What’s Triggering Your Acne? Top Causes & Preventative Tips

October 13, 2020
What’s Triggering Your Acne? Top Causes & Preventative Tips

Acne Triggers

Acne is a skin condition that causes spots and pimples. While not dangerous, acne treatment is important for reducing scarring which can last a lifetime. In order to find effective solutions for long term skin health it is necessary to target the specific type of acne with the help of a board-certified dermatologist. Factors that may be triggering your acne include diet, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and certain medications.


Studies have found that skim milk and dairy products may worsen acne due to its high sugar content and the hormones cows make when pregnant. In addition to naturally occurring hormones, many female cows are given bovine growth hormones to increase milk output. This raises the production of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), a hormone that works similarly to insulin and in conjunction with growth hormone to stimulate cell growth. IGF-1 is released into the body upon consumption of dairy milk products. A regular level of IGF-1 is essential for cell health, but when levels spike too high it can lead to acne or more severe diseases including cancer. For more information on the connection between dairy and hormonal acne check out our recent blog post: Dairy and Hormonal Acne: Is There A Connection?

In addition to dairy, there is a connection between carbohydrates and a hyperglycemic (high sugar) diet with acne. When your body produces more insulin to bring down your blood sugar, it affects other hormones that boost the skin’s oil production.

Following a healthy diet may help prevent and treat acne. Low-glycemic foods including whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fresh fruits & vegetables may reduce the risk of acne flare-ups. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates, zinc, vitamins A & E, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation.

Hormonal Fluctuations

A rise in Androgen levels can cause the skin’s oil glands to grow. Enlarged glands produce more sebum, causing bacterial growth which leads to acne. Hormonal acne can be treated with over the counter products and topical medications. Dr. Zenovia’s Clear Complexion Collection is a complete acne complexion-correcting line consisting of five breakthrough products specifically curated to treat blemishes, balance sebum production, and help reduce the appearance of acne scarring while keeping the skin calm.

Dr. Zenovia’s products are the only dermatologist-developed topical, over the counter skincare products on the market scientifically formulated to address hormonal acne. Additionally, Dr. Zenovia’s products contain the first-ever, medical-grade technology clinically formulated to help address the appearance of hormonally impacted skin. The REG-ulate360 Complex™ includes a unique Phytoestrogen component to help balance hormonal fluctuations at the skin level. By regulating hormonal fluctuations at the skin level you experience fewer acne flare-ups.

Menstrual Cycle 

Hormone fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can also cause acne. Before your period starts, Estrogen and Progesterone levels drop, triggering the oil glands to produce more sebum which can result in clogged pores and breakouts. Toward the end of your period, Testosterone stimulates sebaceous gland sensitivity which can also result in acne. If you notice you tend to breakout before or during your menstrual cycle and over the counter treatments don’t seem to be helping, discuss prescription options with a board-certified dermatologist.


While stress cannot directly cause pimples, it can worsen acne. Under stress, our acne has a harder time healing and can increase in severity. Relaxation techniques including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and getting enough sleep each night can help. If your breakouts are severe, visit a board-certified dermatologist for a consultation.

Certain Medications

Some medications containing testosterone or lithium may be aggravating your acne. If you are experiencing acne breakouts and are on medication, discuss your options with your doctor or dermatologist. 

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