“Don’t panic. Sometimes the environment can trigger these kinds of transient fluctuations,” says Dr. Garshick. “If your skin has been in a generally good place for three or four months and you have a week of a breakout, it may be somewhat under your control. You may be wearing a mask more often or you may be traveling and doing something on your own. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reset your entire skincare routine.”
But if it’s been a few months and things aren’t getting better, you may need to make some changes. Below, Dr. Garshick shares five of the main culprits behind worsening breakouts and reveals exactly what to do to get things back on track.
5 Reasons Your Acne Is Getting Worse
1. Something in your routine or environment changed
“Sometimes you may have incorporated new things into your skin that could be contributing to new irritation or sensitivity,” says Dr. Garshick. “So think about makeup, but also think about the environment. If you’re more active, you exercise, you sweat more, maybe your routine now requires something different.”
Higher temperatures can also have an impact on your skin. “Moisture wraps the skin in a layer of warmth and moisture, which causes pores to expand, increases oil production, and suffocates the skin,” Audrey Kunin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor, previously told Well. + Good. “This can lead to congestion or even a flare-up of blemishes.”
If any of this sounds like it might be the tactic, make sure you cleanse properly and get all of the day’s dirt off your skin.
2. The cause of your acne has changed
There are several different culprits that could be to blame for your breakouts: oil production, bacteria, and inflammation can all play a role, and each requires a different type of treatment. “It could be if you’re just using a retinoid, and all of a sudden you’re developing breakouts that are more caused by bacteria,” says Dr. Garshick.
Since retinoids may not be the best option for clearing up these types of breakouts (they work by normalizing the skin’s exfoliation cycle to remove dead skin cells, making them ideal for treating acne caused by clogged pores and inflammation), it may be time to change your routine. Benzoyl peroxide cleansers are a great replacement for bacteria-related acne, as they effectively cleanse propionibacterium acnes, the acne-causing bacteria known as P. Acne. Keep in mind that you can experience several different causes of acne at once, so it may take some trial and error to find a routine that works for you.
3. Your hormones are changing
In addition to the three causes listed above, Dr. Garshick says that hormones can also contribute to acne. This is because sebum production is driven by hormones, so changes in your hormones can cause breakouts to worsen. Did you just start or stop taking birth control? You are pregnant? If you think hormones are playing a role, talk to your doctor about trying solutions like spironolactone, a prescription hormone-based acne treatment, or DIM, a supplement that helps control hormonal oil production.
4. You are trying too much at once
“If your acne is getting worse, I wouldn’t start using multiple products at once,” says Dr. Garshick. “If you’re starting a new skincare product, make sure you only do it one at a time. Wait another three weeks, but don’t panic and try everything you see in the drugstore aisle. Make sure you be careful in your approach and only use one new thing at a time maybe start by introducing a new cleanser so for some people who are already using a prescription active ingredient and maybe a mild cleanser they may need a medicated cleanser along with that. But don’t use that plus a scrub and a toner at the same time.”
5. Time to see a dermatologist
If you haven’t talked to a professional yet and notice that your acne is getting worse, it’s probably time to visit a dermatologist. They can help guide you so you don’t waste your money on products that aren’t right for you and get you prescription products when you need them. Dr. Garshick says it’s best to stop, restart, and focus on what he’s using and head to a board-certified dermatologist.
Learn more about acne treatment from a derm:
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