Breakouts are never particularly pleasant, but sometimes they're actually your skin's way of telling you something bigger is going on with your body. To find out when a pimple is part of a larger issue, I reached out to a dermatologist to determine signs your "breakouts" are actually a deeper skin problem. And remember, don't panic if it turns out your pimples are something a little more serious. Just be thankful those silly blackheads told you to get some help!
This topic really hits home with me, because after dealing with deep pimples along my jawline last year, I happened to mention them to my gynecologist in casual conversation at an appointment. She ran a few tests and, sure enough, I had a hormonal imbalance that could be easily fixed by swapping birth controls. My skin is now clear and my moods are way more stable, and it was really that simple!
If you've been dealing with particularly stubborn or frequent pimples, I would definitely urge you to visit a doctor to figure out the root cause of your breakouts.
As far as what signs you should look out for, I consulted Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group. Read on for his tips:
1. Jawline Acne
"Acne in women along the jawline [in addition to] other signs such as unwanted hair growth (chest, face, or stomach), unexplained hair loss, or irregular menstrual periods can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance," says Fenton. "Blood tests performed by your dermatologist or primary care doctor may be able to check for this, but some cases require an endocrinologist for treatment."
2. Acne In Busy Times
Fenton tells me, "Stress can cause your body to release hormones that impact your skin, producing more pore-clogging oils."He adds, "If you find that your acne flares during particularly busy times in your life, it may not just be that you are neglecting your skin, it may be the stress hormones your body is releasing."
3. Breakouts With Certain Foods
Fenton explains, "Diets with high amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars such as processed foods and white bread can increase this inflammation. In some people, dairy products can also promote or worsen acne." And of course, for clear skin, he notes the age old wisdom of "increase your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables and whole grains!"
4. Hairline Pimples
"Sometimes what looks like acne, isn’t acne at all," shares Fenton. "There is a condition called pityrosporum folliculitis which is an inflammatory process in hair follicles triggered by certain types of yeast ... They are commonly found on the trunk or along the hairline and can sometimes itch."
But it's really no big once you know this is what you have, as Fenton tells me, "This can often be easily treated with oral medications and topical ant-yeast medications."
5. Worsening Acne After Taking Medicine
"What looks like acne may actually be a reaction to a medication," Fenton tells me. "Some prescription drugs can cause a rash called acneiform, which is a drug reaction." Fenton also pointed out that oral steroids, lithium, certain seizure medications, and even vitamins B6 and B12 are considered common causes.
6. Longterm Antibiotics & Acne
Taking acne antibiotics and still struggling? "There is a condition called gram-negative folliculitis that is caused by bacteria that is not part of the normal flora. This condition can actually be caused by treating acne with antibiotics that don’t target these type of bacteria," says Fenton. "Long term antibiotics such as doxycycline or minocycline (our most commonly used antibiotics for acne) allows the gram-negative type of bacteria to flourish and can create a folliculitis that resembles a severe flare of acne."
Fortunately, "a bacterial culture can make this diagnosis [and] a dermatologist can then prescribe a different regimen that should work."
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