Top 5 Surprising Causes Of Acne

February 19, 2021

Top 5 Surprising Causes Of Acne


Regular face cleansing. Check. 

7 hours of sleep a day. Check.

Frequent changing of pillowcase. Check.


Heck, why am I still suffering from pesky acne breakouts?

While it’s not rocket science that acne occurs as a result of clogged pores, often a result of excess sebum production, dead skin cells build-up, hormones, dirt or bacteria, there are, however, innumerable factors that can cause any of these pore-clogging scenarios. Trying to pinpoint the trigger through trial-and-error is difficult and can be a long and frustrating process. 

Fret not, we have got your back! In this article, we shed light on some surprising culprits that should be on your skincare radar. 


1. Your Skincare Regime

Are your skincare habits doing more harm than good? Raise your hand if you are guilty of frequently testing out many skincare products in hopes of finding a holy grail solution that can banish breakouts for good. Yup, me too. 

Experimenting with various skincare routines that consist of active ingredients that target our unique skin concerns has become the new norm. As such, we have made ourselves out to be a bit of a scientist, constantly testing out skincare novelties and switching from product to product in search of the ideal formulation. 

However, this can be detrimental to the skin as switching or adding new products often “challenges your skin with new preservatives and active ingredients which can be irritating.” says Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, founder and director of Fifth Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in New York, “I have patients who have acne because they switch between 4 or 5 different acne creams or use an astringent facial wash, and spot cream, all with acne-fighting ingredients. This tears their skin apart.”  

In addition, mixing of unsuitable active ingredients can worsen acne breakouts. For instance, popular acne-fighting ingredients such as Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid should never be used with Retinol as the combination can cause the skin to be dry and flaky.

In reality, skincare does not have to be complex. 



2. Diet

Always find yourself in a hurry and grabbing junk food on the go? Slow down. Mindful eating plays an important role in managing acne outbreaks and cultivating healthy eating habits can go a long way.

It might be tempting to indulge in fast food, but a study conducted with over 5,000 teenagers and young adults found that high-fat diets increase the risk of developing acne by 43%, and the regular consumption of fast food increases the risk by an additional 17%.

Spicy food intake is another dietary factor to watch out for. Peppers, commonly used in spicy foods contain Acidic Lycopene that can irritate the skin and throw off the balance of its pH level and lead to breakouts. 

“Although spicy foods are not a trigger for everyone, some people have a sensitivity to this type of food – among others – that cause an increase in inflammatory chemicals in their skin. This pathway causes the blood vessels in their skin to dilate, makes their skin flush and turn red, and can cause broken capillaries with repeated exposure.” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group.  

Heaty foods such as deep-fried pastries, durian, red meat and chocolate are said to tip the body’s balance causing ailments leading to the outbreak of pimples. 

How diet affects the skin is largely dependent on each individual as some people may have adverse reactions to dairy and gluten for instance, while others do not. 


3. Smoke Breaks

Consider giving your next smoke break a pass. A study of over 1,000 women found that 41.5% of smokers had acne, compared to just 9.7% of non-smokers. Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen that goes to your skin, causing the breakdown of collagen and elastin that leads to enlarged pores. Carcinogens in smoke irritate and dry out the skin, causing it to produce more oil, leading to excess oil build up and consequently breakouts. 



4. Hair Care & Styling Products

Your hair care and styling products could be unsuspecting causes of acne. “Styling products seep oil onto the forehead, which can trap acne-causing bacteria in your pores,” says Richard Fried, MD, PHD, the director of Yardley Dermatology Associates in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and the author of the book Healing Adult Acne. Clogged pores become inflamed, resulting in acne along the hairline and forehead. 

Your hairstyle may be causing pimples as well. Bangs can bring comedogenic hair products to your forehead, while hair accessories such as hats or headbands can trap sweat and bacteria against your skin. 


5. Facial Hair Removal

Last but not least, facial hair removal treatments can lead to skin irritation and consequently acne breakouts. Laser hair removal and waxing sessions open up the pores, leaving it prone to infections if not properly taken care of. Bacteria can enter the exposed pores and cause the skin to flare up. Over-shaving can also cause the skin to lose hydration and produce excess oil production. Furthermore, topical products such as depilatory cream or after shave can be comedogenic and result in breakouts.


This concludes our round up of the top 5 surprising causes of acne. At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and the causes of acne will differ across individuals, but together, we can resolve to break away from harmful skincare habits and cultivate new ones in our quest for clear, healthy complexion!