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The Real Reason Behind Your Acne Breakouts

Sudden acne breakouts can arise because of a variety of reasons—oily skin, hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, excessive stress or even your face mask. Here’s everything you need to know.

By Adarsh Soni
28 Aug 2021

You’re finally preparing to go on a real-life date after months of social inactivity, you’re feeling great and have everything under control—until it hits you—there’s a pimple on your face. Even though it seems a little vain to let a tiny zit or two affect your confidence, let’s be honest, it’s not a pleasant feeling. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology says that acne can affect more than just your skin—it can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among other mental health issues. So don’t worry, you’re not overreacting.

Whether it’s a recurring patch of pimples at the same spot or an errant first-timer since your teen years, there’s a reason for every type of acne. And if you’re on the lookout for clear skin and can’t help but come across a few bumps along the way, there’s probably something in your daily routine that is contributing to your breakouts. So if you’ve recently found yourself wondering “why am I breaking out all of a sudden?”, we have some answers for you.

You might be either not washing your face enough or washing it too often

Acne occurs when your pores become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. If you don’t wash your face regularly, the oil stays on the surface of your skin and clogs your pores. This leads to bacterial growth and ultimately an acne breakout. “On the contrary, if you’re washing your face too often and drying it out with prolonged use of acne treatment ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, your sebaceous glands might start producing even more oil, and as a result cause acne,” says Dr Hiteshi Kamboj, MD, a dermatologist based in Sirsa, Haryana.

How to fix it: Washing your face two times a day with a gentle cleanser is a good way to start. “Watch out for the ingredients that tend to dry out your skin. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are great for treating acne as long as you don’t overdo it. Use these active ingredients as a spot treatment a few times a week,” she says.



Your face mask might be causing it

Ever heard of maskne? Consider it a sign of the times that we actually have a specific term for acne caused due to wearing face masks. If you’ve noticed pimples on the lower part of your face, including your chin and jaw area as a result of wearing your face mask, you’re not alone. Turns out, all that oil, sweat, bacteria, and humidity trapped under your face mask can create the perfect breeding ground for acne breakouts.

How to fix it: Switch to breathable masks that are gentle on your skin and never re-use before washing them with an antiseptic detergent. Also make sure that you wash your face with a hydrating cleanser each time you come back home and avoid heavy makeup products as they can clog your pores even further.


It might be because of your dirty pillowcase
During the day, dirt, oil, makeup, and grime build up on the skin. If you don’t wash your face before you go to sleep, a mixture of those impurities then gets transferred to your pillowcase, which gets transferred back to your face again, leading to clogged pores and acne. Dr Kamboj suggests that you should also avoid overnight hair oiling because that oil can easily trickle down to your face.

How to fix it: Replace your pillowcases at least twice a week and if you can, switch to satin or silk pillowcases as they are better for both your skin and your hair. Also oil your hair only for an hour before taking a shower.


It might be due to your diet
According to Dr Kamboj, carbohydrate-rich foods like white rice, bread, pasta, and potatoes have a high glycemic index and are known to trigger acne. However, that’s not where it stops. Some people might have a reaction to dairy, gluten, or other types of foods. How diet affects the skin differs from person to person.

How to fix it: “Replace potatoes with sweet potatoes and white rice with brown rice. Eat more green vegetables including spinach, broccoli and kale. Also consider adding Vitamin-A rich foods like carrots, pumpkin and papaya to your diet,” says Dr Kamboj.


High-stress levels might be the reason behind your breakouts
“When you’re stressed or under pressure, your skin produces certain hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to produce testosterone,” says Dr Kamboj. This increases your oil production, clogs your pores, and could lead to severe acne breakouts. Studies have also found that acne heals at a much slower rate when you’re under stress.

How to fix it: Think of it as a cycle—your stress causes acne and acne leads to even more stress and anxiety—which then leads to even more acne. While the reasons might be different for everyone, there are certain stress-reducing activities that you can easily adopt to facilitate the release of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Also make it a habit to get enough sleep every day.




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