Acne is terrible, but you know what’s even worse? Your acne suddenly going bad. Like really bad. Just like that, no warning, no nothing, you go to bed with a perfectly fine case of acne but wake up with a nasty, nasty breakout. What is acne trying to tell you? Slowly, but surely - you're beginning to scream internally.
So, what happened? Of course, you enter into Sherlock Holmes mode and begin a long, mental overview of every detail in the past few days. What did you eat? Where did you go? What did you do? Who did you spend time with? Was it maybe touching that door handle of the club you visited this weekend? (Visited is a weak word here, but hey) Was it maybe the gallons of alcohol? That guy you accidentally rubbed your face against?!
Or was it touching your face after you had to tie your shoelaces? Maybe it was touching the handlebars of the public transit system? No. It was touching that money when you paid for lunch today and… But wait. You have to handle money, because, you know, you actually have to buy sh*t? Step by step, you begin to overthink, and your Sherlock Holmes mode turns into full-blown panic and sadness and anxiety mode. Your face was pretty great up until today! But now you suck, everything sucks and the world can go to hell!
So what happened? Well, we’ll tell you what happened. Just stop overthinking, relax and read on.
It doesn’t come down to just one single reason. Depending on your age, lifestyle, or circumstances, there are a number of factors that could be making your acne worse. Here are some of the most common ones. There are tons of treatments for acne, depending on the causes, but instead of telling you how to get rid of acne, today we focus on factors that make it worse. Your acne is bad because...
Cleansers, gels, oils, exfoliators, masks… The list of the various types of skin care products gets longer and longer with every passing day, and people are trying almost everything out. But not all skin care products are equal, or appropriate for your skin. If you already have oily skin, the wise decision is to avoid using oils and oily products.
But sometimes it doesn’t even matter what your skin type is. Mineral oil contains ultra-heavy moisturizing agents, for example, and will clog your pores regardless of what your skin type is. Another addition to most skin care products are silicones, ingredients that will find your way inside pores too. And then, it is only a question of when, not if, an acne breakout will happen. That being said, even the least harmful skincare product can cause trouble if you’re applying too much of it and not washing your face. Remember, follow each product’s instructions, and wash your face frequently. Water doesn’t clog your pores.
Well, there’s a solution to this conundrum and it’s fairly easy. The next time you go out to get yourself some nice skin care, try to choose a quality product. Before buying any skincare or anti-acne product, be sure to take a good look at their labels. Avoid any product that doesn’t have the “non-comedogenic” words on it. Non-comedogenic means “this won’t clog your pores”, which is exactly what you need. Use non-comedogenic skin care products and you’re good to go - you’ve eliminated one potential cause for acne.
Remember, before starting to use any product or even home remedy, it's best if you perform a patch test first. A patch test will tell you how your skin will react to the substance without harming you. If any product is causing you irritation, regardless of its labels, then don’t hesitate to schedule a visit to your dermatologist.
By now you’ve probably heard of the holy trinity of anti-acne products: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur. The more of these a product contains, the better and more efficient the anti-acne treatment is. However, it is crucial to use them sparingly and only on the affected areas. Not following the instructions or your dermatologist’s advice means you can accidentally overdo it, which can cause all sorts of trouble.
From discoloration to burning off the top layer of your skin, to making it as dry as the Sahara, using anti-acne products too much can be extremely counterproductive. It may definitely make your acne inflammation worse, causing redness, sensitivity, and pain. And as if that wasn’t enough, it can dry your skin which will, in turn, cause it to go into oil producing overdrive, practically negating any positive effects you’ve achieved so far.
First off, give the anti-acne product that you’re using a rest. Allow your skin to recover and regain its harmony, so to speak. Then, instead of applying the anti-acne treatment every night (or morning, depending on your routine), try to get your hands on a hydrocortisone cream. There are many products on the market that contain hydrocortisone, so you won’t have too much trouble acquiring one. Once you have it, apply it (again, read the instructions first) over the affected areas. It should reduce the redness and inflammation.
Once your skin has recovered (give it a week, for example), you can resume using the treatment again. But don’t overdo it! A few times a week is enough. If that’s too much for your skin too, then use it even more sparingly. Your priority here is not making your skin any worse than it has to be.
Oscar Wilde once made the terrible mistake to say that "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Every time I’m looking at chilly sauce, hot pepper or anything else that sets my tongue on fire, I’m saying that quote to myself. Spicy food is my greatest guilty pleasure… And acne hates it. Heck, even people with super healthy skin can end up with a nasty red rash after downing a jalapeno. It is basically just another way to hurt yourself and we love it.
But why? Why does spicy food irritate our skin so much? Well, according to science, it’s because the tomatoes and peppers that usually comprise anything tongue-burning contain a substance called acidic lycopene. Acidic lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with a number of positive effects, but, it can still be an irritant to some people. Since it can change the pH balance of the skin, acidic lycopene can cause the onset of a nasty rash. That’s why some people should avoid spicy foods if they’re sensitive to them.
But is it only spicy foods? Sadly, no. Depending on your personal genetics, health conditions and predispositions, almost any type of food can make your acne worse. Sometimes it’s spicy foods, but other times, it’s dairy. Yet some people get breakouts whenever they down a greasy, fat, chocolate cake. And some people can even get adverse reactions to some fruits and vegetables.
It’s simple - just try to figure out if any food correlates with your sudden acne escalation. Experiment and see if it’s true or not. If the food does, indeed, makes your acne worse, then it’s best to avoid it. If you’re dealing with a spicy food addiction… I hate to break it to myself, but I should really stop spanking my tongue so hard. If even giving up, or taking breaks from the suspected foods doesn’t help, however, you know what time it is. It’s doctor o’clock.
Modern shampoos, hair gels, shower gels, and hair conditioners often contain a bunch of ingredients that can irritate your skin. Some of these are the so-called sulfates (that act as cleansing agents), then heavy moisturizing agents, and pore-clogging silicones. Unlike the skin care products that contain some of these, in the case of hair products these harmful substances affect a wider area. They don’t just end up on a specific spot on your face, but spill over all of your body, potentially causing acne on your hairline, cheeks, chin, neck, chest, back, shoulders, thighs, pubic area, even your butt and so on.
While not everyone will be negatively affected by these problematic ingredients found in hair products, some of you definitely will. But thankfully it’s very easy to negate these negative effects - just slightly adjust the way you’re showering. When you’re washing your hair in the shower, just tilt your head over to the side so that the hair product won’t slide down over your body. As an extra precaution, give your face another wash before finishing your shower, to make sure there isn’t any hair product residue over your face. Rinsing your body thoroughly with plenty of water is the surest way to prevent any hair product residue and avoid clogged pores.
You know what I’m talking about. (No, not that kind of rubbing!) But basically, a lot of people aren’t really taking good care when it comes to their skin. Regardless if it’s an ordinary face wash, or applying this, or that skin care product, mask or exfoliator, people just don’t pay attention to how they treat their skin. Sure, the goal is to have your skin smooth like a baby’s butt, but how you get there is the key. If you apply too much force while rubbing, scrubbing, exfoliating or merely washing your skin, you’re doing it wrong. Rubbing healthy skin can dry it, or even damage it, making it produce extra oil as a result. Rubbing your acne will not just inflame it even further and hurt, but it also risks the spreading of harmful bacteria across healthy areas of skin.
This is kind of simple, isn’t it? Follow the instructions that come with each product, and try not to make your skin sore from all the rubbing. Be gentle, and apply some moisturizer after cleaning your face so as to help your skin refresh itself.
Yup, you heard that right. Besides binge watching Vikings, some ladies (well, gentlemen too) have the benefit of being with a man boasting a big, burly, beautiful beard. Ladies can hardly resist smooching a man with a gorgeous beard, but if said ladies have skin problems or acne - I have bad news for you. Kissing your bearded boyfriend creates friction (no, not that kind of friction!) that can irritate your skin. And when your face becomes irritated, it stimulates oil production, which is one of the holy trinity of an acne bout. But your boyfriend is still a handsome devil…
Weelll… There’s no easy way around this, I’m sorry. Either the beard has to go, or you can ask him to condition it with some lotions (coconut oil works well too) so as to minimize the unpleasant scraping. Or even better yet, since dudes are kinda simple when it comes to getting their head around cosmetic products - you can buy him one as a gift yourself. Shaving isn’t such a good option, and not just because of aesthetic reasons - as new hairs grow they can feel even more uncomfortable than a fully grown beard. So, get your man a nice beard lotion, and you’re good to go. Use that beard as a pillow for your face.
The problem here isn’t what’s most obvious, like the smoke. The problem with smoking is that it decreases the amount of oxygen you enter into your body, which in turn translates to a lower amount of oxygen that gets to the skin on your face. This leads to the breakdown of important compounds that help your skin maintain its health. Lighting a cigarette breaks down elastin and collagen, disabling your skin from doing important repair work. This creates wrinkles, makes your pores bigger, and in doing so - easier to clog. And finally, since cigarettes are a carcinogen, their smoke irritates and dries your face too, preparing the terrain for more acne breakouts. Or, for making your acne bad.
Well… You could quit smoking. Just saying. I know how difficult it is, but you should at least try smoking less, or just less often. That will give your skin more time to recover, so it will end up being less damaged. Alternatively, you could start vaping instead. But whatever you do, just quit smoking.
So I hear you ask: why is my acne so bad?. Let’s be honest here - because you spent almost an hour in front of the mirror last night, popping pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and so on. Sure, you took care to do it properly, washed your hands and washed your face too, but popping pimples is still damaging your skin.
See, popping a pimple means crushing your skin and its underlying tissues, and sometimes even pushing pus and harmful bacteria deeper into the skin. Which, causes new and nastier pimples! Additionally, it’s the sort of damage that can leave you with lifelong scars, something which I’m pretty sure you will regret. And something that isn’t worth the short pleasure of popping a pimple.
I’m afraid that there’s not much you can do. Except, you know, to stop touching your face and popping your pimples. Doing so will actually make your face look better, since it allows sufficient time for your scars to heal, and for your pimples to go through their natural lifecycle. That’s how they don’t leave scars as well. Try to help yourself as much as you can, since this is an insidious habit. Find support, and do some research on how you can develop healthy habits while getting rid of the unhealthy ones.
Or in other words - stress. Overthinking it and becoming obsessed with the state of your acne can easily throw you in a feedback loop of negative thinking. Which will make you stressed, or worse. Too much worry can make you become anxious, and if it’s prolonged it can even lead to depression. All this stress makes your body release hormones such as cortisol, that actually make your body produce more oil. So, more stress means more oil, and more oil means more acne.
I’m fully aware that this piece of advice falls under the category of “easier said than done”, but I have to say it anyway. After all it’s my job, and it’s better for you. Meditation, working out on a regular basis, or simply taking walks or a swim all have their positive effect on stress. Additionally, you could try journaling every day (it’s especially fruitful in the morning just after waking up), or maybe pick up a hobby such as painting, drawing, playing an instrument… Getting your mind away from all the worry and its well-rehearsed preoccupations will make you feel relaxed, both in body and mind. Slowly but surely, your hormones will get back in order and (among all the other things) your skin health will improve too.
Detergents are, after all, designed to clean a wide variety of dirt and filth. From bodily fluids, to food stains, to dirt, dust and rocks, detergents have a difficult job to do. That’s why they contain a bunch of intense chemicals that make sure they pack a punch. But, what if your skin is sensitive, and if the clothes haven’t been properly washed off all the corrosive detergent ingredients? You might go to bed, and find your face inflamed in the morning. And not just your face… Sheets, blankets, underwear, practically everything is in contact with your skin and can cause you trouble.
Be more picky with detergents. Try to do some research and read the detergent labels carefully - if they are dermatologically tested, or approved for sensitive skin, that’s good. Additionally, it’s wiser to avoid detergents that are free of strong dyes or fragrances, since those qualities are almost always enabled by extra chemicals.
Seriously, when was the last time you washed that thing? It smells like a dead cat and… Right, never mind. But you get my point. Headwear of any kind, like hats, caps, tiaras, even scarves, can amass sweat, dirt and bacteria residues and rub it all over your poor, innocent skin. Besides the friction and the irritation that comes with it - which makes your acne bad, unclean headwear can also clog your pores, causing a brand new acne inflammation.
Well, wash them. Or, just avoid wearing hats that often. I know it’s fashionable, but you’re just causing your head to warm up, your skin to sweat, oil to build up, and in general, just to get your skin irritated. Why is my acne bad, you ask? That’s why.
Seriously. Way too many people fall prey to this temptation, and while it’s problematic for even healthy people, it is even worse for people with acne. Going to the gym exposes you to thousands of people who have already been there and touched everything you can set your eyes on. Not just that, but there is a lot of dirt and dust from all the huffing and puffing and physical activity. And thirdly, you’re sweating so much that you need a shower anyways. But occasionally, people skip washing their face or having a shower, and boom - acne is suddenly a lot worse. What a surprise there!
You can get a nice relaxing shower after exercising, for example. If you’re pressed with time, you can use wet wipes to - at least - give your face a quick clean up. It will do the job, since it will remove all the extra dirt, oil and bacteria from the gym that have managed to land on your face.
While the popular belief is that the sun can only aid your health, for some people the opposite is true. Too much sunlight (and understandably, heat) can make your skin dry, which will activate its oil-producing function to compensate. Tanning beds are guilty of the same thing. So, if you have acne, or have sensitive skin prone to acne, this is why things are going bad for you.
Well, several options here. First, stop using tanning beds. At least that’s easy. Next, wear protective clothing when you’re out in the sun, or if you have to, use sunscreens that don’t contain oil.
Hopefully, this list will give you a good idea of why your acne is suddenly bad. While not exhaustive, it can certainly point you in the right direction. And now that you know why your acne is bad, what are you going to do about it?
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.