8 Strangest Causes of Adult Acne (and What to Do About Them)


Many of us struggled with acne as children. In addition to being a painful annoyance, acne always served to make awkward teenage years that much more of a living hell.

Fortunately, plenty of the children who suffered from acne as children effectively grew out of it as an adult. However, that doesn’t mean that adults never have to deal with pesky pimples. The simple truth is that different products and habits may be causing you to break out.

Just what are the strangest causes of adult acne, and what can you do to avoid breaking out again in the future? Keep reading to discover the answer!

Dry skin

You’ve probably heard that oily skin may cause you to break out. But did you know that dry skin can cause acne as well?

Basically, dry skin can cause small cracks on your face that are invisible to the naked eye. Bacteria getting into these cracks can cause acne and other skin issues. But if you regularly exfoliate your skin a few times a week and use a moisturizer designed for dry skin, you may be able to reduce breakouts.

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Intense stress

Stress is bad for everything from your peace of mind to your relationships with friends and loved ones. Therefore, it may not be surprising to learn that stress is also bad for your skin as well.

When you’re stressed out, it leads to both hormonal changes and the release of inflammatory chemicals within your body, both of which lead to breakouts. This is why, by the way, it’s so common to break out even when the stress involves something happy (like getting married). If you experience such acne, the best way to treat it is with over-the-counter products with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and alicyclic acid. 

Of course, preventing a problem is always better than just reacting to it. If you are frequently stressed out, activities like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing may help you find your calm (and stop finding zits).

Heavy sunscreen

Here’s an annoying little paradox for you: when you’re going to the beach or otherwise spending plenty of time in the sun, then you need to wear sunscreen to avoid breaking out. But if you use heavier sunscreen, it can actually ensure that you end up with zits on your face.

What’s the solution, then? If you’re generally prone to acne, try to find sunscreens that are labeled as “oil-free.” This will give you the UV protection you need while also keeping your suntanned skin nice and clear.

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Removing facial hair

When you have unwanted facial hair, plucking it out may be the best course of action. But how you go about what you do next may actually cause your acne to worsen.

For example, most women apply some kind of topical cream to soothe irritated skin. But if the products you use are labeled as “comedogenic,” they can clog pores and lead to real acne breakouts (as opposed to simple bumps of irritated skin). To keep this from happening, we recommend you use a warm cloth to soothe your skin rather than over-the-counter products, and if you do end up using a topical solution, make sure it’s not comedogenic.

Hair products

Speaking of hair, you likely have haircare products that you trust with your life (or at least, with your love life). But you need to be careful because certain products that make your hair look great may also cause your skin to break out.

How does this happen? Basically, certain styling products can seep their oils into your head, cashing zits to appear in a phenomenon sometimes called “pomade acne.” These oils clog up your pores and cue the unwanted zits. But as long as you can keep the product from reaching your forehead and you wipe the area with facial cleanser just to be sure, you can make sure your haircare no longer hurts your skincare.

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Certain skincare products

Here’s something that may strike you as monumentally unfair. You know, those fancy and expensive products you buy to keep your skin looking awesome? In some cases, it’s those same products that are causing you to break out.

This usually happens when you decide to try different skincare products. When your skin isn’t familiar with the active ingredients and preservatives of a new product, you are likely to see pimples pop up. This even includes anti-acne products…if you try too many of these in a short period of time, it can cause the very problem you are trying to solve.

What’s the solution? We recommend using no more than two major skincare products at once and using them for at least four weeks before making a change. This gives your skin time to adjust and helps clear up your skin even as it helps put cash back into your wallet that would otherwise go to buying new products each week.

Too many processed foods and carbs

You’ve probably noticed that just about every fad diet requires you to cut out processed foods and carbs. That’s because these things can cause you to gain (and keep) unwanted weight. If that’s not bad enough, though, carbs and processed foods can also lead to unwanted pimples.

Scientists are still trying to figure out how all of this works, but recent research indicates that eating plenty of processed foods, carbs, and even dairy may predispose a person to breakouts. But if you can swap out those processed snacks for things like veggies, fruits, and grains, you can achieve clearer skin while losing weight, and that’s one heck of a win/win! 

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Smartphones can cause acne (no, really)

Smartphones can actually cause your face to break out in pimples. It’s not because of anything like signals coming from the phone, though, so you can tell your crazy uncle to stop offering you his tinfoil hat.

What happens is that our phones get covered with bacteria as we carry them around and use them just about everywhere. Putting the phone to your face, then, can transfer over bacteria that cause acne, and if you’re on the phone a lot, you may even get friction-induced pimples. However, if you periodically clean your phone with an alcohol wipe and try to cut down on how much you use it, your skin may clear up very quickly.