These four acne triggers may be the reason you never stop breaking out

I honestly never thought that there would come a day when I could confidently say (and that other people would actually agree) that my skin is in a good place. I’m crossing all my toes and fingers that it will remain as it is, with less breakouts, bumps, and visible pores compared to a few months ago. I now know that it takes a good amount of discipline to keep my skin in good condition but it’s definitely possible.

If you're wondering why you still get pimples even if you follow a good skincare routine, chances are, you haven't really addressed the real triggers for your acne. Get to know the usual suspects, and find out how to stop them once and for all!

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Culprit #1: Not properly cleansing your skin

Whether you wear makeup or not, the fact is that your face gets dirty every day. These impurities on your skin can cause the overproduction of oil and blockage of pores, resulting in skin so irritated that it becomes a nasty zit. If you don't want your face to be full of acne-causing bacteria, stop yourself from touching your face too much and make sure to cleanse it properly!

There are many different options for getting your face clean. Oil cleansing is a great way to remove makeup because it can dissolve waterproof formulas and doesn't dry out skin in the process. Cleansing balms are pretty similar to oil cleansers but are good options for those who don't like runny formulas and need something more travel-friendly. Either way, make sure to wash up with a gentle facial cleanser afterwards, possibly with the help of cleansing tools. If you prefer micellar water, we've tested them out to find the best one! For nights when you're just too tired to do a full skincare routine, keep some makeup wipes next to your bed - it might not remove all traces of residue but a quick clean-up job is better than none!

You don't need to do 10-step skincare if it’s not your thing; really, just making sure that your skin is free from oil, dirt, and makeup can make a big difference. 

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Culprit #2: Consuming nuts and dairy

I was a teeny-tiny soya-baby because I've been lactose-intolerant since birth. Before they discovered my intolerance, my hairline would be covered in bumps filled with pus, which you could see in my baby photos. Because my body can’t process dairy products or lactose well, I ended up getting cystic acne on my head, my ears, and at the back of my neck!

I can’t imagine ditching dairy completely, mainly because I love cheese pizza, but I try to manage my dairy intake. It's still an important source of nutrients such as calcium, but if you're really sensitive to having dairy in your diet, find alternative sources. You can get calcium from foods like dark leafy veggies and oatmeal, or take vitamins and supplements, as well.

Nuts are another food culprit, which saddens me because I love snacking on them while reading. They are generally good for your body because they contain polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, but eating too much can contribute to breakouts. What your body doesn't need gets transformed into triglycerides (aka, fats stored in cells), and too much stored fats can lead to breakouts.

Our bodies can’t produce essential fats like omega-3 on its own so instead of snacking on peanuts and the like, eat fish such as sardines and anchovies, and leafy green veggies like kale and spinach.

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Culprit #3: Sleep deprivation

I normally get 4 to 5 hours of sleep max during my normal work week, which is Monday to Saturday. As I commute and work long hours, sleeping the recommend 7 to 9 hours (for adults) is just not possible with my schedule.

"Beauty sleep" isn't just a name - it really does have an effect on how you look! When you get enough rest, the rate of your cell turnover and blood flow increases. Aside from keeping your body healthy, it gives you glowing skin. Lack of sleep also increases your insulin resistance, and all that sugar in your system may cause acne. Sebum production is also at its peak when you’re not well-rested. In addition, being tired makes your face look dull and unhealthy.

After pulling all-nighters, I try to regain my energy and treat my skin by sleeping in whenever possible. Sleep deprivation is a debt that’s hard to repay because consistently doing so just doesn’t cause pimples - it also affects your body’s entire condition. Help your body recuperate by following a regular sleeping schedule, eating light at night, and giving yourself time to relax and get ready for bed.

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Culprit #4: Hormonal imbalance

Whenever it’s almost time for my period, my skin flares up. All. The. Time. I don’t even keep a calendar anymore because my skin is always at its very worse (with the most painful pimples) when it’s that time of the month. Hormonal fluctuation (estrogen and progesterone levels are unstable) normally happens during menstruation, menopause, and even pregnancy. The imbalance aggravates oil production of the skin, and the resulting acne usually appear near the jawline and chin because these areas have many oil glands.

Being stressed can also lead to hormonal imbalances. Your cortisol levels (aka, the stress hormone) are higher during these periods, so your pores may get too clogged up and develop pimples. That’s why it’s really important to try and de-stress whenever you can. Whether it’s doing a facial at home (which can really help improve the blood flow on your face, making it look healthier) or watching movies, keeping your body and mind happy can help improve your skin.

A good, balanced diet can also help improve hormonal fluctuations. Eggs, soybeans, salmon, avocadoes, and almonds are just some of the food that aid in hormonal imbalance. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe taking oral contraceptives to help stabilize your hormone levels.


Breakouts can be caused by any one of these culprits so if you're particularly acne-prone, you might check which of these match your condition. It's still best to consult with a dermatologist and get their professional opinion, of course, but part of good self-care is learning to pay attention to what your body tells you.

Have you identified what triggers your acne? How do you deal with a nasty breakout?