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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien

Dr. Eva Simmons O’Brien received her MD from Yale University and is a board-certified dermatologist. With over 30 years of experience, she has worked for hospitals, established her own private practice, and consulted for organizations such as the FDA. Today, Dr. Eva runs her own practice in addition to serving as our Chief Science Officer.

Why Am I Getting Sudden Acne Breakouts On My Face?

Why Am I Getting Sudden Acne Breakouts On My Face?

Why Am I Getting Sudden Acne Breakouts On My Face?

 

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Even if you’re taking all the right steps and using all the right skincare products and have discussed your skin health with a dermatologist, you could still wake up and look in the mirror to find yourself staring at an acne breakout. 

You might find yourself the usual questions: How does this happen? Why now? Why me? Why am I breaking out all of a sudden? Does this mean I’m doing something wrong?

Sudden acne breakouts aren’t all that uncommon. There are plenty of reasons that you experience adult acne, and a surprising rash of pimples doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong when it comes to taking care of your skin. But if you can pinpoint the source of your cysts breakout, you can better plan to prevent any surprise acne breakouts in the future and set up an acne treatment routine.

You’re Stressed 

External factors, such as stress, can influence your complexion even when you’ve got a rock-solid routine for your skincare.  

In a cruel twist of irony, stressing out about a major presentation at work or preparing for an important interview can compound your existing stress by triggering a breakout. The correlation between stress and acne is well-documented in many studies over the last two decades. At this point, the link is clear: stress sets off hormones that can make the blemishes you already have even worse or cause brand new pimples to pop up overnight.

The main culprit, CRH, regulates your bodily functions in response to stress. CRH receptors are found in the glands that house and secrete the natural oils in your skin. When these glands are activated, they can produce more sebum than usual, which can lead to a clog of your pores and unwelcome breakouts.

Managing stress can help to decrease sudden breakouts. If you check the boxes for chronic stress, you may find a correlation between your most stressful periods and acne developments. There are countless strategies to manage stress, but mindful meditation and exercise can help tackle stress and anxiety levels consistently and potentially keep related breakouts at bay.

You’ve Developed Unhealthy Habits

If you’ve allowed your healthy eating habits to slip, you may notice pimples popping up where you don’t usually break out. Your skin health will usually mirror your overall health pretty closely. 

So, if you’re used to getting a full 8 hours of sleep every night, exercising regularly, and maintaining a pretty healthy diet, but in the last few weeks, you’ve let those habits slip, your newfound acne problems could be a reflection of those changes. 

Studies have found that many foods may contribute to acne and have identified a strong association between refined carbs and foods rich in omega-6 fats, such as corn and soy oils. 

Switching suddenly from a low-carb, low-dairy diet with minimally processed foods to hitting a drive-through could be enough to trigger a breakout.

Getting a full night’s sleep is an equally crucial contributing factor to having acne-free skin. Various hormones go to work to restore your body while you rest, repairing your skin while you rest. Your hormones fall into a natural cycle dictated by your usual daily habits.

Abrupt disruptions to your sleep cycle can cause inflammation, overproduction of oil in your skin’s oil glands, and breakouts. On top of that, your body is likely to produce more cortisol - your body’s stress response hormone - when you’re under-rested. Poor sleeping habits can have the same effect on your body as stressing out over that test or interview.  

Missing out on a few hours of sleep one night or pounding a few Big Macs shouldn’t be enough on its own to cause a sudden onset of acne. However, combining health factors such as your diet, sleep habits, and stress levels can create a perfect storm that leads to more acne than usual. 

Your Phone Screen Is Gross

Cell phone screens are notoriously dirty. You spend all day texting, tapping, and swiping your fingers across that screen, and then every time you talk on the phone, you’re putting your face up against all of that dirt and grime. 

Even your face oils will build up on your phone screen over time. Sticking your face on all of that oil and dirt can cause you to break out. The easy fix? Wipe that phone down, ya filthy animal. Any screen-cleaning wipe will do the trick.

You’re Using Incompatible or Recently Switched Skincare Products

Changing up your face wash, moisturizer, or other topical skincare products in your skincare routine could be the source of your breakout for several reasons. 

Breaking out when you start using a new cleanser isn’t always cause for alarm. Certain active ingredients (like retinoids and exfoliating acids) that increase the rate at which your skin cells turn over can cause a phenomenon called “skin purging” - and that’s totally normal.

This just means that excess oils, dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells are rising to the surface of your skin faster than usual due to the increased turnover rate of your skin cells, causing oily skin.

 In other words, your skin is recovering faster from day-to-day damage and pore-clogging buildup. The beginning of this process can result in an unexpected rash of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads when all of this gunk works its way out of your pores. This is a good thing in the long-term but can be frustrating until the zits pass.

It’s also possible that your skin is reacting to one of the active ingredients in the new product. If you usually use a very mild over-the-counter cleanser and recently switched to an exfoliating salicylic acid cleanser, for example, your skin could be reacting poorly to the harsher medicated product. Unlike skin purging, adverse reactions are often accompanied by redness, irritation, or dry, flaky skin. 

If you think that this could be why you’re breaking out, try backing off the new product and reintroducing it slowly to give your skin some time to adjust to the new ingredients. You can minimize the potential for an adverse reaction by easing new products (or types of skin or hair products) into your routine rather than making a blunt switch by swapping out products entirely.

At Disco, for example, we've poured countless time into researching the most compatible products that work on tackling skin health at a deep level, and we've found that many natural ingredients actually make each other more effective when used together

Final Thoughts

You certainly aren’t alone if you're stressing out over sudden fluctuations in breakouts on your face. Proper skin care is a lifelong journey, and we’re all learning as we go to prevent severe acne. Sometimes these breakouts occur for normal reasons such as hormonal changes, birth control pills or oil production, but in many situations this skin condition is preventable.  

Understanding the potential source of your breakout is the first step to addressing it so that you can go back to an acne-free complexion and better wellness of your skin.

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