Thursday, 21 July 2016 09:03

8 Little-Known Breakout Causes

Written by   Jeannette Graf, M.D., director of dermatology at OMNI Aesthetics MD, NYC

Everyone knows the basic causes of breakouts. Essentially, overactive sebaceous glands pump out excess oil that then mixes with a sticky buildup of dead skin cells in the pores. The pores eventually become clogged, creating the perfect environment for breeding P.acnes, the acne-forming bacteria. The proliferation of P.acnes leads to inflammation under the skin, resulting in blemishes. Random daily habits and body changes, however, can create conditions that contribute to this cycle and lead to blemishes.

Working Out – What is it about intensive exercise that can cause breakouts? The answer mainly comes down to sweat. When people perspire, the combination of sweat, oil (heat steps up oil production; oil mixed with sweat clogs pores), and friction from tight gym clothes rubbing against the skin can result in acne. Solution: Advise clients to carry portable, single astringent cloths and wipe away sweat during their workout. Clients should pay particular attention to their forehead, as sweat and sebum often drip onto that part of the face during a workout. Using wipes with witch hazel will help prevent any buildup from dead skin and oil from clogging the pores.

Hormonal Changes – Hormone fluctuations often occur during ovulation or when a woman is premenstrual or perimenopausal. These conditions often require medication, like an androgen blocker. Solution: Advise clients to take three grams of flaxseed oil, which is best absorbed in the morning. It is also recommended that acneic clients take vitamin D3, which is anti-inflammatory and regulates the skin's antimicrobial peptides – which are helpful in fighting acne – and probiotics, which are also anti-inflammatory.

Cell Phone Use – Pressing a cell phone against the face creates heat from friction, brings the skin into contact with bacteria that collects on the phone, and traps oil in the pores. This combination can lead to breakouts. The cheeks and chin are prime areas that can break out from cell phone contact. Solution: Clients should make it a habit to regularly use an alcohol wipe to clean the surface of any phone that is in contact with their skin. For spot treatments, clients can try an anti-acne formula with benzoyl peroxide, which is antibacterial. Products with micronized benzoyl peroxide help to reduce acne without drying the skin.


Unclean Pillows – The dead skin and dust that collects on a pillow can clog pores, resulting in breakouts. Solution: Remind clients to regularly clean their pillowcases. Zipping the pillow into a protective dust cover before putting on the pillowcase is also helpful in keeping bedding pristine. For acne-fighting help while they are sleeping, clients should remove pore-clogging makeup and then apply an acne treatment. Products that contain retinaldehyde, a non-irritating form of vitamin A, are especially helpful because this ingredient helps to normalize skin cell turnover and boost collagen and elastin production for additional anti-aging benefits.

Poor Diet – A healthy diet is essential for the well-being of the skin. Therefore, clients should avoid foods containing refined sugar. In addition, studies have shown that milk and other dairy products increase breakouts. Solution: Talk with clients about changing to a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, and avoiding sodas, sugar, dairy, and refined foods. They should also drink copious amounts of water with a squeeze of lemon.

Stress – Stress, which is unavoidable, has a direct link to increased cortisol levels, which increases sebum-producing sebocytes and acne. Solution: Encourage clients to try meditation and practice deep breathing at various times during the day. They can also supplement their diet with 7-keto DHEA, a non-hormonal form of DHEA that blocks cortisol.

Lack of Sleep – Sleep deprivation also elevates cortisol levels. Solution: Clients should avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and drink plenty of water or passionflower and valerian tea. Furthermore, advise them to avoid using electronics at night. Instead, they should get into bed and read a relaxing book.

Incorrect Skin Care – Mechanically over-scrubbing, over-exfoliating, and over-drying the skin will increase breakouts.Over-cleansing the skin with harsh exfoliation methods both in the morning and evening can age the skin and cause breakouts. Solution: After the cleansing in the morning, clients should apply sunscreen; at nighttime, they should apply retinol to improve cell turnover, an action that helps to prevent clogged pores.

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