Things you Didn’t Realise Were Causing Your Acne

We’ve all been there

Whether you’re a teenager or in your late twenties, we all suffer from acne at some point in our lives. It can wreak havoc on our confidence, but we’re here to tell you that there is a way out.

There are a myriad of causes when it comes to acne, the trick is finding the one responsible for yours. It could be due to bodily functions, such as hormones, or something as simple as washing your bedding more often. Whatever the cause, you can make simple changes to your lifestyle which can leave you with the crystal clear skin of your dreams. 


It’s not just about the external, it’s also about what we put into our bodies. Diet can affect our skin in many different ways. An overall healthy balanced diet, full of lots of fruits and vegetable, low in greasy and fatty foods and with a focus on staying hydrated, is best for our skin. Certain foods can also trigger acne, however, can be notorious for triggering acne.

In order to find out what works best for you, and what foods trigger your acne, you will need to try eliminating certain foods from your diet. It’s all about the process of elimination. Among some of these common acne-causing foods are:

  • Dairy products
  • Chocolate, and other sugary sweets
  • High glycemic carbohydrates
    • According to Healthline, these are carbohydrates which cause a large spike in your production of insulin. Excess insulin can make your oil glands produce more oil, thus increasing your chances of having acne.
    • Foods to avoid here are: pasta, white rice, white bread and sugar.
  • Saturated and trans fats
    • These are foods such as cakes, crisps, fatty meats (sausages, bacon, salamis), butter, and cheese.

For many people, the main culprits of acne are the Three C’s: Chocolate, Chips and Cheese. Try decreasing your intake of these foods, and you may see a large improvement to your skin. It’s difficult, we know, especially if you’re a dedicated fan of the 3 C’s. 

Some foods, however, can be very beneficial to your skin. These include:

Huda Beauty
  • Foods high in zinc
    • Among these are: pumpkin seeds, quinoa and lentils, beef, turkey, cashews and certain seafoods.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • These are most commonly found in oily fish and eggs, but can also be taken as a supplement.
    • A study found that people who took a daily omega-3 supplement saw a decrease in acne and improved mental health.
  • Foods high in vitamin E
    • These include: orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and leafy greens, peanuts and peanut butter.
  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
    • These are essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados. 

BBC Good Food has an excellent guide to eating your way to gorgeous skin. 

Pillows and Bedding

Our faces spend a very large proportion of their lives smushed up against our pillows and tucked under our duvets, so we need to make sure they’re not harboring acne-causing bacteria and dirt.

It is recommended, by Laura Bowater, that you wash your pillowcases and duvet covers at least once a week. She says: ‘Dry sheets and pillowcases in direct sunlight if you can, as UV light is effective in killing micro-organisms. Run a hot iron over pillowcases on the cotton setting (200c) to kill any leftover bacteria.’

If you find yourself going to bed with makeup on after a big night out, or letting your hair get particular greasy, consider washing your pillowcases more often. Or a good tip is to put a large clean t-shirt over your pillow if you want to keep both your pillow and your face clean.

Your pillowcase can also cause friction with your face, which can irritate it and cause acne. Consider investing in a satin pillowcase, which will also do wonders for your hair. 

Satin Pillowcase



Your choice of makeup products, and the tools you apply them with, can have a huge impact on the quality of your skin. If you’re using products high in oil, they can clog your pores and cause acne.

For foundation, you will need to find one that works with your skin type, whether it’s dry, oily or a combination. It is also wise to find a mineral-based foundation with skincare properties, as these will not only prevent acne but also help treat it. Melanie Rud suggests these foundations for acne-prone skin.


If your acne flares up around your period, it’s likely you’re suffering from hormonal acne. If this is the case, it is worth paying a visit to the doctor to discuss contraceptive options that could help with your acne. Many women see their skin clearing up after taking the contraceptive pill.

Touching your Face

Touching your face and picking at spots is a huge no-no for acne sufferers. Picking at our faces, or sitting with our heads in our hands, is a habit we all fall victim to at some point. And, unless you have pristinely clean hands at all times, which nobody does, it’s gonna put you at risk of getting acne.

Try and be more aware of what you’re putting your face in contact with. If you have a lot of phone calls, make sure you regular disinfect your phone with a disinfectant wipe, as this can gather bacteria scarily quickly. 


Hands up who’s had stress come in and mess them up (both bodily and mentally) at some point in their lives. It’s an inevitable part of living in this chaotic world. There are things we can do, however, to help prevent it from taking over our lives and our skin.

How to reduce stress and it’s effects:

  • Writing down your thoughts
    • When we have a lot on our minds, a really good thing to do is write it all down. It instantly helps you to feel a bit lighter and to organize your thoughts. 
  • Take care of your skin
    • Even if it’s just a makeup wipe at the end of the day. It’ll also make you feel a bit nicer. 
  • Exercise
    • This one doesn’t just help to reduce and manage stress, but can also help to treat your acne. 
    • And, this one doesn’t have to be some intense sweaty workout everyday, but just some light yoga or a walk can make all the difference. 
  • Manage your time with your mental health in mind
    • This means learning to say no. You don’t have to go to every occasion you’re asked to or pick up that overtime at work. You are allowed to prioritise your health and happiness. 

When we are stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase oil production in the glands in our skin. When you are stressed, you may see an increase in oil on your face. In this case, you could look for skincare products specifically designed for oily skin types. 

Harsh Skincare Products

The first thing to do when determining the right skincare products for you is finding out your skin type. The three types are oily, dry and combination. In order to find out which one you have, take a piece of blotting paper (you can find them in any drugstore) and pat it on different areas of your face. If there is little to no oil on the sheet, then you most likely have a dry skin type. If there is some oil from mainly the T zone areas (the nose and forehead) then you have combination skin. If the paper is saturated with oil then you have an oily skin type. 

If you have an oily skin type, try using water-based products. If you have dry skin, use more moisturising products. If you’re lucky enough to have combination skin, then just use good quality gentle products. 

Sometimes the simplest of skin care routines is what’s needed. No more smothering our faces in some sort of mysterious zit treatment we found at Boots!

Lack of Sleep

Sleep is crucial to our overall health. Not only will it reduce stress, but also the quality of our skin.

When we sleep, our skin has time to repair itself, which is also why a good night time moisturiser is an effective purchase for acne sufferers. When we don’t get enough sleep, our cortisol levels are especially high which encourages oil production.

How to make sure you get your Z’s:

  • Stay off the phone before bed
  • Try supplements such as Kalms (Valerian Root)
  • Aromatherapy
    • Lavender is the best for this
  • If nothing seems to work for you, talk to your doctor as you may be suffering from insomnia

You haven’t found the right treatment for you 

Sometimes these remedies don’t always work. And when it gets to that point the only thing to do is pay a visit to your GP and get some professional treatment. There are a wide range of medications that can help, so don’t lose hope because all acne is treatable. 

Photo Credit: Sofia Grahn

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Tags: acne, skincare

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Hannah Johnstone
A beauty writer with a passion for hand creams and crocodile clips. ‘Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself’ - Coco Chanel
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