24 Surprising Causes of Acne Breakouts

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It is likely to get tired of trying several products to deal with acne-prone skin but to no avail.

Nevertheless, treating acne may need more than just applying topical medications. Finding an effective treatment and creating a skincare routine for acne-prone skin depends on knowing what’s causing the acne.  


Acne is one of the most prevalent skin issues affecting a significant portion of the population, and most individuals are looking for effective remedies.  

Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts are some of the forms of bumps that is known as an acne, a skin disorder. Acne affects the sebaceous glands and hair follicles.

How does acne form?  

Clogged pores are the primary factor causing acne. Sebaceous glands are present in pores, which are holes around hair follicles. Sebaceous glands release sebum to keep skin supple and protected. A pimple can develop when dirt, dead skin cells, excess oil, and germs clog pores.  

Surprising causes of acne  

  • Hair care products  

Breakouts arising due to hair care products are referred to as pomade acne.

Styling products seep oil over the forehead, which might clog the pores with microorganisms that cause acne. Bangs aggravate acne by pressing skin-clogging hair products against the forehead. A person’s hairdo is essential as well.

  • Facial hair removal  

In this situation, we are unknowingly swapping one issue (facial hair) for another—bumpy skin.

Topical creams that we use on the skin before or after shaving can be comedogenic, which means they clog the pores and worsen acne.

Itching lumps after shaving may not be acne at all but rather an irritation of the hair follicle that causes a temporary rash.

  • Cloth face mask  

An individual develops mask acne, often known as a mask, when there are more breakouts on the chin, jawline, and cheeks after wearing the cloth face mask for a prolonged time.  

Maskne is a skin condition arising from a buildup of sweat, oil, germs and humidity trapped behind the mask. This mixture not only causes pimples but also makes the skin dry, itchy, and blotchy from rubbing the mask against the skin.

Change to a breathable, lightweight fabric face mask to help treat mask acne and lessen excess oil production and sweat.

  • Too many skin care product usage  

We tend to try new skincare products often. That is harmful to our skin.  

It damages the skin with new preservatives and active ingredients, which can be irritant and result in breakouts when we switch products or add a new one before giving it time to work.   

When used in excess, even anti-acne products might result in acne.  

  • Makeup remover  

Cosmetic acne can develop when pore-clogging cosmetics react with the skin’s natural oil.  

The issue extends beyond the products to the method of makeup removal.  

Women either clean their skin superficially or feel they don’t need to wash their faces thoroughly when wearing mineral makeup.

Makeup, oil, and dirt clog up after a long day. This triple threat can quickly clog the pores, trap bacteria that cause acne, and result in breakouts.

  • Heavy sunscreen  

Look for oil-free, noncomedogenic sunscreens for experiencing acne or having acne-prone skin. Heavy sunscreens that aren’t oil-free can clog the skin’s pores and worsen acne.   

After spending the day in the sun, wash off the sunscreen. Even the most transparent, lightest sunscreens can block pores when worn overnight.

  • Dry skin  

Dry skin is a primary cause of acne, whether the dryness is a result of genes, outdoor activities, or the skincare routine, including using too much of specific products.  

For instance, frequently using many spot treatments at the first hint of a bump may irritate and dry out the skin, which might compromise and break down the skin barrier.

Unexpected dry-out factor number two—sun. Sun exposure dehydrates the skin and may cause it to produce excessive oil, which can result in clogged pores.

  • Travel  

The sun, heat and humidity can cause acne as the environment changes. The skin reacts by breaking out because it is unfamiliar with those things and feels challenged.  

Using sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and limiting sun exposure time may help prevent outbreaks. Do not add further skin products to the epidermal stress.

  • Stress  

Stress chemicals like cortisol, which are produced by our body when we’re under strain, can cause the oil glands to overproduce oil, clogging pores.  

A vicious cycle of stress acne can result in experiencing breakouts due to stress, feeling stressed out as a result, and then breaking out again.

  • Environmental factors  

The skin can become irritated and break out as a result of occupational exposure to pollutants, humidity and certain chemicals.

  • Lifestyle factors  

Certain lifestyle factors can also cause adult acne and acne-prone skin. Acne can result from smoking, drinking alcohol, eating many processed foods and sugar, and engaging in these behaviours.  

Stress, lack of sleep, and physical inactivity also impact the skin. Hormones that promote oil production in the skin and cause breakouts might be released in response to stress.   

  • Mobile phone usage  

As we use our cell phones throughout the day, germs from those surfaces come into contact with our mouths while talking on the phone.

Additionally, while using the phone frequently, pressing it against the face can result in acne or pimples. When we touch our faces after sending a text on the phone, we run the risk of transferring microorganisms.

Every day, use an alcohol wipe to clean the phone and give it a break occasionally.

  • Hormonal factors  

Hormonal imbalance is also a common causative factor for adult acne.

The sebaceous glands may produce more oil as a result of changes in hormone levels, which can result in clogged pores and breakouts.  

Stress, certain medications, and variations in the menstrual cycle can lead to hormonal abnormalities. Due to hormonal changes, women may develop acne flare-ups throughout their menstrual cycle or pregnancy.   

Due to pregnancy, menopause, birth control, and menstruation, women are more susceptible to hormonally driven adult acne.  

  • Genetics  

Adult acne may also be influenced by genetics. Women are prone to breakouts if their parents have acne or acne-prone skin. According to studies, genes may affect the sebaceous glands’ size and functionality, making us more prone to clogged pores and acne.

  • Medication  

Side effects of several medications can result in breakouts. These consist of lithium, corticosteroids, and a few anticonvulsants. Ask the doctor about other options while on medication and when there are acne flare-ups.   

  • Smoking  

Smoking is harmful to both the general health and the health of those around us. One in five deaths annually is attributable to cigarette smoking.  

Smoking, however, is also quite bad for the skin. The amount of oxygen that reaches the facial skin declines with each cigarette smoked. It is actually suffocating the skin, which is the body’s largest organ.

  • Not washing face before bed.  

Dirt, oil, and makeup naturally build up on the skin’s surface over the day. If we don’t wash our face before bed, the dirt will get transferred to the pillowcase and then back to our face the following night.  

Even though spending a few nights on a dirty pillowcase might not result in outbreaks, frequent exposure can.

  • Face scrub  

Scrubbing the face daily with a washcloth, a loofah, a cleansing brush, a harsh acne face wash, or any combination of these increases the risk of making existing outbreaks worse and starting new ones.  

Coarse scrubs damage the skin’s protective barrier by causing microtears and inflammation on the skin’s surface, which can lead to breakouts.

  • Sweaty workouts  

After working out, our skin is covered in sweat and dirt. However, when we don’t immediately wash that off, it is likely for the dirt, oil, bacteria, and makeup to irritate the skin and cause clogged pores.  

The skin turns into a bacterial breeding habitat faster the longer we remain in the same sweaty, sticky garments.

  • Pillowcase and makeup brush  

Oil, dust and other contaminants from the environment accumulate on the pillowcase. The skin may come into contact with this dirt and oil, which could cause acne. Wash the pillowcase frequently and change it as needed for healthy skin.

Likewise, bacteria can build up on makeup brushes. Clean the makeup brushes regularly. Replace them as well after a few months.

  • Food allergies  

Acne may also result from food allergies. Consuming food that a person is sensitive or allergic to may cause acne or other adverse effects.

  • Laundry detergent  

Some perfumes and chemicals in laundry detergents may be too harsh for people with sensitive skin. The face may react to the substance left on the fabric after slipping on the clothes or using the bath towels, causing breakouts on the face, back, butt, chest, etc.  

A person may experience one of these issues on recently switching to a new detergent and subsequently start getting a few breakouts.

  • Touching face  

Use only clean hands while touching the face. Germs can spread from dirty hands to the face. Always wash the hands before using any skincare products to prevent frequent facial touching.

  • Picking the face  

It’s tempting to pop the blackheads and whiteheads. However, pressing the blackhead or pus out of the pore runs the risk of pushing the infection deeper and worsening breakouts. This also causes further inflammation and introduces bacteria into the open wound.  

Even lightly touching an active breakout with the fingers can spread bacteria from the hands to the face, increasing the chance of developing new acne.


Treating acne is the goal no matter what causes the breakouts. The cause may be high stress, sweat and oil accumulation, an overuse of drying active ingredients, or the sebaceous glands.  

However, it’s important to keep in mind that genetics and hormones play a major role in acne, regardless of how well we take care of the skin. Visit a dermatologist to discuss getting personalised treatment for acne causes and remedies.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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