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10 Acne Causes, and how to prevent it

Are you looking for the one thing that will treat your acne?

Then chances are you’ve fallen down the internet rabbit hole.

It starts with an innocent enough link click, but before you know it, 2 hours have passed.

It’s literally acne information overload. Aaaahh.

  • how to stop breakouts,
  • unclog stubborn pores, astringent products strip oily skin, how to erase dark spots caused by acne

The insane thing is that there’s not just one magic answer to acne treatment.

It’s why we’ve written so much about it here.

So before you lose another hour to the gods of Google, here’s a hand.

Acne Causes

One of the most tricky problems for our clients with acne is their difficulty understanding it.

Questions we are often asked are:

  • what causes it?
  • why does it flare up for me and not for others?
  • what makes it worse or better?

The reason? Its multi-factorial, meaning that hormones, genetics, diet, bacteria, stress and astringent ingredients all play a role to varying degrees.

Having treated countless clients over the years, we have found that the following approaches have helped to control our client’s acne.

So join us as we help you understand why your acne is sticking around—and how to get rid of it.

1. Hormones can play havoc with your skin.

Acne occurs around puberty when your sebaceous glands start producing sebum—an oil-rich environment that acne bacteria love.

Changes in hormone levels are an attributing factor, and birth control pills are often prescribed to help normalise your hormones, which will help reduce breakouts.

Whilst acne often occurs in your teens, your body continually undergoes hormonal fluctuations even during adulthood, which can trigger breakouts at any age.

This is why women who go through menopause often experience acne due to hormone progesterone levels being higher than oestrogen, a subject we discuss in our guide to hormonal acne.

2. A Medical Condition Cause Acne

Underlying medical conditions may be behind your symptoms.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): As mentioned above, hormones can cause acne because they affect your endocrine system, which is responsible for producing hormones. Polycystic ovary syndrome affects women whose bodies have too much androgen—the male sex hormone—which can cause cysts on your ovaries and acne breakouts, as this study found (1).

Acromegaly: Other endocrine conditions could be behind your stubborn acne—acromegaly is a disorder where your body produces too much growth hormone.

Cushing syndrome: This is a condition where your body pumps out too much cortisol—the stress hormone that can cause havoc on your skin.

Non-endocrine conditions: The following rare symptoms, PAPA, SAPHO and Apert syndrome, may also be the reason for your acne.

If you are concerned about your skin, we recommend booking an appointment with a dermatologist; they will diagnose you correctly and determine the right course of treatment for your skin.

3. Poor diet

When treating acne, we always recommend to our clients to have a topical and internal approach.

Foods rich in saturated and trans-fats increase sebum (oil) production leading to excessively oily skin.

High glycemic carbohydrates and sugar-rich foods can cause a spike in your insulin, altering your hormones and leading to breakouts.

You may want to consider booking an appointment with a nutritionist, who will advise you on what to do internally to get your condition under control.

4. A Lack of Fatty Acids in Your Diet

Whilst this might sound counter-intuitive, a lack of essential fatty acids oil in your diet could be causing your acne.

The fatty acids found in fish oils help to regulate your skin’s oil production, helping to reduce pesky breakouts.

5. Your Skin Maybe Dehydrated

An oily skin type is often dehydrated, yet sadly, drinking enough water won’t keep your skin hydrated because your skin is the last organ to receive water.

When your skin is dry, there is an increased chance of build-up in the pore wall; this is why keeping your skin hydrated topically with a humectant-rich formula like H20 hydrating complex is critical.

6. Poor Skin Hygiene may be the reason

This is a crucial step that we find is often overlooked by many of our clients.

It is essential to avoid touching your face and picking or popping your breakouts, as this can spread bacteria, causing irreversible scarring and permanent hyperpigmentation.

Talk to your dermatologist or skin care specialist, who will determine if acne extraction is required, which they will perform in a hygienic and controlled manner.

Another tip is to wash your pillowcase and makeup brushes regularly to prevent reinfection and don’t be tempted to share your makeup brushes, which may cause cross-contamination.

7. Not Cleansing Your Face Regularly

Pollution and dead skin cells are one of the primary causes of acne breakouts.

Regular cleansing will help prevent clogged pores, balance oil on your skin, and reduce your risk of breakouts.

8. The Makeup Overload Trap

Whilst its true makeup will hide your pimples and pustules, it can sometimes have an adverse effect and clog your pores, which acne bacteria love.

We recommend using mineral-based makeup that is non-comedogenic and oil-free, which will allow your skin to breathe and won’t clog your pores.

9. Using Incorrect Products and Ingredients

Treating stubborn acne isn’t always as easy as applying a product to your face.

However, sometimes it is that easy—but knowing which product type to use will make all the difference in achieving clear skin.

Each formulation you use should work differently so you cover every aspect of the acne pathway:

For instance, to prevent comedones, it is essential to reduce the consistency of oil and debris in the pore—this can be achieved by reducing the colonisation of bacteria and inflammation.

Use a gel-based moisturiser rather than an emulsifier-rich cream base that may feed the bacteria.

This is why it is so important to have a multi-pronged approach:

Retinol, found in our A+ complex, is essential in reducing and preventing acne by speeding up cell turnover, as this study found (1). A low percentage is excellent; anything too high may cause significant dryness and redness.

Salicylic acid is perfect for acutely inflamed spots that require anti-inflammatory agents. Resq anti-blemish treatment is a fast-acting product for pimple-prone skin, treating and healing acne blemishes.

Gel/water-based formulas are recommended instead of cream-based ones, as emulsifiers can feed acne bacteria. We created our Equilibrium balancing gel and B+ complex to hydrate and balance your skin. The ingredients have been specifically chosen to be in a gel base and penetrate your pores whilst helping to reduce breakouts and hyperpigmentation.

Antimicrobial and antibacterial ingredients are excellent for oily skin, as demonstrated in this research (2) found in Equilibrium balancing gel, such as cumin and neem, kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, providing a natural and effective solution for oily skin types.

10. Harsh Treatments can Aggravate Your Skin

Don’t be tempted to book a course of harsh treatments like microneedling, microdermabrasion or peels.

Chances are your skin is already sensitive, and these will only undermine your protective barrier, further causing irreparable damage. It’s something we see a lot of in our clinic.

The one treatment we recommend is a course of blue light therapy; it’s gentle, healing, non-invasive and perfect for an oily, acne skin type.

If you have inflammatory acne, combine it with soothing red light therapy.

To Conclude. The naked truth

As you can see, whilst acne is tricky to treat, by changing some of your habits, you can help to stop acne in its tracks.

Regularly cleansing, using non-comedogenic mineral makeup, not touching and squeezing your breakouts, eating healthy, and taking essential fatty acids will all help break the cycle of reinfection.

Many of our clients try a whole host of products on their skin, from salicylic cleansers to benzoyl peroxide serums and harsh facial scrubs, in a desperate bid to get rid of their acne.

And we get it; we do; you will do almost anything to get rid of those unsightly blemishes.

But please understand these ingredients are often too harsh, mainly when used in tandem with Retin-A; your skin can quickly become aggravated.

Instead, tackle your acne with a customised approach and know that less is best, as you want to heal your protective barrier, balance your pH and keep sensitivity out of your skin.

Our article oily skin routine tip, recommended by estheticians, is a great read.

Understanding the causes and how to eliminate them when it comes to oily skin concerns will set you on the path to a shine-free life and help you begin healing your skin.


  1. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options.

  2. Antimicrobial activity of certain natural-based plant oils against antibiotic-resistant acne bacteria.

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