Five Acne Triggers That Could Be Causing Your Breakouts

man with acne

There are very few people who can say they’ve never had a breakout. In fact, acne can happen to anyone at any age. And it even has the seemingly magical ability to pop up at the most inconvenient times, like the night before a big presentation or your wedding photoshoot. 

But acne is not just an annoyance for teenagers. It can happen to adults as well. At Buckhead Dermatology, we understand the physical and emotional impact that moderate to severe acne can have on people of any age. Dr. Straughn has over 25 years of experience treating acne prone skin. She knows how to successfully treat the condition, resulting in beautiful, healthy skin. 

Part of any successful treatment plan includes understanding why your acne is occuring in the first place. There are so many different causes of acne that it can be very difficult to pinpoint just one. However, there are some common triggers that could be the cause of your breakouts. By understanding these triggers, you can take steps to avoid them and help prevent or reduce your breakouts.

What is Acne? 

Acne begins as a clogged pore. When things are working normally, dead skin cells are shed. Sometimes, the dead skin cells get stuck inside the pores, mixing with an oil called sebum, causing a clog. This clogged pore can trap bacteria which will multiply because of the conditions inside the pore. Trapped bacteria causes inflammation resulting in a pimple. 

While that is a simple explanation of a pimple, there’s so much more that goes into it. Patients that come to Buckhead Dermatology experience a wide variety of acne breakouts, from whiteheads and blackheads to nodules and pustules. While all are forms of acne, they require very different treatments. If you are suffering from acne breakouts that are more than just a pimple here and there, schedule an appointment at Buckhead Dermatology of Atlanta and College Park today. 

5 Acne Triggers


Hormonal acne is common among women who experience increased breakouts around their menstrual cycles. Hormones called androgens can increase oil production and contribute to clogged pores. While it may be difficult to control your hormones, there are still things you can do if you tend to breakout more before or after your menstrual cycle. 

Knowing that your skin is impacted by hormonal changes, you can take extra steps before and after this time to treat your skin. Some people find success with gentle peels or chemical exfoliation. Others find that avoiding harsh treatments during this time helps keep their skin calm. Working with your dermatologist, you can find the right combination of topical treatments and medications that work for you. 


There has been a great deal of research to understand how diet impacts our skin. Some reports say dairy and sugar are some of the biggest contributors to acne. Other reports seem to debunk this theory. No matter what, it is clear that what we put inside our bodies significantly contributes to our overall health and the appearance of our skin. A diet that is varied and full of nutritious foods will help provide your body with the building blocks it needs to maintain strong and healthy skin. 

Avoiding junk food, including highly-processed and high in sugar foods is recommended. If dairy products trigger breakouts, it is best to avoid these and replace them with non-dairy alternatives. Healthy eating has so many benefits besides those for your skin, that a proper diet should be a way of life.

Skin Care Products

Some people are surprised to find that the expensive skin care and makeup products that they purchase are actually the culprits behind their skin issues. Many products contain hidden oils, chemicals and other ingredients that can trigger sensitive skin, clogged pores or cause rashes and other negative reactions. It is vital that you read the ingredients in your products and that you choose those that specifically say non-comedogenic on the label. 

By reading labels and understanding the ingredients in your products, you can more easily track when your skin has a negative reaction to something found within the product. In addition to staying on top of what’s in your skin care products and makeup, be sure to keep your makeup application products clean, including your brushes and sponges. Washing them regularly in warm water with a gentle soap is enough to prevent a buildup of bacteria that can be transferred to your skin.


These days, people throw around the term stress like it’s no big deal. However, stress can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol that can increase oil production and promote clogged pores. In addition, people who feel stressed may overindulge in unhealthy foods, alcohol or other unhealthy behaviors that could wreak havoc on their skin. 

Others may find that stress makes them more likely to pick their skin which can lead to scarring, infection or more breakouts. If you are feeling stressed, assess the source of your stress and identify ways that you could decrease or eliminate it from your life. Take time away from those stressful triggers to take care of yourself. And be sure to focus on healthy habits such as a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and regular exercise to help combat the negative effects of stress hormones.


Certain medications can trigger acne breakouts. Steroids, for example, are one common medication that can be an acne trigger for many people. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor, talk with them about the potential side effects. If you know that acne breakouts may occur while taking the medication, you can consult with a dermatologist beforehand to get started on a treatment plan to help counteract those negative side effects. 

By understanding common triggers for acne breakouts, you can be proactive about beginning a treatment plan with your dermatologist. Do you live in the Atlanta area? Contact Dr. Straughn at Buckhead Dermatology today to schedule an appointment. She can help you understand your acne breakouts and provide you with an effective treatment plan to get you on the path to beautiful and healthy skin.