While it may seem like pimples pop up overnight, the truth of the matter is that it can take anywhere from four to up to 30 days for a blemish to form and surface on the skin.
Even if you’re doing everything right—cleansing, treating and eating clean—there’s still a myriad of underlying reasons why your skin is blemish-prone instead of as clear as a crisp fall day. Identifying the root cause of your acne is the first step in the quest for clear skin. Once the trigger is identified, a treatment plan can be put into place—because knowing is half the battle.
Cause #1: You’re wearing a mask (as you should be)
Maskne is so 2020, but it looks like we are stuck wearing masks into the foreseeable future. Covering the lower third of the face with a fabric or paper mask tends to bring on breakouts simply because the mask’s material causes friction, pressure, rubbing, or occlusion against the skin. Technically known as acne mechanica, maskne is more prevalent in those who wear a facial mask for extended periods of time. Breathing while wearing a mask creates a humid environment, which is the perfect setting for pimples to form.
Cause #2: Your diet is all wrong
Fatty, greasy foods, sugar, dairy, and starchy white bread all can provoke breakouts. Any food that causes inflammation in the skin can lead to a breakout since blood sugar spikes create inflammation. Plus, these sugar spikes also create excess oil production, making it more likely for pores to become clogged.
Cause # 3: Your protein shakes aren’t as good-for-you as you think
What you eat can be the reason for blemished, inflamed and red skin. Everything from dairy to fried foods and even chocolate has been labeled as culprits, and protein powder can be added to the list. If your powder contains whey protein, a common ingredient in protein powders, it can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. Studies show a connection between whey protein and acne, specifically when the ingredient was assessed in teenage athletes who consume whey-based protein. While the jury is still out on exactly why whey leads to breakouts, but other types of protein don’t, some say that the milk derivative factor in whey is why.
Cause #4: Your hormones are out of whack
Changes to your hormone levels can send oil production into overdrive and leave you with breakouts along the chin, jawline and cheek area due to internal skin inflammation, clogged pores and acne-causing bacteria.
Cause #5: You're overloading your skin with ingredients that strip it
When it comes to products, use only what you need. There’s no point in layering on unnecessary products that can strip the skin and throw its pH levels out of whack. Over-the-counter acne products that are formulated with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur can sometimes dry out the skin and render it flaky, raw and red. (This is more the case when these ingredients are overused or unnecessarily applied to the skin.) When the skin is stripped of much-needed moisture, it overcompensates for the lack of sebum by producing more than normal amounts of oil, in turn leading to superfluous oil in the pores. That influx of oil can cause pimples. The best advice: limit the use of harsh ingredients to a few times a week and only when necessary.
Cause #6: You’re using the wrong ingredients
We hate to break it to you, but yes, not every single beauty and skin-care ingredient out there is compatible with every skin type. What works for one person can be detrimental to another. Make sure that you read the label on every product and try and get a good understanding of what is in the products you put on your face and body. It’s best to avoid anything that contains sulfates, surfactants, synthetic ingredients, and artificial fragrances and colorants. Also, if you are prone to breakouts, opt for non-comedogenic formulas.
Cause #7: Your hair products
Just like how your skincare products can clog the pores on your face, the same goes for your hair products. They too can be formulated with similar ingredients as to what’s used in skincare, and just like serums and moisturizers, can instigate breakouts. But here’s the difference: skincare is applied directly to the skin; haircare is applied to the hair and scalp and drips down onto the neck, face and back.
Cause #8: Stress
Simply put, stress shows on your skin. When the body is under extreme, recurring stress, more-than-normal amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, are produced. Cortisol is known to stimulate the oil glands and produce testosterone, which can lead to pimples.
Cause #9: You’re not getting enough quality sleep
There’s a reason why they call it beauty sleep. While you’re getting some shuteye, the body works hard to repair itself, and cortisol levels decrease. If you’re not sleeping throughout the night—or sleeping at all—your cortisol levels remain elevated and oil production is sent into overdrive, all resulting in breakouts.