Help, my skin won't stop breaking out

A quick guide to hormones
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Why am I breaking out, and what should I do to fix it?

If you’ve suffered from acne as a teen or as an adult, you’ll know how frustrating it can be when people oversimplify the equation. We’ve all heard the classic old wives' tales about what causes your skin to break out, and as a result, it’s easy to blame trivial lifestyle factors. But, chances are, that slice of pizza you ate over the weekend is actually not what caused you to break out *pause for dramatic effect*.

While lifestyle factors such as stress can absolutely play a factor, they’re probably not the biggest offenders behind your breakouts. So if you’ve felt like you’ve tried everything to get rid of acne but nothing seems to be working - here are our top reasons why your skin might be breaking out, and they’re probably not what you expect.

A quick guide to hormones
In this article we will cover:

First, what causes acne?

You know that saying “there are two things that are unavoidable in life; death and taxes”. We vote to change that saying to” there are three things that are unavoidable in life; death, taxes and acne”. Because chances are, everyone will have a run-in with acne in their life. For some, it’s fleeting while for others it’s enduring, and for everyone, it’s frustrating to try and figure out what is actually causing it. See our causes and types of breakouts article for a more in-depth run down, however, at a glance there six main types of acne:


1. Blackheads (open comedones)

Blackheads form as a result of oil and dead skin clogging pores and oxidizing. Oxidizing means that it has been exposed to air which turns them black. Blackheads are a common and mild form of acne.

2. Whiteheads (closed comedones)

True to its name, whiteheads are round pimples with white tops. Unlike blackheads, whiteheads are closed at the surface of the skin as they do not come into contact with air and oxidize.

3. Papules

Papules are collections of small raised red spots which don’t form a head. Compared to blackheads and whiteheads, papules are more of an inflammatory type of acne.


4. Pustules

When a papule accumulates pus/fluid it becomes a pustule. A pustule is similar to a whitehead except the pore is extremely clogged, begins to swell and is also red and inflamed.

Nodulocystic Acne

5. Cysts

On the surface, cysts can look like boils. They are large, sit deep within the skin and are filled with pus that has nowhere to go. Cysts are softer than nodules.

6. Nodules

Nodule growths are also large, they remain intact deep under the skin and feel like hard knots. They are stubborn and can last weeks or months. While inflamed and painful, the surface is often skin coloured.

While this may seem simple enough, some of us will experience more than one type of acne at a time and often experience different types over our lifetime. If it all seems like a bit too much, definitely consult a specialist, while acne can be incredibly disheartening you can absolutely create an effective treatment plan for your skin.

A quick guide to hormones
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Why do we breakout and how to improve these breakouts?

1. Not washing your face before bed

During the day, dirt and oil will naturally accumulate on the face - even if you’ve barely gone outside. If you don’t use an effective cleanser before you go to bed, this dirt and bacteria will transfer onto your pillowcase. If you expose your skin to this bacteria while you sleep, this can lead to breakouts - particularly around the chin and cheek area.

How to fix it:

Washing your skin with a good cleanser followed by a toner before bed is an absolute non-negotiable for acne-prone skin. Try using a cleanser with salicylic acid in it, this works to break down excess oil in your pores which can lead to breakouts. If you wear makeup during the day, try a double cleanse at night, the first will remove the makeup and the second will remove any excess residue. If your acne persists, try changing your pillowcase every few days, and try opting for a silk pillowcase instead of a traditional cotton one as these hold less bacteria. We love Murad's Clarifying Cleanser with Salicylic Acid, Clarifying Toner and Daily Clarifying Peel as it is the easy solution you need to clear pores and even out texture

Murad Clarifying Cleanser

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Murad Clarifying Toner

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2. Stress and lack of sleep

You know how we touched on lifestyle factors earlier, well, one that actually does make a substantial difference to your skin health is stress and lack of sleep. It can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy too, feel stressed - break out - feel more stressed from breaking out - break out more.

Not getting enough z’s will have a similar effect on the skin. If you’re stressed or not getting enough sleep, your body is exposed to higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can be a contributor to breakouts. Hormones, unfortunately, are a huge contributor to acne, so knowing how to keep them at bay is crucial to long-term skin success.

How to fix it:

Stress is obviously an incredibly hard thing to ‘fix’ and will look different for everyone. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed try some strategies to help cope with stress such as meditation, therapy, exercise or a really good self-care ritual. And ALWAYS try and get 8 hours of sleep a night.

3. You’re over-exfoliating

This always comes as a bit of a shock to people, but if you’re breaking out there is a chance you’re over-exfoliating. Dry skin in general can be a cause of acne, and whether that dryness comes from genetics or your skincare routine, it doesn’t matter. If you use an exfoliator too often, you may be drying out and irritating the skin, which actually leads to more breakouts - not less.

How to fix it:

Try decreasing the number of times you exfoliate per week to once or twice. Also, exfoliate using a chemical exfoliant such as AHA/BHA rather than gritty physical scrubs.

4. You’re spending too much time in the sun

Speaking of old wives' tales… have you ever been told that the sun will help clear up your acne? Well, it actually usually has the opposite effect. As we spoke about, dryness can be a number one contributor to acne and breakouts, sun exposure drains moisture from the skin and can trigger excess oil production. While it can feel logical for people to ‘dry out’ their skin when they’re experiencing breakouts, this is actually the opposite of what you should do! It’s also dangerous and can increase your risk of developing skin cancers.

How to fix it:

Always apply SPF, regardless of whether you’re going outside or not. Wear hats, cover up and reduce your time spent in the sun. Trust us when we tell you you’re 50-year-old self with THANK YOU one day.
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Murad City Skin Broad Spectrum SPF 50

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Murad Oil & Pore Control Mattifier SPF 45

Lightweight SPF moisturizer instantly minimizes the appearance of pores by 54%* and delivers 10 hours of oil, shine and pore control. Oil-trapping microspheres mattify, smooth and blur imperfections. Avocado and African yellow wood bark extracts visibly reduce pore size and excess oil over time as hydrators prevent dryness.

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Skinsmiths Daily Antioxidant Defence SPF 30

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5. The ingredients in your skincare aren’t agreeing with your skin

Like all things in life, truly mastering your skincare routine takes time and effort, and for most people, a bit of trial and error. It’s always important to consult a skin-care specialist before adding something to your skincare routine, and PLEASE do not listen to things you are told on social media. Coconut oil for example is actually notorious for causing breakouts, despite what Tik Tok will lead you to believe.

How to fix it:

Make sure you gather all your information from reputable sources. While skincare is annoyingly trial and error to some degree, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by not incorporating ingredients that are generally linked to breakouts from the get-go!

6. Your sweaty workouts are causing acne

Exercise is fab for the mind, body and soul. However, if you’re participating in sweaty workouts and then not washing your face and body, this can exacerbate breakouts as well as lead to body acne. Dirt, bacteria and makeup can all build up on the skin following a workout and when you’re sweaty - your body unfortunately becomes a breeding ground for bacteria growth.

How to fix it:

If possible - before you exercise, try removing your makeup, then following your workout try and shower as quickly as possible. If you’re prone to body acne, try using a body wash specifically for acne, leave it on the skin for a minute or so before washing it off.

7. You're making your pimples worse by popping them

Look, we get it. Popping pimples is almost impossible to resist. But when you press on your breakouts, you are actually pushing bacteria deeper into the skin and making the situation worse. This can also lead to inflammation and will make the redness and pain last for longer than it needs to. In fact, touching your skin in any capacity is usually a guaranteed way to make breakouts worse. Find out here our top 10 reasons why you shouldn't pop that pimple!

How to fix it:

Avoid touching your skin as most as possible and whatever you do, resist the urge to pop the pimples! Instead, try sticking a pimple patch to put a physical barrier over the top and keep your hands off it. Also, apply an effective spot treatment to the pimples at night, this will help to kill bacteria while you sleep.

What are the best skin treatments for breakouts?

See our article on the best way to treat acne-prone skin for a full rundown of our product and treatment recommendations. If you’ve had a breakout and you’d rather leave it up to the professionals, there are a few treatments available at Caci that are proven to stop breakouts in their tracks. Here are our favourites:

LED Light Treatment

LED light therapy is basically the go-to when it comes to effective acne remedy treatments. This is a gentle, non-invasive treatment that works to soothe inflamed skin while stimulating the skin’s natural regeneration process. There are two types of lights used depending on what is best for your skin. Blue light works to fight acne-causing bacteria while helping with skin cell turnover and calming inflammation. The red light enhances the skin’s natural defence mechanisms to help speed-up healing and encourages happier healthier skin.

Learn more about LED Light Therapy

Blemish Control Facial

As the name suggests, the Murad Blemish Control Facial is designed specifically with acne sufferers in mind. This 30-minute hydrating facial focuses on opening clogged pores and calming inflammation.

Learn more about Blemish Control Facial


A fan-favourite for a reason, the Hydradermabrasion works to combat two main contributors to acne-prone skin; dryness and congestion. It simultaneously deeply cleanses while also penetrating a detox solution into the skin.

Learn more about Hydradermabrasion


Microneedling (Collagen Induction Therapy) has many benefits for the skin including acne/blemish prone skin and acne scarring. By stimulating new collagen, microneedling can help to resurface the acne scarring by plumping the skin underneath.

Learn more about Microneedling
A quick guide to hormones
In this article we will cover:

Ready to banish breakouts?

If you’re ready to wave ta-ta to acne for good, book a free consultation at your local Caci Clinic. The expert staff will be able to offer you advice on which skincare products to use, which to avoid, and which in-clinic treatments can help you achieve your personal skincare goals.

Book a free consultationLearn more about our treatments

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