“Why Am I Breaking Out?” 5 Things That Might Be Causing Your Breakouts

adult acne

Breakouts can be annoying, but it can be even more frustrating trying to figure out what’s causing the blemishes. Luckily I put together years of my own personal experience plus things I’ve picked up on from reading, being around skincare professionals, and just talking to thousands of women since starting this blog in 2007.

P.S. The photo of me before is pre-filler. You can see what filler did for my under eye area and the entire process here.

Now, this goes without saying, I am not a REAL doctor. I just play one on the internet…lol. No but for real, in NO WAY am I diagnosing anything in this post. Simply just pointing out some things you might be doing that you aren’t aware are actually sabotaging your skincare routine.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what’s going on, here are a few things that could be the culprit.

1. You’re not properly cleansing, especially your hairline

Between the laying of edges, the installing of lace wigs, and making sure you blend your foundation into your hairline, THAT’S A LOT OF PRODUCT, boo…lol. It’s also a lot of product that can buildup along with dirt, oil, that might not be getting cleansed properly in your skincare routine—especially if you’re being particularly careful not to mess up your edges.

HERE’S THE REMEDY: Make sure that twice daily you’re using a gentle cleanser that speaks to your skin type, current skin concerns, and the season. When wearing makeup, consider doing a double or triple cleanse. I explain the double cleansing process in these posts here and you can watch a short video explaining how I use a Shiseido cotton pad saturated with micellar water to make sure I get all traces of dirt, oil, and makeup from around my hairline embedded below from my IGTV.

You also want to add in a deep cleanse 1-2 times a week as needed for dry skin and 2-3 times a week for oily skin. Don’t go ham on the deep cleansing though—the excess cleansing can dry out some skin types and cause other skin issues.

I personally avoid using hair product near my face wherever possible because in the past it’s caused hairline breakouts for me. And I’d rather forego baby hairs if it means I can use less acne medication.

2. Your bonnet/hat/head scarf/pillowcase/towel

This can sometimes tie into the points made in number 1 especially when it comes to hair and makeup product buildup. But your bonnet/hat/head scarf/pillowcase/towel can be carrying pore-clogging remnants of your latest hairstyle and makeup look.

HERE’S THE REMEDY: OK, I know this sounds very simple, but sometimes people don’t realize these things. You want to make sure you wash these items regularly–and consider getting more of the item (especially inexpensive things like bonnets and head scarves) to put into rotation.

3. Hormones

Our hormones change as we go through the various stages in life. As an adult, I’ve had my cycles with acne and dark spots which I’ve chronicled here along with what I did to treat it.

Read how I got rid of my dark spots and my adult acne treatment here

Read tons more about dark spots and how to get rid of them here and here.

HERE’S THE REMEDY: While there are a number of things you can do at-home, I always say it’s a VERY good idea to check in with a professional. Having a chat with your doctor about what’s going on with your body can lead to a treatment path that addresses the issues in a way over the counter products can’t. You also don’t want to be in the position where you make the situation worse because you’re using all the wrong things on your skin.

Check out my cystic acne posts here.

4. Is it a reaction to a product?

Breaking out in fine bumps and not immediately realizing the cause can be annoying. But getting to the root of the problem is necessary to prevent it from recurring.

HERE’S THE REMEDY: Some people react to reactions (haha) by doing the absolute most. They go HAM with extra skincare products trying to treat these sort of breakouts. Whenever I have a reaction, I actually do the least. I take one thing out of my routine slowly to see if I can figure out the triggering product. Thankfully I rarely have reactions because this process requires A LOT OF PATIENCE.

One time I kept breaking out in little bumps on my face and couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. I switched moisturizers, stopped using a serum, eased up on exfoliation for a bit. Then I slowly put everything back into my routine only for the breakouts to happen again. Turns out it was fall out from the Morphe About Last Night palette :/ I’ve NEVER had an eyeshadow palette of all things break me out like that and I’ve been testing out beauty products for over a decade.

Also while I’m here, “sensitive skin” is a blanket term. It could be a process of label reading and research along with doctor visits, but it’s worth trying to find out what your skin is sensitive to.

5. Facial hair—but not yours

I talk about facial hair a lot in my 30s, but for once I’m not talking about my own…lol. I typically steer clear of making face-to-face contact with people who have a lot of facial hair. My skin can get really hot and breakout after coming in contact with a prickly beard or mustache. Which sucks because facial hair looks so good on some men :/

Ok, and I DID say not yours above, but your own facial hair actually could cause some damage on your skin. Improper facial hair removal can cause ingrown hairs and that in turn can also mean dark spots. This is why until I started using a Dermaflash and getting laser hair removal (check out my experience here), I would just let the hairs be. I’d rather you run up on my chin hairs than to have to deal with potential dark spots.

HERE’S THE REMEDY: Phew, if the bearded person is a significant other, this is a very sticky situation. But try to avoid the friction as much as possible in whatever way you deem best. When it comes to your own facial hair removal, have a chat with an esthetician or dermatologist to go through the facial hair removal options that are best for you.

Honorable mentions: Cell phones almost always make lists like this, but I feel like within the last say 5 years or so, people talk WAY less on their phones and mostly text or go hands-free. But just a reminder to make sure your phone is wiped down regularly.

Diet can also be a culprit for some. I don’t have any personal experience to draw from for this, but it’s worth having a chat with your doctor about allergy testing if this is a recurring experience for you.

I’ve said this a few times in this post, but it’s worth repeating. If you have recurring issues with breakouts and nothing seems to be helping, check in with a professional. A dermatologist to diagnose and treat as well as an esthetician to help with the maintenance of your skin are both great to have in your corner to get you on a good routine.

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