Ask the Skin Coach: Hidden Causes of Breakouts that will Surprise You

By Erin Bair, Licensed Esthetician + Certified Health Coach


Q: I’m very careful with the products I use on my face. I follow your recommendations for skin care and makeup, yet I have recently experienced a new wave of breakouts and I don’t know why. Help!



A: OK, let’s tackle some of the most common (and overlooked) possible reasons for your inexplicable breakouts.


The sneaky things that clog your skin

Here’s a rundown of some of the zit causing mistakes my clients are making without realizing it. Keep in mind that if you have a partner, the products they use on their skin, hair and laundry also carry the potential to break you out! If he’s touching you, his products are touching you too ;)


Hair products

Most hair products are terribly clogging, and practically everyone believes their hair doesn’t touch their face, so they don’t give it due credit. Make no mistake. Products such as creams, gels and sprays migrate to the face through sweat and movement, even if you’re completely diligent about not getting them on your skin during application. And leave-in conditioners, oils and styling products are absolute deal breakers if they contain clogging ingredients!


The trend to use coconut, argan and moroccan oil in the hair is wreaking havoc for the acne prone. If you feel you absolutely must use oil in your hair, switch to sunflower (NOT high-oleic) or squalane (NOT squalene) or jojoba. Liquid (fractionated) coconut oil is safe. If you’re a woman, this also applies to popular beard oil treatments that your partner might be using.


Hand and body products

Hand and body products can make their way to your face, so be sure to only use acne safe, non-clogging hand lotion and sanitizers and wash your hands with soap after applying any clogging moisturizers to, for instance, your legs and feet. I recommend Vanicream hand and body moisturizer. Typical gel sanitizers are terribly clogging, but the Burt’s Bees and Honest Co. sprays are acne safe.


Other stuff that touches your skin

Laundry products that contain fragrance, dyes and softeners will exacerbate your breakouts. Switch to a ‘free and clear’ type of detergent and absolutely do not use any type of liquid softener or dryer sheets, fragrance free, organic or otherwise...they all leave a waxy residue on the skin that’s known to clog pores. Fragrance and perfumes should be avoided if possible. If you’re not willing to forego it, then spray on an area of your clothing that doesn’t touch your skin.


Cold and flu season always brings more breakouts around the nose and mouth. Most tissues contain ‘softening’ pore cloggers. Use toilet paper instead.

Finally, lip balm should be non clogging, and use toothpaste free of SLS if you experience breakouts around your mouth.


So there you have it. The moral of the story? EVERY product that directly or indirectly comes in contact with your breakout-prone skin must be vetted as non clogging. Of course there are other factors that contribute to breakouts such as diet and supplements, prescription and recreational drugs, stress, and hormones...but all the stuff that touches your skin is a huge piece of the puzzle that cannot be taken lightly if you want to stay clear.



#skincare #breakouts #bodycare #haircare