Why is your skin breaking out?
So, you’re doing all the right things – cleansing twice daily, exfoliating, moisturising and even wearing sunscreen, but your skin is still breaking out. Breakouts are frustrating at the best of times, but even more so when you can’t discern what’s causing them. The disappointing truth is that you can be diligent with your skincare routine, but if you’re not addressing all of the possible causes of acne, you’re not going to tackle the root of the problem.
Though every skin type is different, breakouts are mainly triggered by hormones and the overproduction of oil. Hormones ramp up oil levels in the skin, which feeds the growth of C. acnes (acne-causing bacteria). Although environmental factors, as well as stress and genetics, also play a part, there are certain things you could be doing daily that are exacerbating the problem. Dr Sophie Shotter sheds light on exactly how to tell what is causing your breakouts and how to tackle them when they appear.
Hormones play a major role in how our skin behaves – many of us have experienced a rise in hormonal blemishes the week before a period is due as our progesterone and oestrogen levels drop and testosterone becomes temporarily more dominant. This leads to increased oil production by the skin’s sebaceous glands, contributing to blocked pores and breakouts. Fortunately, these breakouts should clear as you move through your cycle and are therefore relatively easy to identify.
The fix: For a targeted approach to the breakouts that come from hormones, a spot zapping treatment containing salicylic acid can be applied directly onto spots to dissolve dead skin cells that clog pores. Try the SkinCeuticals Blemish & Age Defence to keep breakouts at bay.
Breakouts can be triggered by certain types of cosmetic products that aggravate pores which are already prone to clogging – long-wear foundation is probably the worst offender. Similarly, it’s crucial to keep makeup brushes and sponges clean. Brushes can become rife with bacteria and also accumulate dead skin cells and oil, which can clog pores and lead to breakouts.
The fix: Make sure you’re cleaning your makeup brushes at least once a week and changing sponges regularly. Opt for a non-comedogenic foundation which means it’s not likely to cause comedones (or pore blockages). We love the Oxygenetix Acne Control Foundation which lets your skin breathe, fights acne and is aloe vera based, so doesn’t contain any oils that nourish bacteria in the skin.
The wrong skincare
If you’re taking care of your skin, yet you’re still not seeing the blemish-free complexion you’re aiming for, your acne trigger could be down to the fact that you’re just not using the right skincare. Many people get carried away and layer lots of products or apply too many actives at the same time, such as retinoids and glycolic acid, which should be avoided. While active ingredients exfoliate your skin and can be very useful for keeping acne at bay, misusing them can damage your skin’s protective barrier, which is designed to defend it from bacteria.
Similarly, applying topical salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide too often can dry out your skin and trigger even more oil production, leading to more breakouts.
The fix: Breakouts are best treated with a combination of non-comedogenic skincare and a structured approach to actives. Retinoids normalise exfoliation of skin cells inside the pore, so they don’t clog. They also have anti-inflammatory benefits and help to eliminate the dark marks that blemishes leave behind. Alternate an exfoliating cleanser with a gentle cleanser, so you don’t strip your skin of too much oil. If you do find that your skin is feeling dehydrated, give the actives a break for a few days and focus on hydration. We love Hyaluronic acid for a moisture boost.
If you are feeling especially overwhelmed by what your skin might need, why not book an Illuminate Skin Health Assessment.
Stress causes acne, and acne results in more stress, it’s a vicious cycle. When you’re experiencing stress or anxiety, it can have several effects on your skin, including decreased barrier function, increased sebum production and increased inflammation. Stress hormones, including cortisol, can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone. This then increases your oil production and clogs pores.
The fix: Meditation can do wonders for your stress levels, even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Work out, plug in an essential oil diffuser or take some time out of your busy schedule. Dr Sophie also recommends CBD oil which has many beneficial effects and has been proven to reduce levels of stress and anxiety significantly. All of these things will help you combat stress, so your body doesn’t continue to produce hormones that are trying to wreak havoc on your skin.
Diet and alcohol
A bad diet can cause issues in the gut and result in unwanted breakouts, while alcohol can trigger them due to the high sugar intake. Alcohol also dehydrates the skin, leading to the production of more oil to compensate, so your complexion is more likely to become congested.
The fix: Talk to your practitioner to see if the food you’re eating is the source of your problem or book an appointment with our GP to see if there’s anything else going on within your gastrointestinal tract. Limit your alcohol intake and try to drink 2-3 litres of water every day.
Touching our faces, picking spots, smoking, tanning and not changing our pillowcases often enough – we’re all familiar with at least one of these bad skin habits.
Hands are the best transporter for acne-causing bacteria. We mostly notice breakouts along the jawline or temples for this very reason. Similarly, our pillowcases can become a breeding ground for bacteria. During the day, dirt, oil makeup, and grime builds up on the skin and hair. Even after cleansing the skin thoroughly before bed, this can still be transferred onto your pillowcase from your hair, which will eventually be transferred back to your face again.
The fix: Simple – wash your pillowcase every few nights, always apply an oil-free sunscreen at the end of your morning routine and don’t pick or touch your face for unnecessary reasons. If you need to physically cover your pimple to keep your hands off of it, try a pimple patch which protects your spot and allows it to heal faster.
There is a strong link between pollution and skin complaints, with premature ageing and breakouts the dreaded result. Combine this with UV rays, dry heat from our heating systems and numerous indoor pollutants, and you’ve got a recipe for a skin disaster.
The fix: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and an antioxidant daily. Sunscreens protect from harmful UV rays while antioxidants are designed to seek out free radicals within the skin to destroy them before they cause any problems. We love Institut Esthederm Photo Reverse and SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF serum.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.