What's Causing You To Break Out?

We often think that skin concerns such as breakouts, are only caused by the products or lack of products we apply to our skin, however, that isn’t always the case. While skincare can help prevent new breakouts, reduce inflammation and improve the skin aesthetically, the reason for some breakouts may be down to other factors that we simply don’t realise.

When I started to severely break out at 21, I blamed a sunscreen I had worn on holiday because that was the last thing I applied differently. However, when I dug a little bit deeper, I realised that during that holiday, I had also taken hormonal tablets to stop me from getting my period and recently finished a course of antibiotics that had been overprescribed to me for several years. Unbeknownst to me at the time, gut health and hormonal changes are both common triggers for breakouts.

To remove some of the guesswork around what might be causing you to breakout, here are my thoughts on the most common culprits:


From experience both with myself and clients, one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to improving breakouts is to strip the skin. Using harsh products/ingredients to do your utmost to get rid of them can in fact have the opposite effect. Over-exfoliating and over-cleansing can weaken the skins’ barrier; causing breakouts to worsen or even trigger them, period. As a general rule, aim to exfoliate once to twice a week and stick to cleansing twice a day, with a double cleanse in the evening if you’re wearing makeup/SPF. 


There is an increasing pattern of women coming off hormonal contraception and seeing a decline in their skin. Any hormonal changes in the body can trigger skin concerns. Think about typical teenage spots when you hit puberty, women who experience breakouts around their period and acne that can emerge during menopause. It’s no wonder that those who have been suppressing their hormones with contraception for an average of 10+ years, have found their skin affected when they stop.

 Underlying concerns such as PCOS, endometriosis and thyroid dysfunction can also trigger breakouts. And if you see a correlation between stress and your skin then yes, you guessed it, that can be a trigger as well!


Like 21-year-old-me, if you are reading this and are having a similar experience, you have most probably googled ‘what’s causing your breakouts’, only to be met with the typical ‘Dr Google’ advice of cutting out dairy and whatever else is gaining traction at that time.

Diet may play a role in the development of breakouts, but that may not be the case for everybody. You can have the healthiest diet ever, vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise. You can avoid sugar, cut out all junk foods, only eat organic foods... and still have spots. We all know people who eat meat and dairy products and never get so much as a pimple. There are also committed vegans who struggle with breakouts daily.

How our diets work on the body and skin is very complex and not completely understood. What we do know is that there isn't a direct link between any type of food and breakouts. So, it's not always as simple as ‘cutting out X’ (if it was, I’d be out of a job!).

What you can do:

One thing I always recommend to anyone who is suffering from breakouts and can’t seem to get to the bottom of why, is to start a daily diary. Track the things you do, how you feel, what you eat and what products you use, to see if there are any patterns that you can link to you breaking out.

Maybe you notice an increase in spots after a heavy weekend of drinking and eating relentlessly?

Keep track of what stage of your menstrual cycle you are in too. Is there a pattern of your skin breaking out the week before your period?

It’s always important to always keep in mind that everybody’s skin is different, and everyone will have different triggers.

If you feel like you are struggling to get to the bottom of your breakouts, please seek professional advice from a qualified esthetician or dermatologist, because if your car was broken you wouldn’t go to social media for advice to fix it, you’d go straight to a mechanic.

Have a spot and want to know how best to deal with it? Have a read of our top tips from Skin Rocks Founder and Skincare Expert, Caroline Hirons.


Follow Ella @_myskinstory

Qualifications – NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Beauty Therapy

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