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5 Unexpected reasons why your skin might be breaking out

4 min read

5 Unexpected reasons why your skin might be breaking out
Is your skin breaking out for no apparent reason? If you just can't figure out what's causing your acne, here are five often overlooked culprits behind breakouts
Sometimes you can do everything right—the perfect skincare routine, the latest miracle ingredients—and your skin still breaks out. We've all been there, playing mad scientist and mixing all kinds of products to soothe the problem areas, and it's so frustrating.
It can be tricky to pinpoint the exact cause of your acne. Is it stress? Is it your menstrual cycle? Darcy Laceby, co-founder and skincare expert at Absolute Collagen, notes, "There are countless factors that impact our skin’s quality and appearance. While many people know that lifestyle factors such as a sugary diet, lack of sleep, or smoking will affect your skin’s appearance, there are other, often overlooked, factors to be aware of."
Here are a few lesser known factors that can negatively impact our skin.

Excessive sweating

It can be tough getting into a regular exercise routine, finding the time and energy to go for a run or hit the gym, and then when you finally figure it out, you find that it could be making your skin worse? That just seems unfair! Unfortunately, the sweat you generate when exercising can clog your pores and lead to breakouts, especially on your face and back.
"Always try to shower immediately after exercise, using products that are gentle on your skin"
Slow down, that's not the excuse you've been looking for to cancel your gym membership and skip next Saturday's Parkrun. Darcy says, "During your actual workout, try to opt for clothing made of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, that don’t absorb moisture.
"For your post-workout routine, always try to shower immediately afterwards, using products that are gentle on and nourishing for your skin. Even if you have done lighter exercise, such as a brisk walk or yoga, it’s a good idea to at least wash your face afterwards. Finally, work out with a bare face or minimal makeup as much as possible."


If you live in an urban area, pollution may be to blame for your skin concerns. High levels of air pollution can compromise the skin's barrier function, leading to dryness, sensitivity, and increased susceptibility to breakouts.
Girl doing skincare in bathroom
"While there is little you can do about air pollution, a good skincare routine will help to minimise its impact on your skin," says Darcy. "Ensure you cleanse every evening, ideally as soon as you get home, to help remove pollutant particles. Moisturising is essential for hydrating your skin and supporting a strong skin barrier—look out for ingredients such as niacinamide which have antioxidant properties, as this will really help boost your barrier!"
She also suggests investing in an air purifier to improve your home's air quality if you live in a particularly polluted city. 

Hard water

Hard water refers to water with a high mineral content, and it can be a hidden cause of acne. These minerals can clog your pores and irritate your skin. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting told British Vogue, "Minerals being left to dry on the skin may clog pores and cause dryness, triggering breakouts, flaking and itching."
"Minerals in hard water can clog your pores and irritate your skin"
With around 60 per cent of water in the UK being classified as hard or very hard, this could well be the cause of your acne flareup. Some of the minerals in hard water, such as iron, magnesium and calcium, can also act as free radicals, causing the breakdown of collagen and leading to fine lines and wrinkles. 
So what can you do about it? To tackle it at the source, you can fit a water filtration system where water enters your house, but that's not exactly cheap or quick. For a slightly easier fix, you could try using a facial toner. Hard water is alkaline, so a slightly acidic toner can balance out your skin's pH levels. To counteract the effect of free radicals, you could also look for collagen boosting products to help keep your skin firm.

Hot showers

After a long, hard day, little feels better than indulging in a hot shower. But alas, your moment of self care might not be doing your skin any favours! Hot water can strip the skin of essential oils, getting rid of the protective layer that seals in moisture and protects from bacteria. This can leave your skin dry, irritated and vulnerable to breakouts.
Person in shower
"Always avoid washing your face in the shower, instead cleansing before your shower with gentle products and cooler water," Darcy advises. "When it comes to the rest of your body, make sure to pat yourself dry and apply a nourishing moisturiser to your entire body as soon as possible after a shower."

Hair products

If your acne is congregating on your forehead, it could be down to your hair styling products. Hair spray, for example, contains ingredients such as alcohol which can irritate and dehydrate your skin. Meanwhile, products like leave-in conditioners often contain thick oils and emollients which can clog your skin and cause acne or bacne.
"Avoid letting hair products come into direct contact with your skin"
"To avoid your favourite hair products causing problems for your skin, avoid letting them come into direct contact with it," says Darcy. "For hairspray, this is simply a case of using a face shield while spraying, whereas for conditioning products you might need to switch up your routine. Instead of putting these products on in the shower, do so afterwards while wearing an old t-shirt. Then, keep your hair in a wrap or scrunchy while the hair mask or leave in conditioner works its magic."
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