Your Skin Could Be Breaking Out From These Hidden Causes

As you coasted through your angsty teen years with minimal blemishes, you thought that you dodged a bullet (or several bullets in the form of oil-clogged face craters), didn’t you? Oh, how wrong you were. Even in your adult years — no matter how diligent you are with washing your face each night — an unwanted pimple or two randomly takes refuge right on your cheek. Gross. Sure, you can invest in potent anti-acne products, but what about learning why this bout of acne is running rampant on your face? Sometimes, that skin malfunction is totally preventable. Here, we provide 10 lesser-known answers to the age old question: “Why is my skin breaking out?”

1. Because Mother Nature is out of whack

There are several factors that could impact whether your skin breaks out

There are several factors that could impact whether your skin breaks out. |

It shouldn’t come as a total surprise that moody weather can cause poor skin. According to, both dry and humid climates can lead to blemishes. When the weather leans toward the drier side — think those freezing nights when the temperature is in the single digits — your skin will try to make up for the lack of moisture by producing more sebum (or oil).

All that moisture, plus those pesky dead skin cells that accumulate over time, are bound to clog up your pores. On the flip side, a warmer forecast means more perspiration, which can also clog up those skin flakes. And when the weather constantly switches between arctic chill and cool spring afternoon? Your skin will be just as confused as your wardrobe. Eliminate the amount of dead skin cells on your face by washing your face (regardless of the climate) and sweeping some toner afterwards.

2. Because you’re eating too much dairy

cheddar cheese

Dairy can cause awful breakouts. |

You are what you eat is a tale as old as time. But you may notice that you’re plagued with zits even when you’re adhering to a strict “no candy” diet. Listen up, dear reader: Sugary bites aren’t the only snacks that can cause acne. According to One Green Planet, dairy is frequently the culprit. Take a moment to let that sink in — we’re just as upset as you. Deny it all you want, but the logic behind this sneaky reason makes sense: “Remember, dairy only comes from pregnant cows, so you’re taking in the hormones from both the male and the female involved in the reproduction experience and the milk that is the result,” the website writes. “Doctor Mark Hyman shares that there are over 60 hormones in one glass of added hormone-free raw milk and who knows how many in other dairy products.”

We’re not saying to eliminate dairy products from your diet — we too feel the urge to get our night cheese on every now and then. But reducing your dairy intake will work wonders for your skin. And, as we can imagine, your waistline will also be thankful that you selected a healthy fruit salad instead of that bowl of cookie dough ice cream.

3. Because your smartphone is a paradise for germs

man with smartphone and friends

Your smartphone is extremely dirty. |

All the greats have a sidekick. Batman has Robin, Sherlock Holmes has Dr. Watson, and you have your smartphone. Laugh all you want, but you know it’s true: Your cell is by your side at all times, helps you get out of a sticky situation, and you feel totally lost without it (or when the battery is drained). But the one thing you may not know about your phone? It’s a hotbed for germs. For starters, think about everywhere you’re using your phone — the subway, bathroom, and even that dirty corner bodega.

Sure, sometimes you wash your hands before swiping  and tapping away; however, most of the time you touch that questionable subway railing and then text your bros without a second thought. Later — again, without any concern — you press that bacteria-clad screen against your cheek for your nightly call with your parents or significant other. And let’s not sugarcoat it: That bacteria is then again transferred onto your skin. Um, ew. We know that being a type-A germophobe isn’t exactly cool, but wiping off your touchscreen with a tech-friendly wet wipe daily is bound to help your skin.

4.  Because you’re stressed

stressed businessman

Stress can cause pimples. |

Have you ever noticed that a set of pimples tend to magically appear when you’re swamped with work or just got into a serious fight with your significant other? Before you write off those nasty blemishes as just another thing that’s going wrong in your life, let’s get one thing straight: Stress causes acne. You don’t need a top scientist to tell you that being stressed causes your hormones to fluctuate.

5. Because your laundry detergent is too harsh

Man Doing Laundry

Some detergents can irritate your skin and cause a rash or breakout. |

When looking for a suitable laundry detergent at the grocery store, you’re most likely asking yourself two questions: If that jumbo bottle is the best deal and whether or not you like that “shower fresh” scent. Valid questions? Yes. But if you find yourself breaking out all over your body, it may be time to reconsider your laundry detergent. According to Cosmopolitan, your trusty detergent may feature chemicals that are too harsh for your skin, and the potion’s residue may be causing acne on your back, chest, and butt. It may not be the first thing onlookers see, but nobody wants a case of back-ne. Our advice? Try your luck with a lighter mix. Usually, the brands that mark their products as “dye-free” or “gentle” tend to be better for those with sensitive skin.

6. Because you smoke

close up of a man lighting a cigarette to smoke

Smoking is doing your skin no favors. |

We don’t mean to sound like a cheesy after-school special, but there’s nothing redeeming about lighting up. If the stench and medical woes aren’t enough to motivate you into slapping on a nicotine patch, this vice can also wreak havoc on your skin. The next time your itching for a cigarette break, remember that this outing will also damage your skin in multiple ways. Not only does smoking decrease the amount of oxygen that goes to your face — which ultimately leads to less collagen, less elastin, larger pores, and more wrinkles — Cosmopolitan notes the carcinogens in the smoke are also known to irritate and dry up your skin. The result? Your skin will instinctively produce more oils, which can lead to more breakouts. Do yourself a big favor on multiple levels and kick the habit.

7. Because you’re eating spicy foods

Cayenne pepper and chilis

Spicy food causes inflammation which leads to pimples. |

We know, this hidden secret is extremely upsetting (especially after we crushed your cheese-loving dreams), but the science is there. In reality, that unbearably tingling feeling your mouth experiences after having those jalapeño-laced tacos is your body having an inflammation reaction. And as anyone with a penchant for the hot and spicy knows, a little sweating occurs with each bite. Translation? Sweating equals breakouts. According to PepperScale, the less accustomed you are to fiery foods the more likely you are to sweat (and thus breakout).  So as much as you’d love to impress your buddies by eating the hottest option from Buffalo Wild Wings, think before you order. Trust us, your skin will thank you for it.

8. Because you’re working out

man working out on an elliptical trainer at the gym

All that sweating can break out your skin. |

Let’s be honest: Your street clothes and exercise gear are sartorial night and day. While your daily outfits usually boast a more versatile hue, you’re drawn to funkier, brighter options for your stint at the gym. And because we know you wouldn’t attend a big meeting with your boss in spandex shorts, it’s safe to say that your workout garb is also much, much tighter. But within those form-fitting threads lies a recipe for skin care disaster. Think about it: Tight clothes, plus unnatural fabrics like Lycra and nylon, plus an overwhelming amount of sweat. The results? Blemishes, and lots of them. We would never advise you to stop working out; however, try swapping out those poly-blend threads for exercise garments made of breathable fabrics like cotton.

9. Because you’re traveling

woman at airport with passport and ticket in her hand

You really don’t want your face that close to the seat. |

Whether it’s grabbing a beer before the gate opens or always claiming an aisle seat, everyone has quirky pre-flight and in-flight rituals they follow religiously (even if you are one of the most seasoned jet-setters). While most of these habits have been ingrained for years, there’s one that you should adopt now: caring for your skin. Even if it’s a quick two-hour flight, the conditions inside the plane can lead to serious zits, which will ultimately ruin that perfect Machu Pichu selfie.

Similar to that blizzardy weather, the dry air in the plane’s cabin will prompt your skin to produce more oil as a defensive mechanism. And, as we’ve learned before, more oil tends to lead to more breakouts. But don’t let the necessary plane ride ruin your skin or your vacation photos. PopSugar suggests throwing a bottle of noncomedogenic moisturizer in your carry-on. Noncome-what? This type of skin care product is specially crafted to not cause blocked pores; however, an oil-free cream is a great alternative if you’re in a quick pinch.

10. Because you’re not getting enough sleep

tired, sleep

Sleep is key to healthy skin. |

All-nighters are only for college students, right? Think again because most of us don’t regularly get a full eight hours of rest. Some nights — like when you’re grabbing drinks with your friends or prepping for that big presentation at work —  it’s more like three or four. Staying up an extra couple hours can be a great way to get a lot done with minimal distractions; however, you’ll see the effects of a sleepless night (and we’re not just talking about bags under your eyes). As The Huffington Post Canada reports, a lack of sleep can result in your adrenal glands producing too much oil — usually clear skin’s kryptonite — which will clog pores when mixed with dead skin cells. Since essentially the beginning of time, your mother has told you that your body needs sleep. For your skin’s sake, it’s time to take that motherly advice to heart.

Follow Kelsey on Twitter @KMulvs