Why do breakouts happen? Possible causes & solutions
Impurities form when bacteria, dead skin cells, or oil (also called sebum) gets trapped and build up in the hair follicles. As the follicle clogs up, the impurity will become visible on the skin’s surface, where its appearance will vary, depending on how it develops. Common types of impurities are:
Open comedones, AKA blackheads, which get their color from the bacteria mixing with oxygen. These occur when the pore is clogged but not inflamed.
Closed comedones, AKA whiteheads, are often recognized by their white or yellow-ish appearance. These form as a bump on the skin, remaining the same color as your complexion.
Cystic acne develops beneath the skin’s surface and can be very painful. These types of impurities occur when oil, bacteria, or skin cells build up deep within the skin’s pores.
Just like the appearance of impurities can vary from person to person, the reason behind them can differ as well. Some of the most known causes are:
- Hormonal fluctuations, e.g. during a period or pregnancy or as an effect of stress
- Some types of medicine
- Using the wrong skincare products
- Your diet can also have an impact, as highly processed foods have been suspected to worsen breakout-prone skin
Other (lesser known) factors that can also affect your skin include:
- An unhealthy sleep pattern
- Contact with the skin. Ask yourself: Are you washing your make-up brushes, towels, and linen regularly? Besides these factors, pressing your phone against your skin or touching your skin too often can also play a considerable role in the bacteria level on your skin
Treating breakout-prone skin right: Dos & don'ts
So, how do we combat breakouts once and for all? If and how this is possible depends on the cause of your breakouts. Therefore, we recommend to always consult a dermatologist if you’re struggling with impurities. And as always: Listen to your skin and its signals – treatments of breakouts is not necessarily a one size fits all situation. However, educating yourself on some general rules can go a long way – therefore, we listed some dos and don’ts in treating breakout-prone skin to make things just a tad easier.
Do: Moisturize – even if you have oily skin
If your skin type is on the oily side and recurring impurities are a regular occurrence, reaching for your moisturizer might not feel as intuitive as it should. But there’s actually a very good reason why this might be just the right thing to do, as your moisturizer can not only help prevent impurities, but also help treat existing irritation.
Opting out of moisturizer can leave your skin dry and imbalanced and therefore also more irritated than before. The dryness can also trick the skin into thinking that it needs to produce more oil, which can cause another breakout. Therefore, we recommend that you apply a lightweight moisturizer 1-2 times a day to keep your skin soothed and nourished.
Don't: Pick your skin – ever
We know it can be tempting to pick existing impurities, but be strong. What you’re actually doing when picking your impurities is breaking its structure, possibly causing its content to spread.
This can result in everything from redness and swelling to further inflammation, which can leave the impurity more painful and visible. This can happen both on the skin’s surface and inner layers, which is why you can’t always see the damage that’s been done immediately. Instead of picking your skin, we recommend using a facial mask with the blemish-fighting ingredient salicylic acid, which you can find in our Deep Cleansing Mask that can also be used as an effective spot treatment.
Do: Build new routines and habits
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that feeling stressed can turn into an evil cycle that can be difficult to see your way out of. However, some simple, new habits can go a long way in helping yourself maintain an overview and motivation on the days where the pace seems a little overwhelming – or the days where your heart is a little heavier. Our best tips on soothing feelings of stress include:
- Scribbling down your thoughts in a diary
- Making meal plans
- Keeping a calendar
- Finding a hobby that doesn’t include electronics: e.g. painting, reading, or knitting
Don't: Cleanse your skin too often
Yes, refreshing your skin daily with a nourishing facial cleanser is an essential step to keep your complexion free of unwanted build-up of sweat, bacteria, and make up. But don’t get carried away – actually, over-cleansing can strip your skin of its natural oils, leading to an acceleration in its sebum production and therefore, possibly more breakouts.
Plus, choosing a cleanser with mild and natural cleansing actives, like our Daily Foaming Cleanser, is always beneficial.
Do: Catch some Zzz's
Getting enough sleep is easier said than done. However, catching a sufficient amount of Zzz’s plays a vital role on various parameters regarding both our health and appearance. There’re more ways to optimize your sleep pattern; we like to put our phones away half an hour before going to bed – oh, and tea has shown to be nature’s own sleep aid. Chamomile tea is, for example, well known for its relaxing effects – perfect for your winding-down rituals!
Sources of information:
- Why Am I Breaking Out? 8 Sneaky Causes of Acne (Plus How to Treat it), Caplan E., medically reviewed by Caldwell, A, Healthline.com (2022).
- Everything You Want to Know About Acne, Burke D., and Coelho, S., medically reviewed by Aremu, B, Healthline.com (2023).
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