Oct 24, 2014

Clear Skin: The Cause of Breakouts & Tips

photo by me

We've all have had experiences with blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. No one wants them. 

I myself dealt with acne for years. At one point, my forehead was covered with angry and painful pimples, even my scalp wasn't spared. At that point, I was willing to do anything to achieve clearer skin. I've tried everything as well. I went for facials, I tried the blue light technology, I even tried changing my diet!  Dairy, nuts, and anything with a high glycemic index or oil content were all thrown out. Regardless of my efforts, I had minimal success. Oh and before you ask, yes I have tried loading the vitamins as well.

After countless trials and errors, I think I finally got it down on how to achieve clearer skin. I'm really excited on this new series because all these tips have really helped my skin over the years. Of course, I still get the occasional breakout, but everything is basically kept under control. 

So here is what is coming in the next few posts! Do stay tuned for :

Clear Skin : Exfoliation Is Key Part I ( Salicylic Acid) & II ( AHAs) 

Clear Skin: Treatments

Before we get down to business, I think it's important to first establish the two main causes of acne. They are what I call the environmental induced acne and genetically induced acne

 What I call 'genetically induced acne', usually involves painful cystic acne, usually found in the deeper layers of the skin. This is compared to what I call the 'environmentally induced ' ones that are usually found on the surface of the skin. Such cystic acne, like the name suggests, is generally genetic and inherited.

Thus, for those under the 'genetically induced acne' category, it is my observation that a dermatologist's intervention is usually necessary and that the drug isotretinoin ( used to be called Ro-accutane) have been proven most effective. It works at the genetic level to diminish the size and secretion of the sebaceous gland ( say bye to oily skin!). However, it is potent and in this case, I would advise those to seek a medical opinion on it if you're interested in it, especially before any deep scarring comes into play.

Truthfully, the former are much easier to self-treat due to the reasons already discussed, although the tips from this series may soothe the latter's skin aggravation as well.

So let's get rolling!

Starting with those easiest to combat:


This varies from individual to individual. Some products will break out on you while it may not for others. It's a lot of trail and error on this end. But don't dump away those products just yet! Keep the products, or at least the packaging, so that you can look for a common ingredient if such a situation were to happen again. 

On the other hand, your makeup and creams can break you out if you don't maintain a certain level of hygiene. Keeping it damp all the time or leaving the cap off for prolonged periods can contaminate your products with bacteria. Touching products without freshly cleaned hands or constantly touching your products to your face then to your product again isn't ideal as well. I know this might sound pretty obvious, but I personally know of many ladies who take this for granted. 

Tip for the cautious ladies: 

Apply desired amount of product on the back on your hand and use it as a palette. If possible, avoid direct contact with the tip of the product to avoid any contamination. Essentially, let the product 'drop' off the product bottle. The best way i've found is to apply pressure on to the tube and then quickly release. ( This is only applicable to products with tube, pump and dropper packagings. )

Also, take note of the expiry date on the labels behind every product. These are usually an estimation as to when they are more prone to bacteria.

The same goes for your makeup brushes as well. When dirty and contaminated brushes touch clean makeup, it becomes a bacteria disaster!


Those with oily scalp might transfer some hair grease on to the face. As much as possible, avoid direct contact with face and hair.

Additionally, some have sworn that hair products break them out. So avoid those shampoo trickles down the face during shower ladies!

Dead skin cells

This is not news to many of us. Dead skin cells can accumulate, and together with oil, they can clog pores. Hello, white heads and blackheads. 

Oily skin

This is no doubt the skin type most prone to any form of environmentally induced acne. Especially through the onset of puberty, pre-menstrual periods or pregnancy where hormone levels, like testosterone, can fluctuate, the sebaceous glands are likely to become more active and hence produce more oil. Like having a shiny face and enlarged pores isn't bad enough, the oil clogs your pores and leads to the next problem. 


The main bacteria causing acne is Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) which thrives in oil. They feed on the sebum you produce and multiply in the hair follicles where oxygen is scarce. There, they induce your immune response and thereafter leading to things like pimples. 

What I find scary about this is that many people's breakout are caused by bacteria without knowing it. Do stay tuned to the coming posts on products that kills these bacteria.

I learnt it the hard way. Once, I left my moisturiser uncapped throughout the whole day and continued using it anyway. I suffered the worst breakouts after that and my solution then was to go for more facials, eat clean and apply more treatments. Bad move. 

So after many painful lessons, I've learnt to be really hygienic when it comes to my oily acne-prone skin.

Here are my top tips to prevent transferring unnecessary bacteria onto your face! 

(Some may come off drastic, but these are what I do on my skin at least, as it is highly acne-prone.)

My top tips: 

1. Try not to touch your face unless it's with hands that have been immediately washed! 

Even if I have showered 5 minutes ago and I changed and opened the bathroom door, I would wash my hands again before I apply my products onto my face.

2. Air-dry your face and hands

Personally I don't trust towels and tissues unless it just came out of the dryer or in a new packet. I would frantically fan my face with my wet hands until it dries before carrying on my routine. Dramatic, I know. Arguably, some might say that there are bacteria in the air as well. Frankly, that is beyond my control and nothing I can do about.

3. Be vigilant! 

Always question the source of your breakout. It could be hormonal, food related or a contaminated product. Personally I found that consuming fried food and seaweed have made me more prone to breaking out. Find out yours and quick!

4. Sanitise your makeup and makeup brushes regularly

Like many busy ladies out there, I don't have time to wash my brushes as often as I should. 

So a quick alternative I use : Rubbing alcohol ( isopropyl alcohol 70-80%)

I have gossmakeupartist to thank for that tip. I would give my brushes a thorough wipe with a cotton pad and leave it to dry for about 7 minutes ( I do it before my morning routine in order not to waste time ). Of course, this does not replace the regular wash once a week or so. Additionally, I would regularly sanitise my makeup with it and leave them to dry. 
The best way I found to do so was to transfer the alcohol to a spray bottle and spray them over your makeup. I also have not found any issues with any changes in texture and this even worked on my cream blushers and bronzers.

5. Change your pillowcase regularly. 

It comes into direct contact with your face through the entire night! I think this point is self explanatory.

That's it for now, I do have so much more to share with you guys in the next few posts. So stay tuned and good luck!


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