7 Sneaky Reasons You’re Having an Acne Breakout

But more importantly: how to stop pesky acne flare-ups.

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You’re going through menopause

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The major culprit in acne: hormones, which are all over the place now. “During menopause, estrogen and progesterone decrease, which increases inflammatory factors that cause breakouts,” says Marina Peredo, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. What’s more, you might have recently gone on a new birth control pill (or patch or ring), something the North American Menopause Society supports women taking through menopause. (You can still get pregnant until you’ve gone 12 straight months without a period.) While for many women hormonal birth control clears up their skin, it’s not a slam dunk. “It can also cause acne,” she says. Because there are so many different options out there, if you’re experiencing acne flare-ups, go ahead and talk to your doctor about trying something new. These surprising acne home remedies can help clear up your skin.

Your new skincare regimen isn’t working ... yet

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You bought a bunch of new products expecting an immediate improvement, but your investment doesn’t look like it's paying off. Here's why: It’s completely normal to continue to break out as skin goes through an adjustment period. “When you start a new regimen, it can take one to three months to see results. Some people give up after one week, but that’s not enough time,” says Dr. Peredo. Also, consider that you may not be doing enough. While a topical regimen may clear up some acne, breakouts are a multifactorial beast. You have to think about getting stress levels under control and sleeping enough (both of which can drive up inflammation in your body, bringing on breakouts)—not just slathering on cream and hoping for the best. Here are doctors' best tricks to get a better night's sleep.

Your makeup is too heavy

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It’s a natural reaction: You’re breaking out, so you slather on heavier makeup. In turn, skin can’t breathe (products plug pores and oil glands), bolstering bacteria and causing more breakouts. The cycle repeats until you have no choice but to put on more makeup to cover the red bumps. A dermatologist can work with you to break the habit. She may put you on a topical program, oral medication, or recommend treatments like microdermabrasion or laser resurfacing to correct acne scarring. Once you get acne under control, you won’t need to be heavy handed with the foundation or concealer. These are skin-care tips dermatologists use themselves.

It’s your hair

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If you regularly use a heavy pomade or conditioner or wash hair less often, the oil and grease from your scalp will travel onto your forehead. “If you see breakouts right by your hairline you can assume they're due to sprays or oily conditioner,” says Dr. Peredo. She tells her patients to switch to lighter products, wash their hair more frequently, or even change their go-to hairstyle to one that keeps hair off their face.

Blame your Bluetooth

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This one isn’t actually acne—but if you talk on a headset, you may notice an acne-like red cluster of bumps around your cheek and jawline. Having an allergy to metal, particularly nickel—is a common culprit. You may also notice a patch of irritation on your belly from a belt buckle or button from jeans. Even more surprising, says Dr. Peredo, “nickel is often added to gold, so patients will be confused when they notice a red patch around their ring finger. It may be time to get a new ring,” she says.

It’s the way you brush your teeth

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You can also react to additives, like fragrances, in your toothpaste. The result: a ring of redness around your mouth that looks like a breakout. Changing toothpaste brands is a logical first step, but Dr. Peredo also suggests dabbing petroleum jelly around your lips before you brush your teeth. It acts like a barrier that protects skin; just wash off when done. You have to see these other extraordinary uses for petroleum jelly.

It’s your supplement

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Trying to boost your protein intake? Protein shakes and bars can add more sugar and carbs to your diet than you realize. “Carbs turn into sugar when digested, causing inflammation that releases the stress hormone cortisol. This can affect your hormonal balance,” explains Dr. Peredo. The result: an acne breakout. If breakouts are new for you, consider whether the acne seems to accompany any changes in your diet. These are clear signs that you're eating too much sugar.

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