.

In-clinic solutions.

Ask what's the best in-clinic procedure for your skin type.

Make non-comedogenic your friend.

Prevent breakouts by using non-comedogenic products that include hair products.

Get buff the right way.

If you want to be buff, go to the gym. Seek expert help to choose the right supplement for you.

Be gentle on your face.

Do not rub it. Resist the urge of popping your pimples!

Take care when shaving.

Shave your beard and moustache carefully to avoid pimples caused by shaving.

Wash your face.

This one's a no brainer, wash EVERY DAY and NEVER sleep with your make up on, no matter how well that date goes!


How can I clear my breakouts?

Know the root cause of your acne.

You might have an underlying disease like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can cause adult female acne. If you experience hormonal acne, oral contraceptives with anti-androgen and estrogen will help control their breakouts, among other things.

Check your cosmetics.

Find makeup and cosmetics that are non-comedogenic, this will help keep your skin healthy.

Gently Wash that face.

Don't be rough, play nice and avoid rubbing your face.

Use the right skincare products.

Like those that prevent clogged pores and remove excess sebum, control sebaceous glands' oil secretion, and decrease swollen lesions. Look for products with vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives (topical retinoids), salicylic acid and witch hazel.

Never dry out your skin too much.

There's a nagging impulse to apply too many astringents or toners if you have oily skin. Unfortunately, this causes dryness, over-exfoliation, and worse irritation leading to breakout skin. You can try non-comedogenic moisturisers. We have oils with low comedogenic ratings like hemp seed oil and jojoba oil.

Reduce excess oil production.

Long-term acne treatments should be geared toward controlling sebaceous gland activity and comedone production to prevent frequent breakouts.

Ditch the greasy stuff

Avoid products that are super greasy, instead, use oil-in-water emulsions or moisturising gels (hydrogels). 

Know which ingredients to avoid.

Skincare products with isopropyl myristate, acetylated lanolin alcohol, and lauric acid derivatives such as laureth-4 should be used with caution.