7 Surprising Reasons You’re Breaking Out

You take care of your skin, you remove your makeup at night — heck, you even meditate in hopes of reducing stress-induced blemishes. And still, the pimples keeps coming back with the vicious persistence of a horror-flick villain. 

While blemishes have many triggers, says Gilberto Alvarez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, some are less obvious than others. Sure, you know not to touch your face all day long, but have you considered how exercise might be a sneaky factor in breakouts? Here, seven surprising reasons your skin is going berserk — and the surprisingly easy ways to turn things around. 

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1. Your cleansing game could use a tweak
“Washing your face means something different for a lot of people,” Dr. Alvarez says. Maybe you’re using only a makeup wipe at the end of the day, or maybe you’re washing thrice daily. Either extreme isn’t doing your skin any favors. Here’s Dr. Alvarez’s simple-to-follow advice: Wash in the morning and at night, using a mild cleanser that won’t leave skin feeling stripped. (One that calms stressed skin and lifts dirt without harshness: Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser.) Simple.

2. Your hair products are conspiring against you
Shampoos, conditioners, and styling products may help you reach #hairgoals, but their ingredients can also gunk up your pores. Dr. Alvarez says that this is an issue for many of his patients who use oil-heavy products to protect or style their hair. “Avoid putting styling products close to your hairline,” he says. “If you’re using leave-on products, focus your attention on the longer parts of your hair.”

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3. You’ve ditched the daily moisturizer
Back in the day, many of us were taught to “dry out” our pimples, so we filed moisturizer into the “no thanks” folder. But actually, blemish-prone skin needs hydration. “A good acne regimen will always include a good moisturizer,” Dr. Alvarez says. That goes double if you’re using common treatments such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acid. “If you’re not moisturizing, you won’t be able to tolerate your regimen because it’ll dry you out.” Even for oily skin types, Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer is a solid choice, thanks to its lightweight texture and oil-free formula. Or, opt for a double-duty sleeping mask like the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, which features moisturizing hyaluronic acid, plus gentle exfoliating acids to buff away dead skin and debris that can clog pores if they hang around too long.

4. You’re the first out the door at SoulCycle
Everybody (and every body) benefits from exercise, but summer sweat sessions require a little attention to your skin. “If it’s been 20 minutes since you’ve exercised and you haven’t cleaned your face, your pores can get clogged,” Dr. Alvarez says. (The hairline, he notes, is particularly susceptible to breakouts.) And hey, this dynamic applies to the skin on your body, too—so bake in a little extra time to shower before you bounce to your next activity.

5. You can’t read this without wearing glasses
Sorry, four-eyes — if spots are popping up along the bridge of your nose, it might be due to those glasses pressing against your skin. “Heavy frames could cause the pores in that area to clog faster,” Dr. Alvarez says. “And if they’re dirty, that could promote folliculitis or acne.” Though the majority of specs-wearing people won’t develop worse acne because of their glasses, a few will — so be sure to clean yours regularly.

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6. The smoothie shop guy knows you by name
Recent research finds a correlation between a high glycemic diet — i.e., a diet full of simple sugars — and a surge of acne among people who are prone to breakouts. Alvarez notes that people usually think of common high-glycemic foods like cookies and sweet coffee drinks, not less-obvious culprits such as smoothies and fruit juices. “Those drinks have a lot of sugar,” he says. “Even if they’re natural sugars, it’s too much.” His advice? Choose recipes with vegetables, not fruits — and if you’re craving an apple, eat an apple instead of gulping down its juice. Note: This rule only applies to the sugar you eat — fruits are some of the most beneficial beauty ingredients in the natural world and an absolute must for your skin-care routine.

7. You’re doing ALL of the anti-blemish things
Scrubs, peels, medications, spa facials… sound familiar? An overly aggressive approach to treating acne can actually make it worse, not better. Alvarez points to cleansing gadgets as an example. “Acne-prone people are likely already exfoliating through a retinoid or another medication,” he says. “Something like a cleansing brush can over-exfoliate, which can lead to inflammation or hyperpigmentation.” If you’ve been going HAM with your pimple-prevention regimen, try a gentler, more delicate approach that allows your skin time to calm and repair itself.

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