What Is Causing My Acne?

What Is Causing My Acne?

Posted by Brooklyn S. on

Whether you started getting acne breakouts in your teen years or your adult years due to different factors, acne breakouts can be pretty annoying. Other than leading to inflammation, discomfort, scars, and bumps, it can significantly impact various aspects of our lives and may even take a toll on our sense of self-worth. If you have oily skin, you’re more prone to getting acne breakouts than other skin types. Although it’s impossible to eliminate oily skin completely, there are certain ways to reduce and prevent acne breakouts. Let’s look at what is causing your skin to break out and how you can treat and prevent it.

What is a Breakout?

Acne breakouts primarily manifest on the areas of your body with more oil glands, such as the face, chest, shoulders, upper arms, and upper back. You can experience breakouts in different forms, including pimples, nodules, papules, and cysts. Your hair follicles get filled with dirt, dead skin, and bacteria, which leads to redness and inflammation. When the pores get clogged, their buildup pops out on the outer surface of your skin. If this buildup is trapped deep in the pores, it causes a more painful type of breakout, known as cystic acne. If there is no inflammation due to bacteria and only the pores are clogged, these result in comedones. These are of two types; whiteheads (closed comedones) and blackheads (open comedones).

What Causes Breakouts?

Most of you might already know that acne breakouts can be caused by hormone fluctuation. An increase in hormonal activity signals the sebaceous glands to activate higher sebum production in the skin. Moreover, excess sebum traps dirt, dead skin, and other pollutants into the pores, allowing bacteria to thrive and cause acne breakouts.

Other common factors that can aggravate your skin and lead to acne breakouts include:

  • Stress
  • Medications 
  • Makeup or skincare products
  • Change in environment
  • Diet
  • Contact with contaminated objects (like cellphone and pillowcases)

Ingredients that Help to Manage and Stop Breakouts

Finding the right skincare ingredients and adopting a skincare routine that ensures clear and healthy skin can be challenging with unlimited skincare ingredients to choose from. Selecting the wrong ingredients can make your skin worse and lead to more acne breakouts. Here are a few ingredients you should consider if you are struggling with breakouts:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide - Benzoyl Peroxide works to reduce acne breakouts by eliminating acne-causing bacteria that thrive underneath the skin. It doesn’t just diminish pimples and comedones but also prevents the occurrence of acne breakouts. If your skin is very sensitive, dry, or prone to allergic reactions, be sure to start with a low concentration. 
  • Salicylic Acid - This form of BHA helps alleviate acne and stop breakouts by accelerating cell turnover, helping to remove build-up on the outer layer of the skin. In addition, since it works by entering deep into the skin, it unclogs the pores of all impurities. In doing so, it eliminates excess oil and controls the size and number of whiteheads and blackheads, inhibiting breakouts from showing up in the future. You can opt for a lotion, cleanser, solution, or pads with salicylic acid to obtain its anti-breakout benefits.
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids - Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, effectively reduce the likelihood of acne breakouts and treat already aggravated skin. Lactic acid and glycolic acid, in particular, are often added to acne products. These acids speed up the cell regeneration and repair process, which removes the dead skin deposits from the pores and soothes inflammation. By clearing sebum and debris of dead skin, AHAs prevent breakouts. These AHAs can also reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation by promoting cell growth. AHA-based acids are tolerable on the skin and are ideal for those with dry and sensitive skin. You can add a low-concentration AHA exfoliator to your weekly skincare routine or use an AHA serum or cleanser. Sundree’s RYSE+SHYNE facial serum contains Lactic acid. This lightweight, hydrating facial serum also includes hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, aloe, and CBD to help hydrate skin, improve the skin’s texture, and minimize the appearance of pores.
  • Retinol - This type of retinoid (vitamin A derivative) also works by speeding up the process of shedding older skin cells and replacing them with newer, healthier cells.¹  As the cell turnover process accelerates, the dead and damaged epidermal layer is removed, improving overall skin texture and tone. This ability of retinol helps to decrease the size as well as the occurrence of acne breakouts. Beginning with a low percentage of retinol is usually recommended, and then gradually move to a higher concentration to allow your skin to develop tolerance. However, beginning with a high concentration can cause irritation, redness, and photosensitivity. Usually, a retinol product ranging from .25% to 1% of retinol is used to treat and prevent breakouts, depending on your skin and individual needs.
  • Tea Tree Oil - Tea tree oil is a natural reservoir of powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can be helpful in managing acne breakouts. Moreover, it is used to relieve redness, itching, and discomfort that accompany acne. Tea tree oil can be found in different products such as gels, toners, cleansers, or creams. For example, using a 5% concentration of tea tree oil gel cleanser can help reduce mild acne.²  While some apply tea tree oil straight to the skin, it can irritate the skin and be much too harsh if you have sensitive skin. 

How to Clear and Prevent Breakouts

Besides using acne-busting skincare ingredients, here are a few tips to follow to help your skin stay clear of breakouts:

  • Use the Right Products - If your skin is apt to acne breakouts, it’s crucial to find skincare products that are gentle, oil-free, and non-comedogenic. Keep a lookout for a cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Similarly, use a mild oil-free moisturizer, preferably gel or water-based. The same goes for your makeup, sunscreen, and hair-care products.
  • Don’t Overdo Your Skincare - Over-cleansing or exfoliating the skin strips its natural moisture, and it is essential to keep it protected and healthy. Abrasive scrubs and products with drying ingredients, such as alcohols, can leave the skin dry and irritated. Also, avoid using too much of your breakout treatment or preventative treatments. Instead, apply an ample amount to cover the problem area, but don’t go overboard.
  • Notice What Touches Your Skin - You may be getting acne breakouts because of the objects that come in contact with your skin. For example, if you have oily hair, the oil from your hair can be transferred to your face causing breakouts. In addition, try to avoid touching your face with your hand or cell phone frequently because it can transfer microbes to the skin, paving the way for acne breakouts. Making sure your hands and phone screen are clean can help prevent breakouts. In addition, try keeping your pillow covers and bed sheets clean and change them every few days to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Stay Away from Stress - We all know how stress can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health, but we often neglect its consequences for the skin. It can increase the production of sebum and lead to inflammation, causing breakouts.³  Managing stress effectively can inhibit breakouts and stop your acne from getting worse. Meditation, working out, and spending time doing things you love are some of the valuable ways of toning down stress. At Sundree, we work to achieve “Happy Skin, Happy Within.” We believe that if we are not happy on the inside, whether in our hearts or minds, it can show in our skin and how we perceive ourselves. The vice versa is also true; if we are not happy on the outside because of a skin issue or a breakout, it can really affect our mood or self-worth.  
  • Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated - Frequently snacking on baked foods, chips, pizza, and fast food may be the reason your skin is breaking out. These foods have a high glycemic content, which means they can lead to an increase in your blood sugar level. High blood sugar causes an upsurge in oil production, making your skin more susceptible to breakouts. Try healthy foods with low glycemic value, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, seafood, and fruits. In addition, keep your body sufficiently hydrated throughout the day to prevent over-production of oil, which can end up in acne breakouts.
  • Get Enough Sleep - Your body revives and heals during sleep, which helps to regenerate cells and help the skin stay in its best health. Depriving your body of proper sleep can have a negative effect on the body’s natural restoration process. Also, lack of sleep or having poor-quality sleep can lead to stress. So try setting a healthy sleeping pattern and get 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep. 

In Conclusion

Acne breakouts can happen at any time, and none of us are immune to them. However, with the right skincare, healthy daily habits, and a proper diet, you can help manage and prevent this problem. Making small but effective changes can lead to a clear, healthy, and breakout-free complexion in the long run.



  1. Barrell, Amana. (2021). ‘Can retinol help treat acne?’, Medical News Today. Accessed July 14, 2021. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/retinol-for-acne
  2. Cherney, Kristeen. (2019). ‘Can Tea Tree Oil Work for Acne Scars, Accessed July 15, 2021. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-
  3. Kam, Katherine. (2011). ‘Stress and Acne’, WebMD. Accessed July 16, 2021. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/stress-and-acne


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