ACNE SERIES 3: What causes acne and how do you prevent it?

Jan 16, 2023

Dealing with acne breakouts as a teenager or adult can get frustrating. At some point, attempting to achieve clear skin can feel exhausting and fruitless–but don’t give up yet. We’re here to help you on your journey.

We’ve discussed what acne is before so now we take the next step: getting rid of them and preventing future breakouts. To start, let’s answer the question “what causes acne?”

From allergies to wrong skincare or genes, finding out the specific cause can be tricky but it all boils down to clogged pores. Excess oil builds up in the pore lining, and when your pores can’t release this oil, it begins to clog. This mixes with dead skin and causes a thick waxy gob that allows acne-triggering substances to grow and result in a pimple.

How do I prevent my pores from clogging?

Begin by building up good skincare habits. Here are some useful tips that you can practice to get rid of acne.

1. Start with the basics–wash your face. The first step is making sure that your skin is clean and free from dirt and impurities.

It’s time to double cleanse, especially at night before going to bed. Adding this to your skincare routine lets you gently and thoroughly cleanse pores without drying your skin. Start with an oil cleanser to wash away excess sebum, makeup, and sunscreen.
For your second cleanse, use a water-based cleanser to get rid of sweat, dirt, debris, and other water-based impurities.
Still not convinced? We talk more about the magic of double cleansing here.
Choose gentle cleansers that are mild, fragrance-free, and hydrating. Stay clear of cleansers that contain harsh and irritating ingredients. Remember, dry and dehydrated skin will only lead to excess sebum and even more acne, plus irritated skin. Try to find a cleanser that balances between removing makeup and sunscreen, excess oil and other pore-clogging impurities–without leaving your skin stripped, dry, and tight. 
Daily use of cleansers with actives like BHA are also mild enough to be used daily, and as a wash-off cleanser, you don’t need to worry about over-exfoliating.
Wash, rinse, and rinse again. There’s a reason your skincare products tell you to rinse thoroughly. You may think you’ve washed all your cleansers off but you may have missed rinsing the little grooves and valleys in your skin–so be sure and rinse double!
2. Exfoliate on the regular using BHA (salicylic acid) or betaine salicylate to unclog pores.
BHA is oil soluble and can enter deep inside the pores, dissolving the nasties and everything else we don’t want clogging our pores. This helps your skin absorb other skincare products and manage acne bacteria in the skin, reducing and preventing future breakouts. BHAs also have natural skin calming and anti-inflammatory properties.
Be careful to exfoliate regularly but don’t overdo it. It’s recommended to use serums, ampoules or exfoliating liquids that may have higher BHA in their formulation two to three times a week as your leave-on treatment. However, keep in mind that different skin types have different reactions to BHAs–some may tolerate its use more than others. Make sure to listen to what YOUR skin needs.


3. Focus your skincare routine on preventing breakouts. A common mistake is waiting for a pimple to appear then applying spot treatments. For acne-prone skin, doing this can actually cause more damage. It’s better to incorporate acne-fighting and anti-inflammatory ingredients like salicylic acid/betaine salicylate, willow bark extract, tea tree oil, aloe vera, honey, propolis, green tea, centella asiatica, turmeric root extract, bamboo, cactus, and baking soda to your regular skincare. Remember, prevention is better than cure!

4. Moisturiser is your friend. Time to bust a myth: no, oily skin does NOT mean you can skip the moisturiser. You actually need to moisturise or else your skin will get even more oily. Dehydrated oily skin overcompensates the need for moisture by producing too much oil and sebum, leading to clogged pores.

For oily and acne prone skin, it is best to find a lightweight moisturiser like lotions, emulsions, and gels. Look for moisturisers with more hydrating and humectant ingredients–basically, ingredients that promote AND retain moisture.

When using moisturiser, make sure to apply thin layers–too much and you risk clogging your pores. Layering can also help you see if you moisturised enough.

5. Use sunscreen. Sun damage prevents your skin from healing, pushing your breakouts, blemishes, and acne scars to last longer. Find a lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen that does not clog your pores to protect your skin–it’s easy! Heavy, sticky sunscreens are now a thing of the past.

6. Avoid picking at your skin and touching your face. We get it, it’s a habit. However, popping or picking at your pimples will only make it worse and increase the chances of scarring and hyperpigmentation. Avoid touching your face with unclean hands–this only brings bacteria and dirt to your already sensitive pores. Break that habit now and start saying hello to clearer skin.

If you can’t avoid touching and picking at your face, you can also use a pimple patch to protect it from bacteria and help it heal.

7. Scale down your skincare routine during breakouts. We know it’s tempting to try every solution possible to quickly treat your acne, but that may irritate your skin more. During breakouts, keep it simple: Cleanse, moisturise, protect (SPF).

woman wearing bathrobe and towel

8. Do not workout with makeup on. This can worsen acne-prone adult skin. Wash off your makeup before heading out to the gym, and wash again after exercising to get out the sweat, oil, and other pore-clogging impurities.

9. Eat a healthy diet. Beauty starts within. Clear, glowing skin reflects a good diet and lifestyle. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and fiber for food and remember to stay hydrated. Support your skincare routine with a balanced diet.

10. Time to clean up. Keep everything that comes into contact with your face clean. Wash pillowcases, bedsheets, towels, and makeup brushes regularly. Remember that your face is as clean as the pillow it rests on at night.

11. Get enough sleep and rest. It’s called beauty rest for a reason. The key to having clear and healthy skin is getting plenty of sleep and relaxation. Say goodnight and goodbye to dull skin and acne breakouts!


Treating and preventing breakouts does not have to add to your everyday stress. Think of your skincare as a treat for yourself. Relax into the routine and watch as you slowly achieve clearer, healthier skin.

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