8 Unexpected Things That May Be Causing Your Acne

Even with an arsenal of the most promising skincare remedies and high tech devices, the occasional breakout occasionally manages to mar a flawless complexion. If you've ever witnessed your skin erupt in a sea of blemishes overnight despite your dedicated double-cleansing regimen, you likely understand exactly how mystifying acne can be. Despite its seemingly mercurial nature, acne is actually relatively simple to stop when you know exactly what triggers your breakouts. Aside from hormones, which do contribute significantly to acne, there are a number of underlying causes that many simply don't consider when taking preventative measures against unsightly redness and bumps. Instead of simply stocking up on topical treatments to remedy pimples once they've manifested on your face, try taking a holistic look at your health and skincare to thwart acne before it even starts.

Any product you layer on your skin, food you intake, or surface that grazes your face throughout the day has the potential to effect your skin's exterior aesthetic, so the first step towards clear skin is adopting a mindful attitude about your health and beauty habits. Most importantly, the practice helps to pinpoint those pesky sources of acne you never realized existed. Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group shares his expertise on seven unexpected causes of acne — and how to avoid them entirely.

1. High glycemic index foods

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Put down the pizza and reach for the quinoa instead, because refined carbs are the enemy of luminous skin, according to Fenton. "For many years we told patients that food does not have an impact on acne," Fenton explains. "However, more recent studies have shown that diet can worsen acne in some patients. We have found that high glycemic index foods such as sugars and processed carbohydrates like white bread can make acne worse." The reason, Fenton elaborates, is inflammation. "Generally, these are foods that can promote an inflammatory environment, making acne worse," he clarifies.

2. Dairy

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Ice cream and whole milk lattes may be your vices, but they aren't doing your skin any favors. "Dairy can have a hormonal influence that aggravates acne in some people," Fenton notes. If your acne continues to flare up despite your aggressive treatment plan, your diet (and more specifically, dairy intake) may be the offender.

3. Your pillowcase and towels

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Your weekly laundry sessions may be a drag, but cleanliness is a major tool in the battle against acne. "Pillowcases, towels, and your own hands can be culprits if they are dirty," Fenton reveals. "Wash your pillowcase at least once a week, and more frequently if you go to bed with product in your hair that can then get transferred to the pillow and your face," Fenton suggests.

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5. Your iPhone


Before diving into your hour-long Orange is the New Black recap with your best friend via iPhone, wipe the screen down with an antibacterial wipe. "You need to be aware of anything your face comes into contact with when trying to minimize acne," Fenton insists.

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6. Comedogenic products

You may embrace thick concealer and heavy foundation to mask unseemly breakouts, but the very cosmetics you use may be making the situation more dire. "Any cosmetic product you put on your face should be labeled as 'non-comedogenic.' This means it shouldn’t clog pores," Fenton advises. "The best advice I can give is to choose products that are non-comedogenic and minimize the number of ingredients until you’ve tested them out on yourself."

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7. Heavy moisturizer

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Don't mistake your rich, luxurious body lotion for an all-in-one solution, as slathering on a hydrator that isn't intended for your face may result in a sea of bumps. "One mistake I sometimes see are patients with very dry skin using the same heavy body moisturizer on their face as the rest of their body," Fenton observes. "People need to know to check the labels and only use non-comedogenic moisturizers on their face." Choose separate face and body moisturizers to maintain glowing skin from head to toe.

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8. Overly harsh acne treatments

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Attacking your acne with every harsh product under the sun is a recipe for disaster and distressed skin. "Another common mistake are patients that use topical acne treatments that over-dry the skin. Drying the skin out too much can cause irritation and increase the inflammation, worsening acne," Fenton says. "There is a delicate balance between removing oil and exfoliating and causing damage to the skin." Instead, speak to your dermatologist about a regimen that calms the inflammation in your skin whilst clearing existing bumps to prevent further aggravating your condition.

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