External factors that could be aggravating your acne

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

When treating acne for my clients, one of the first things I will ask them to do, is to remove products that could potentially be clogging their skin and aggravating Retention Hyperkeratosis, in simple words, clogging their skin.

Retention Hyperkeratosis occurs when keratinocytes (skin cells) become sticky and don't shed as they normally would. This then leads to a keratinous plug that occludes the follicular opening and leads to the formation of a comedone (pimple or blackhead).

Just remember, the formation of a pimple either occurs from a blockage at the surface of the skin (as expressed above) or beneath the surface within the follicle. This is why, firstly we need to address blockages at the surface of your skin.

There are a multitude of things that cause blockages, including your own skin, more on that in another post, but for today, I wanted to make you aware of some of the products and ingredients that generally causes blockages at the surface of your skin.


Generally speaking, foundations and concealers that are 'full coverage' could be aggravating your acne. They do a fantastic job at covering acne and reducing the appearance of redness, however they are probably making your situation worse.

My advice is to simply opt for a lighter mineral foundation. If you are coming in to see me at the clinic, I can colour match your skin with a custom made Dermaviduals foundation that is acne safe or alternatively I recommend you to check out the makeup brand Jane Iredale. This can be a really simple switch and it will speed up the acne healing process.


When sweat drys up it actually crystallises because of the high salt content, this can cause a blockage at the surface of your skin. My advice is to plan your fitness routine well, and make sure you are cleansing straight after exercising or working up a sweat. This doesn't mean that you should cleanse several times per day, it just means that you should try to do either your morning or evening skincare routine shortly after working up a sweat. Trust me, this will make a big difference.

Occlusive skincare ingredients:

There are too many of these to list them all, but essentially some ingredients will have the ability to 'occlude' or close up the opening of your follicle which can sometimes lead to a blockage at the surface of your skin. These ingredients are sometimes referred to as comedogenic ingredients and some that come to mind are... mineral oils (paraffin oil, petrolatum etc), coconut oil, cocoa butter, and lanolin among many others. The products I prescribe for acne are free from these clogging ingredients and are completely acne safe.

Pollution and dirt:

Every single day you walk through almost invisible specs of dirt and pollution, especially if you work in the city or in a dusty environment. Throughout the day these particles land on your skin and build up on top of your skincare and makeup. Mix this with a little bit of sweat and the frequent touching of your skin, and you have a recipe for acne. I cannot stress this enough, you MUST cleanse your skin every single night and you must do it properly. I follow and recommend the double cleansing method, which means on the first cleanse you are removing dirt, pollution and makeup and then on the second you are removing sweat, sebum and anything else left on your skin.

Dirty linen, towels and makeup brushes:

You have heard it before. But souls, are you actually washing your makeup brushes after EVERY SINGLE USE? Probably not. Just think about all the dust and almost invisible particles that land on your makeup brush throughout the day, plus all the left over makeup that has been in contact with your skin and your makeup pallet. It's a bacteria heaven!

And then what about your pillow cases? Do you change this once a week or more? Do you sometimes skip cleansing at night? If you skip that evening cleanse you are effectively transferring all the dirt, pollution and makeup onto your clean pillow case for you to then spend the next 8 hours rubbing your face on. Just think about how gross that is, you don't want to do this if you have acne. For oilier skins (3% of the population) I recommend them to change their pillow cases every 2 - 3 days. For the rest of us, once a week is fine if you are cleansing every night.

Hair products:

Do you have a fringe or allow your hair to sit over and around your face? You have probably noticed that at the top of your hair line, you will tend to experience breakouts. This is because your hair actually produces a natural sebum, and just like your skin, it will hold onto dirt, pollution and anything else that you put onto it. Hair products such as leave on conditioners, hairspray, hair gels and hair serums can potentially be transferred from your hair and onto your skin throughout the day. My advice is to limit the amount of hair around your face and to just simply become aware of this. This one is very easy to address.

Touching your face:

Are you someone who leans on your hands throughout the day? Do you lay your face on the glass on public transport? Are you constantly holding your phone to your cheek to chat on the phone? Or do you mindlessly touch your skin to feel for any lumps or bumps? Just recently, we all learnt about the importance of hand hygiene to reduce the transfer of viruses and bacteria from your hands to your face. I am simply asking you to become conscious of your unconscious behaviours, you might be transferring bacteria to your face more frequently then you think.

Anything that is rubbing against your skin:

Did you know that friction on the surface of your skin can actually lead to the a blockage on the surface of your skin? The technical term for this is called 'Acne Mechanica' which is described as "local exacerbations due to pressure, friction, rubbing, squeezing, or stretching" which tend to cause acne lesions on the skin. One of the most common causes at the moment is the frequent use of a face mask, you not only do you have the mechanical friction occurring on your skin but you also have an excess in sweat build up underneath the mask. You may also experience this by picking your skin, rubbing your skin, wearing a helmet or hat, wearing tight clothes and synthetic fibres found in scarves and clothing.

That was a lot to think about and I hope you are feeling empowered with all that extra knowledge. The good news is that these can be easily removed from your life and replace with either better products or better habits.

Are you guilty of any of the above? In my life I have been guilty to all of the above, but now I know better, I do better.

Comment below to let me know what you scored out of 8. There's nothing to be guilty about! Your answer will help to make others feel normal and it will help you to realise how many of us who have made these mistakes in the past.

As always, I am here to guide you down a skin transformation journey and support you every step of the way.

With love and gratitude

Kathleen Klassman

Before and after - by Kathleen at Soul Awaken Skin Therapies

75 views0 comments