Acne is terrible, but you know what’s even worse? When your acne suddenly goes from bad to worse. Just like that, no warning. You're sticking to your amazing skin care routine and go to bed with a perfectly usual case of acne, but wake up with a nasty, nasty breakout. What is your acne trying to tell you?
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? Was it the alcohol? That guy you accidentally rubbed your face against?!
Or was it touching your face 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. Step by step, you begin to overthink, and your Sherlock Holmes mode turns into full-blown panic 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 breakouts worse. Acne develops for many different reasons. For example, do you take birth control pills? Do you wear makeup? Have you changed your facial moisturizer? Cosmetic and clinical research suggest that many things can trigger breakouts.
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'll focus on factors that make it worse.
Before we start, if you have untreated acne vulgaris, we'd recommend seeing a doctor. They can recommend products and medications to help treat acne.
So why is your acne bad?
We all know the importance of having a good skin care regimen. But using the wrong hygiene products is just as bad as having poor hygiene when it comes to acne.
Cleansers, gels, oils, exfoliators, masks… the list of skin care products gets longer with every passing day. But not all skin care products are created equal, or appropriate for your skin. If you already have oily skin, avoid using oils and oily products, and this will lower your chances of developing acne. If you have dry skin, using the wrong product can cause your oil glands to overproduce oil.
But sometimes it doesn’t even matter what your skin type is.
For example, mineral oil contains ultra-heavy moisturizing agents and will clog pores regardless of your skin type. Essential oils will also clog pores. Silicones are also ingredients found in products - they will find their way inside pores, too. And then, it's 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. Remember, follow each product’s instructions, and wash your face frequently. Water doesn’t clog pores.
There’s a solution to this conundrum, and it’s fairly simple.
Try choosing a quality product. Before buying any skincare or anti-acne product, be sure to take a good look at the labels. Avoid any product that doesn’t have the “non-comedogenic” words on it.
Non-comedogenic means “this won’t clog pores”, which is exactly what you need, as clogged pores lead to acne. 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 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 irritation, regardless of labels, then don’t hesitate to schedule a visit with your dermatologist.
You’ve probably heard of the holy trinity of anti-acne treatments: 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's crucial to use them sparingly and only on the affected areas. Not following the instructions or your primary care doctor or dermatologist’s advice means you can accidentally overdo it, which can worsen acne and cause all sorts of trouble.
From discoloration and burning off the top layer of your skin, to making it as dry as the Sahara, using anti-acne treatments too much can be extremely counterproductive. It may cause more severe acne, making your inflammation, redness, sensitivity, and pain worse. And as if that wasn’t enough, it can dry your skin out. This will cause excess oil production, practically negating any positive effects you’ve achieved so far.
First off, give any acne products you’re using a rest. Allow your skin to recover and regain its harmony. Then, instead of applying the anti-acne treatment every night (or morning, depending on your routine), 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 over the affected areas. It should reduce redness and inflammation.
Once your skin has recovered, 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, use it even more sparingly. Your priority here is not making your skin any worse than it has to be.
Always take your doctor's advice. They'll have instructions on how to use any prescription medication or even birth control you're taking to battle adult acne.
If you're looking for a gentle yet effective acne treatment, try Misumi's Complete Clear 3-Step System. The toner, cleanser, and moisturizer in this set are great for improving the appearance of the skin's surface, unclogging clogged pores and hair follicles, reducing inflammation, and helping to get rid of acne.
Oscar Wilde once made the terrible mistake of saying that "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Spicy food might be your greatest guilty pleasure, but acne hates it. Heck, even people with super healthy skin can end up with a nasty red rash after downing a jalapeno.
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 worsen acne. Sometimes it’s spicy foods, but other times, it’s dairy. 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 certain foods correlate with your sudden acne escalation. For example, do breakouts tend to happen after ice cream? Experiment and see if it’s true or not. If the food does, indeed, make your acne worse, it’s best to avoid it.
If you’re dealing with a spicy food addiction… try giving it up, or taking breaks. If that doesn’t help, however, 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 and cause acne flares. Some of these are so-called sulfates (that act as cleansing agents), 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. Thankfully it’s very easy to negate these negative effects - just adjust the way you’re showering.
When you’re washing your hair in the shower, tilt your head over to the side so that the hair product won’t slide down over your body.
As an extra precaution, wash your face 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.
Basically, a lot of people don't take good care of their skin. Regardless of whether they're using an ordinary face wash or applying a skin care product, mask, or exfoliator, people just don’t pay attention to how they treat their skin.
Sure, the goal is to get 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 washing your face, you’re doing it wrong.
Rubbing healthy skin lead to dry skin, or even damage the skin's protective barrier, making your sebaceous glands (oil glands) produce excess sebum (otherwise known as excess oil) as a result. Rubbing your acne will not just inflame it even further, but it also can transfer acne-causing bacteria across healthy areas of skin.
Follow the instructions that come with each product, and try not to make your skin sore from all the rubbing. Be gentle, and apply moisturizer after cleaning your face 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 - we have bad news for you. Kissing your bearded boyfriend creates friction that can cause skin irritation. And when your skin's surface becomes irritated, it stimulates oil production, which can cause an acne flare. But your boyfriend is still a handsome devil…
Weelll… There’s no easy way around this. Either the beard has to go, or you can ask him to condition it with some lotions to minimize the unpleasant scraping. (Coconut oil works well!)
Or even better yet, since dudes are kinda simple when it comes to getting their heads around cosmetic products, buy him one as a gift yourself. Shaving isn’t 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. Get your man a nice beard lotion, and you’re good to go. Use that beard as a pillow for your face.
The problem with smoking is it decreases the amount of oxygen you enter into your body, which translates into 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.
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 worse.
Well… You could quit smoking. We 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 less damaged.
Alternatively, you could start vaping instead. But whatever you do, just quit smoking.
Why is your 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, but popping pimples is still damaging your skin - especially if you have severe acne.
See, popping a pimple means crushing your skin and its underlying tissues. This can sometimes even push pus, dead skin cells, and harmful bacteria deeper into the skin, which causes new and nastier pimples!
Additionally, it can leave you with lifelong scars, something we're pretty sure you'll regret. And something that isn’t worth the short pleasure of popping a pimple.
We're 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.
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 unhealthy ones.
Or in other words - stress.
Overthinking it and becoming obsessed with the state of your acne can easily throw you into a feedback loop of negative thinking. This will make you stressed. Too much worry can make you become anxious, and even lead to depression.
All this stress makes your body release hormones such as cortisol, which actually makes your body produce more oil. So, more stress means more oil, and more oil means more acne vulgaris (and even cystic acne). More acne can cause even more depression, according to this study.
Meditation, working out on a regular basis, or simply taking walks all have a 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 to 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 pickier 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, 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 the point.
Headwear of any kind, like hats, caps, tiaras, and even scarves, can amass sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria residues, triggering breakouts. Besides the friction and the irritation that comes with it - which can worsen acne breakouts - unclean headwear can also clog your pores, causing a brand new acne inflammation.
Wash them. Or, just avoid wearing hats that often. We 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, skin irritation. Why is my acne bad, you ask? That’s why.
Way too many people fall prey to this temptation, and while it’s problematic for healthy people, it is even worse for people with acne-prone skin.
Going to the gym exposes you to thousands of people who have already been there and touched everything you can see. Not just that, but there is a lot of dirt and dust from all the huffing and puffing and physical activity. You can pick this up, and trigger breakouts.
And thirdly, you’re sweating so much that you need a shower anyway. But occasionally, people skip washing their face, and boom - acne breakouts occur. What a surprise there!
You can get a nice relaxing shower after exercising. If you’re pressed for time, you can use wet wipes to - at least - give the surface of your skin a quick clean-up. It will do the job, removing extra dirt, oil, old skin cells, and acne-causing bacteria from the gym that have managed to land on your face.
And while you're at it, wash your makeup brushes, too! This might have nothing to do with the gym, but one of the best ways to not clog your pores and prevent breakouts is to keep clean on all fronts.
While the popular belief is that sun exposure can only aid your health, too much sunlight (and, understandably, heat) can cause dry skin, 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 acne-prone skin, 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. This will help you get the clear skin you deserve.
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. But remember that genetics, hormone levels, and skin type can all cause you to develop acne, too. The great thing is, there are many things you can 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.