The 5 Reasons You’re Causing Your Own Acne Breakouts

Model with clear skin

Photo: Imaxtree

We all may consider ourselves the savviest of beauty girls, but when it comes to our skin – annoy breakouts happen. No matter how many new products we buy with the promises of miracles, for some reason there is always a flare-up. The bad news? Breakouts after your awkward teenage years are par for the course. The good news? You can do a lot to nip them in the bud. A lot of the breakouts you experience as an adult result from some totally preventable skin care faux pas, so before you sabotage your routine any further, make sure you’re not committing any of these skin care cardinal sins.

1) You sleep in your makeup, even just once in awhile.

We all know how exhausting it feels to come home after a long day of traveling, a fun night out with friends or really just a late night at the office – the struggle is real my friends. But no matter how long your day was or what you went through, jumping into bed with a full face of makeup just isn’t acceptable. “Someone who washes and applies product before bed will enjoy a full cycle of repair and wake up with clean glowing skin. Someone who doesn’t do that will wake up with inflammation, red bumps and dull skin,” Vargas says.

Your acne fix: Find a cleansing solution that works for your busy lifestyle so you’re sure to wipe off that nasty gunk every night. A makeup remover wipe is often the best solution for the lazy girl in all of us for those days when you just can’t stand to fully wash your face. Try Alba Botanica’s ACNEdote Clean ‘n Treat Towelettes or Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Daily Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths.

2) You wash your face too often, and actually do more harm than good.

We just told you how important it is to wash off all your makeup and now we’re telling you you might be cleansing too often – confused yet? Don’t be. It’s really quite simple. There’s a fine line between cleansing to keep acne at bay and just irritating it. “Don’t over wash or over scrub,” says Dr. Emily Wise, MD, acne specialist at Krauss Dermatology. “Studies have also shown that scrubbing can actually make skin worse.” When it does come time to wash, though, Dr. Wise suggests looking for one containing benzoyl peroxide to banish blemishes fast.

Your acne fix: Dr. Wise says twice daily washing is all you need — anything additional and acne might just start rearing its ugly head. Reach for a formula suitable for adult acne like our new faves, Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser and bareMinerals Purifying Facial Cleanser, available at

MORE: The 6 Products You Really Need In Your Skin Care Routine

3) You stress the small stuff – even your acne.

We know you’re about as likely to stop stressing as you are to quit your love affair with shoes but a girl can try, right? And not to get all cheesy on you, but knowledge is power and just knowing that stress can totally wreak havoc on your skin is helpful in and of itself. “I think stress plays a huge role in anyone’s breakouts,” Vargas says. “Stress causes internal inflammation which leads to breakouts and clogged pores.”

Your acne fix: The obvious answer is to try minimizing your stress levels – take up yoga, try aromatherapy or meditation, whatever method works for you. But we’re all about practical long-term solutions too so it’s best to find a product that will help you ward stress pimples off before they even pop up. Two of our current faves are Proactiv+ Complexion Perfecting Hydrator and First Aid Beauty’s Skin Rescue Daily Face Cream.

4) You don’t sleep enough – hello, skin issues!

We know the lure of Netflix is hard to resist but a lack of sleep is one of the main reasons your skin might seem like it’s turning on you all of a sudden. “Not sleeping enough can lead to breakouts,” Vargas says. And considering the fact that nighttime is your skin’s chance to detox and unwind from all that you put it through during your crazy days, you can’t blame it for rebelling with angry red pimples when you don’t get enough beauty rest. “If you don’t wash your face before bedtime and apply a repairing serum, you are robbing your body of valuable time to repair and restore,” she says.

Your acne fix: Make a date with your pillow a priority and make the most of the shut-eye you do get by supplementing your beauty rest with a serum that will enhance your skin’s natural turnover properties (we are currently obsessing over bareMinerals’ Active Cell Renewal Night Serum, available at Doing so will keep your skin happy so it’s less likely to rebel against you with the odd breakout here and there.

5) Your diet sucks – hello, more skin issues!

Sorry to burst your bubble, girl, but skipping meals, binging on late night junk food and overindulging in cocktails isn’t doing your skin any favors. Vargas says all of these skin faux pas can contribute to breakouts in your twenties. But what about dairy and sugar? A lot of people make them out to be big causes of acne, so we decided to ask Dr. Wise if two of our diet mainstays are actually sabotaging our journey to beautiful skin.

Turns out they’re OK in moderation but limiting your intake of the two isn’t necessarily a bad idea: “If you want to try to eliminate dairy or adhere to [a] low glycemic index diet, I certainly don’t think it will hurt; however, I cannot predict how much it will help.”

Your acne fix: Want glowing skin? Vargas recommends drinking a green juice every single day and a veggie with every meal. And if you absolutely must indulge in alcohol, match water to alcohol one for one when you’re out.

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