What triggers a breakout? Quite a few things.

But first, let me remind you that genetic acne is caused by disorders of the sebaceous gland and excessive shedding of skin cells, if you have an acneic skn type (inherited). This is persistent and more severe acne that begins in puberty.

You can get acne without having an acneic skin type. This kind of acne is a skin condition that can affect anyone – from occasional breakouts to ongoing breakouts.

Breakouts can be triggered and exacerbated by any number of factors. A major one is hormones.


Hormonal changes – As I discussed in my first post, the male hormone testosterone stimulates the oil glands. More testosterone leads to more sebum in the pores. What can increase testosterone? Any change in your hormonal balance. Hormone levels are affected by stress, the monthly menstrual cycle, birth control pill usage, pregnancy, menopause, and  a change in season. Hormonal acne typically appears on the chin and jawline. Regular breakouts on the chin around the monthly cycle is very common.

Stress – Stress causes hormonal changes and increases sebum production. It also increases inflammation, decreases immunity, and reduces the skin’s antimicrobial defenses. All of these changes make acne worse but they do not actually cause acne.

Comedogenic ingredients in makeup and skin care products – Some cosmetic ingredients can block pores, preventing sebum from flowing out and allowing skin cells to build up inside pores. Trapped sebum and cells are ripe conditions for a plug. Be aware that even if your skin care products are not comedogenic, comedogenic ingredients are widespread in makeup. Here is a list of comedogenic ingredients.


Friction – Rubbing or touching the face, pressure from talking on the phone, and wearing hats or tight clothing exacerbate acne.

Heat – Prolonged heat, whether from a hot shower or time in the sun, swells the skin, which can irritate pores.

Humidity – A humid, moist climate or sweating can also irritate pores.

Season changes – Hormones change with the seasons so you may find your breakouts worse in certain months (like summer).

Sugary Foods and Dairy – Sugar and milk can increase male hormones (androgens), which stimulate the sebaceous (oil) glands.

Foods with excess iodides – Excess iodides in salt, MSG, and ocean minerals are thought to irritate pores. Examples: cheese, snack chips, fast food, packaged & processed foods, and seaweed.

Medications – Certain drugs can trigger breakouts, but this is not common.