What Your Acne Is Trying To Say About Your Health

by Maxine Builder

Suffering from chronic acne as an adult can be incredibly frustrating and occasionally embarrassing, especially if you feel like you can't figure out what causes adult acne. It's tempting to blame your skincare routine for your issues. Perhaps you're washing your face too much or using the wrong kind of topical treatment. But really, there are a lot of things your acne can tell you about your health, and your breakouts could be a sign that there's something else going on.

Having good skincare habits to control acne is definitely important and can decrease the frequency and severity of your breakouts. But, at the end of the day, your skin is affected by your overall health. This means that an underlying medical issue or unhealthy lifestyle habits can undermine even the best-executed skincare routines, and that the solution to your skincare woes might not be cured with a new cream.

As with all health-related issues, it's always a good idea to consult with your doctor if you have concerns. But instead of beating yourself up about your "bad" skin, take a second to listen to your body. There are a lot of things your acne and breakouts might be trying to tell you about your health.

1. You're Dehydrated

Though dehydration doesn't directly cause breakouts, it can exacerbate your skincare woes. One of the symptoms of dehydration, according to an infographic by lifestyle site, is "dry skin or skin that's lost its elasticity." Your body will sometimes overproduce oil in order to compensate for dry skin, thereby causing breakouts. So your acne might mean it's time to drink a glass of water and make sure you're well hydrated.

2. You're Exhausted

There's something to be said about getting your beauty sleep, since one of the signs of sleep deprivation can be acne. Not getting enough sleep can mess with your body's ability to increase blood flow to the skin and create new collagen overnight, according to WebMD. It can also jack up your stress levels, which can cause "abnormalities in skin structure and function," according to dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal in an interview with WebMD. So get some good, full nights of restful sleep.

3. Your Diet Needs To Change

Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group explained in an interview with Bustle that foods with a high glycemic index, like processed and refined carbohydrates, can be an unexpected cause of acne. Dairy products can also aggravate zits, so if you're breaking out a lot, it might be time to take a good look at your diet and swap in more fresh fruits and veggies.

4. You Drink Too Much Caffeine

For those caffeine addicts who just gasped, just know that drinking coffee, in and of itself, won't cause acne. But drinking too much caffeine can mess with your hormones and trick your body into feeling totally stressed out, which can, in turn, inflame your skin. xoJane contributor Zoe wrote about the experience of giving up coffee to fix her hormonal acne and found that steering clear did help clear up her skin, even if the caffeine withdrawals sucked.

5. Your Air Is Polluted

Regular exposure to air pollution, be it from car exhaust or cigarette smoke, can have really nasty long-term effects on your health, and acne is just one of them. According to a 2014 study by Frontiers In Environmental Science, exposing your skin to air pollutants can cause acne, especially in urban settings. If you think this might be happening to you, SELF recommends making sure you wash your face thoroughly when you get home and applying sunblock in the morning to help create a barrier between your skin and those particles. You might also want to invest in an at-home air filter if you live in a big city.

6. You're Drinking Too Much Booze

It's no secret that drinking is bad for your skin, and if you've been breaking out a lot and hitting the bars more often, there might be a correlation. Drinking to excess can dry out your skin, in turn causing that much-dreaded over-production of oil that creates zits.

7. You're About To Get Your Period

If you have cyclic acne, it could just be a sign that your period is on its way. But sometimes, persistent acne during that time of the month, especially along your jawline and on your chin, can be a symptom of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, according to WebMD.

8. You're Stressed

Acne isn't just a result of environmental health factors. Your acne can be a sign of your emotional wellbeing, since feeling stressed out can cause breakouts. You might not even realize how stressed you are except for the zits on your face, so remember that in addition to washing your face regularly and applying the occasional spot treatment, taking care of yourself and your happiness can make a huge difference.

9. You're Allergic To Something

Not all food allergies can force a person into anaphylactic shock. There are several more mild symptoms associated with food allergies or intolerances, including acne. According to Huffington Post, an intolerance to dairy products is best associated with breakouts.

10. You Need Exercise

More often than not, exercise is associated with causing breakouts. But if you're having skin issues and haven't hit the gym in a while, it might be time to bust out those running shoes or that yoga mat. If we know anything about acne, it's that it's tied to the rest of our health and wellbeing. Exercising regularly is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and can help regulate stress that's causing our acne. Just make sure you wash your face after you finish your workout, otherwise you run the risk of exacerbating your skin issues.

11. You Should Call A Dermatologist

Ultimately, acne is a medical issue, so if you're regularly suffering from breakouts, you should consult a medical professional. A dermatologist can prescribe a routine that's specific to your skin, your needs, and your health, and can also help pinpoint some of the underlying causes.

Acne isn't an isolated issue, and the quality of your skin can be related to the quality of your health, so look at the signs your body is giving you. If you have acne, it could mean something else is out of whack, and that deserves some attention.

Images: Tachina Lee, Sander Smeekes/Unsplash; slightlyeverything,, ultrakml, asherisbrucker, dlee13, hey__paul, rileyssmiling, vegan-baking, zenjazzygeek, jseliger2/Flickr