15 Weird Reasons You Might Be Breaking Out

Just when you think you’ve found a skincare routine that works for you, a new kind of breakout pops up. Or maybe you’ve got recurring acne that keeps showing up in the same place. Whatever the current sitch you’re dealing with, if you’re on the quest for clear skin and you can’t help but come across a few bumps (literally) along the way, there’s a good chance something in your daily routine is contributing to your breakouts. So if you’ve recently found yourself screaming “why am I breaking out?!” at the mirror, we might have some answers for you.

Your Cloth Mask

If you’ve noticed more breakouts on your chin, jawline, and cheeks as a result of wearing your cloth face mask, you’re not just seeing things. Turns out, all that sweat, oil, bacteria, and humidity trapped under your face covering can create the perfect breeding ground for breakouts.

It’s best to wash your face mask as often as possible to prevent bacteria from building up. Don’t reuse it day after day!

You’re Not Dealing With Your Acne

Sometimes the ‘acne’ you’re trying to treat isn’t *technically* acne, which would explain why your usual acne treatments flat out aren’t working or are maybe even making them worse. If your breakouts are popping up around your hairline, forehead, chest, or back and look like small, itchy red bumps that are roughly the same size, you might actually have fungal acne.

If you have any concerns, it’s always best to see a doctor, who can refer you to a dermatologist if needed.

You’re Not Washing Your Face Or Your Pillowcase Enough

During the day, dirt, oil, makeup, and grime build up on the skin. If you don’t wash your face before you go to sleep, all of that garbage then gets transferred to your pillowcase, which gets transferred back to your face again.

If you’ve been wearing makeup, it’s best if you double cleanse your face to ensure it is truly clean. Once you work it into your routine, you won’t look back!

Lack Of Sleep

Not getting enough sleep means that our body is exposed to continuously high levels of cortisol, which can trigger breakouts. Similar to what happens during stressful moments, cortisol-releasing hormones can actually bind to your oil glands, which sends them into overdrive and causes acne.

Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Remember, your skin is an organ too! Listen to your body and take care of it.

Too Much Spot Cream

Topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin and trigger it to produce even more oil and, in turn, zits. These products can help a great deal, just don’t overdo it. Two to three times a week or every other night on your zit should do the trick.

Nowadays, treatments tend to be better formulated so they aren’t quite as harsh on the skin. Regular (not every night though!) use of a 2% salicylic acid treatment could be better for your skin in the long run than a 5%-10% treatment. If your skin shows irritation, try putting your moisturiser on first so there’s a barrier between your skin and the active ingredient.

Your Face Scrub

If you’re of the mindset that the more you scrub your skin—whether with a washcloth, rough acne face washes and face scrubs, loofahs, or cleansing brushes—the smoother it will be, I’m here to tell you that your breakouts are only gonna get worse. Be gentle to your skin.

If you feel like you need to exfoliate, try a chemical exfoliant instead! Gentler and more effective than a physical exfoliant, you’ll wonder why you never tried it before.

Your Face Products

According to cosmetic dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, mineral oil, for example, is a super-heavy moisturising agent found in some face moisturisers and creams that could clog your pores if you’re prone to blackheads and whiteheads. Coconut oil is also notorious for clogging pores, too. If your skin is sensitive, it could react to certain ingredients. Everyone’s skin is different, so try to pay attention to what could be causing your skin to break out.

Your Hair Products

Those same pore-clogging moisturising agents and sulphates that sneak their way into your skincare products can also be found in your shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling formulas. And similar to how they can cause breakouts on your face, the ingredients can seep into the pores on your body and clog them, resulting in chest acne, back acne, and even pimples along your hairline or scalp acne.

Sweaty workouts

Skipping the shower right after working out or not washing your face allows the mixture of makeup, dirt, bacteria, oil, and sweat to find a nice little home in your skin and cause breakouts and clogged pores. Like we said before, cleanser is your friend!

Your laundry detergent

Certain laundry detergents can be too harsh for your skin. And once you slip on your clothes or use your bath towels, your complexion might react to the residue that’s left on the fabric, resulting in breakouts on your face, back, butt, chest, etc.


Contrary to popular belief, the sun isn’t healing your acne, it’s actually making it worse. On top of all the other damage, the sun dries out your skin and triggers excess oil production, which is one of the causes of acne.

Wearing an effective SPF is one of the best things you can do for your skin, even in the winter. Invest in one – it doesn’t need to be fancy – and wear it every morning, reapplying if necessary.

Your Diet

Two common ingredients in spicy foods contain acidic lycopene—a somewhat common irritant that can throw off the skin’s pH levels and trigger breakouts around the mouth. But it isn’t just spicy foods that are causes of acne. Some people have a reaction to dairy, gluten, or other types of foods. Listen to your body!

Smoking habits

Every time you light up a cigarette, you decrease the amount of oxygen that goes to the skin on your face. The carcinogens in the smoke also irritate your skin and dry it out, triggering it to produce more oil and, possibly, more breakouts.

Stressful Life

When you’re under pressure, your skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone, Dr. Downie explains. This then increases your oil production, clogs your pores, and could lead to blind pimples.

It can be challenging to reduce the stress in your life, but even the smallest things can help you to make progress.

Face Picking

It’s never a good idea to play dermatologist because it’s nearly impossible to pick your own pimple and not make a red mark that could turn into a scar. Try to leave your spots and let them heal by themselves.

If you find temptation too hard to resist, why not try a pimple patch? These clear patches are barely visible, hide your spot, and help it to heal quicker. It’s a win-win if you ask us.

How to Keep your Skin Clear

Hopefully you now have some potential answers to the age-old ‘why am I breaking out?’ question. Addressing your skin concerns is not something that can be done overnight, and it often takes a great deal of commitment and trial and error. But if you consider the things in our list, you’ll grow to become more educated about your skin and the factors that can affect it.

Mia Babb
Mia Babb

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