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Why Am I Breaking Out? 5 Causes of Stubborn Blemishes

You’ve followed your derm’s advice to a T, you’ve been watching your diet and drinking enough water. So why are you still breaking out?Scientifically speaking, acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged with your skin’s natural oils – aka sebum — and dead skin cells. Bacteria can also enter the pores, becoming trapped with the sebum and dead skin cells. The skin reacts with inflammation and redness as it tries to rid the clogged pore of bacteria and impurities and voilá, you’ve now officially arrived at Breakout Central.

The key to stopping pimples on your face is therefore to keep your skin calm and free of excess oil and impurities while encouraging a balanced microbiome, which is your skin’s best defense against acne-causing bacterial invaders. Of course, this is often easier said than done.

Here are five commonly-made skincare mistakes that can contribute to breakouts, and how to fix them.

1. Skipping the Double Cleanse

Cleansing once is good, but twice is better. A double cleanse that combines an oil-based cleanser with a gentle foaming face wash is like sweeping before you mop. When you skip the sweep, you end up pushing around all that dirt and grime instead of actually getting anything clean.

Starting with an oil-based cleanser  – such as our Antioxidant Cleansing Oil — dissolves dirt and makeup so it doesn’t find its way into your pores. Massage our Antioxidant Cleansing Oil into a dry face, then rinse with warm water to transform it into a silky, luxurious milky cleanser. Pat with a towel until your skin is almost dry, then follow with step two. 

Our Amino Aloe Gentle Cleanser is the ideal second step in your double cleanse. Formulated for all skin types, this satisfying foaming cleanser uses a  powerful amino acid complex to deep-clean pores while aloe calms and soothes and sugarcane-derived squalane delivers a burst of barrier-boosting moisture.

Your skin is left clean, hydrated, and free of pore-clogging debris.

Amino Aloe Gentle Cleanser + Antioxidant Oil Cleanser in sink

2. Your Toner Technique

Your skin is teeming with bacteria, many of which make up its microbiome. Your microbiota are your first defense against pathogenic microorganisms and environmental stressors. This is why most dermatologists recommend against antibacterial facial cleansers. When you wipe your skin clean of all bacteria, you eliminate one if its key defenses.This means you’ll likely still have a few acne-causing bacteria on your face after cleansing. If you have a healthy microbiome the good guys will likely take care of them before they can cause any problems.  Swiping the skin with your toner can spread those few bad bacteria, delivering them directly into your pores where they’ll feed on sebum and reproduce, potentially overpowering the good bacteria your body dispatches to do away with them.

Instead, try pressing toner into your skin with clean fingertips. This not only prevents you from spreading bacteria, it also helps deliver skincare actives — such as the pore-refining white willowbark extract in our BHA Pore Minimizing Toner — exactly where they’re needed.

Biossance Pore Toner

3. Overusing Acids

Clinically proven exfoliating acids are highly effective ingredients for refining uneven skin texture, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and visibly improving dark spots. They work by speeding cell turnover, dissolving dead skin, and revealing the fresh, healthy, even-toned skin cells underneath.Overusing acids can cause your skin cells to turn over too quickly, revealing vulnerable, immature cells and causing inflammation that traps bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum in your pores. Avoid layering acid skincare ingredients, and cycle in a lightweight hydrating serum every few days to flood skin with moisture without clogging pores. This hydration boost will plump skin cells and strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier, another key defense against acne-causing bacterial invaders.

Our Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum is an ideal addition to your serum wardrobe. Water-binding ectoin quenches and protects as hyaluronic and polyglutamic acids team up to flood skin with continuous, long-lasting moisture, instantly plumping skin. Meanwhile, cutting-edge copper peptides dramatically improve skin elasticity with regular use as our groundbreaking super ingredient, squalane delivers these skin-plumping, elasticity-boosting ingredients 40x deeper for increased and lasting efficacy.  

Copper Peptide Plumping Serum

4. You’re Using the Wrong Moisturizer

Oily, acne-prone skin is often dehydrated skin, as your pores pump out excess oil in an effort to protect parched and vulnerable skin cells. A light, non-comedogenic moisturizer is often the key to keeping oil production in check, as it locks in hydration without clogging pores.

Our advanced reformulatedProbiotic Gel Moisturizer goes a step further, quenching skin  while delivering innovative encapsulated probiotics to balance the microbiome and clarify breakouts. The weightless sugarcane-derived squalane oil in our Probiotic Gel Moisturizer is one of the few oils that people with congested, oily, or reactive skin can use as it can reduce redness and irritation without blocking pores. It mimics your body’s natural moisture, strengthening the moisture barrier, supporting your microbiome, and locking in hydration for healthy, balanced skin.

In consumer studies, 94 percent of participants reported visibly smaller pores after just one use, and 97 percent reported clearer skin after four weeks of use.Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

5. Anxiety + Stress

Cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones, including cortisol. Doctors theorize that higher levels of stress hormones prompt the skin to produce too much oil, clogging pores and leading to acne. Keep cortisol levels low by working out, meditating, or walking in nature. In a pinch, even a few deep breaths can make a big difference.

Christine Tusher
Christine Tusher Writer and expert
As a lifestyle writer and journalist, I love sharing my passion for ocean conservation and obsession with clean beauty. I’ve tried almost every trend and ingredient, and Biossance’s science-backed formulas are the only ones that consistently calm my reactive skin and make it smoother, clearer, and healthier. I’m so excited to be on this journey of skincare innovation with Biossance, and to share it with you!

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