Inspiration, Solutions & Expert Advice


Male Acne: What Causes Breakouts & How To Avoid & Treat Them

We all want clear skin when first impressions count. Whether it’s an unexpected flare-up, or acne that just won’t shift, achieve a healthy, blemish-free complexion with these top skincare tips!

Acne, breakouts, blemishes and pimples of some kind have affected all of us at some point in our lives. You thought you'd left it in your teenage years but sometimes it crops back up, and for others, they’re constantly battling flare-ups.   

 Despite what Instagram will have us believe, clear skin actually isn’t that common, but there are some tried and tested methods that could work to treat your adult acne, or even back acne (yes bacne!) to make way for a clear, blemish-free complexion.  

What causes male acne?

In short, it comes down to hormones, as Hollie Simpson, skin health expert and founder of Our Skin Academy, explains, “One of the main differences between female and male skin is that men produce higher levels of testosterone, which influences the sebaceous glands.”  

We naturally produce oil for normal skin functioning, but an increase in hormones causes men to produce excess oil which can lead to pores becoming clogged.  

She says, “Men can generally be more oily in the skin, which then increases the viscosity – this can lead to breakouts. And if it couldn’t get worse, bacteria from oiliness can then increase ‘P acnes’ bacteria.” This is a particular type of bacteria that feasts on oily skin and causes acne.  

Joyce Carslaw, founder of SmartAss Beauty, suggests some more lifestyle factors that can come into play too: “Sudden acne breakouts can be because of numerous reasons, including hormonal changes or hormonal imbalance, an unhealthy diet including lots of deep fried and junk food, alcohol, the release of cortisol hormones because of excessive stress, excessive production of sebum, the use of masks and much more.”  

Many of these mentioned actually influence each other to ultimately create a hormone imbalance. For example, sugary, processed or foods high in saturated fats cause your blood sugar levels to spike and the hormone insulin to rise to keep up with the fast digestion rate that is suddenly needed to digest these types of foods. As a result of this hormone increase, the body produces excess oil leading to clogged pores, whiteheads and blackheads.

What can you do to avoid acne?

Prevention is better than treatment, and a healthy lifestyle will help to future-proof your breakouts. As with most things in life, a flare-up or breakout is probably a response to something going on in your life. Switching up some lifestyle habits could help to fight future pimples and acne breakouts.

1. Develop a good cleansing routine

Carslaw says, “Cleanse your skin twice a day morning and evening. Be careful not to use harsh products packed with chemicals, as they will strip the skin's natural [protective] barrier, leading to a further increase of acne dermatitis and inflammation.” Over the course of the day, dirt, oil and pollution can build up and cause your pores to become blocked. Cleanse, tone and moisturize every morning and evening to keep your skin clean.

2. Allow Your Skin To Breathe

Sweat could be a key factor contributing to your acne. If you’re sweating and wearing tight clothing, dirt and dust can build up in refined spaces between your clothing and your skin. That’s why it’s best to remove any sweaty clothing and shower straight away. Looser, moisture-wicking, breathable clothing could also help in allowing your skin breathing room. Plus, a cold shower or cold blast at the end of your shower will also close your pores helping to block any bacteria from building up.

3. Exfoliate (with caution)

Experts are torn on whether exfoliating helps or exacerbates the problem. Exfoliating a couple of times per week could help to remove any excess dirt on the skin, but be careful if you have dry or sensitive skin because this could lead to excess dryness and your skin working hard to produce excess oil again, adding to the problem.  

Carslaw warns against excess exfoliation. “Overuse of exfoliators should be avoided. One of the biggest causes of outbreaks is due to the disruption of the skin's natural defense barrier, caused by over-exfoliation of too many active ingredients (skin layering) cuts, scrapes, bites, etc. 

4. Swap your razor for a beard trimmer

Carslaw continues, “When we shave, we are also removing dead skin cells, but repeated shaving over areas that have blemishes or abrasions can cause further outbreaks and irritation.”  

Ensuring that your razor is clean between each shave is vital for a healthy skin and beard too. Soaking it in rubbing alcohol beforehand can help to disinfect your razor of harmful bacteria. If shaving is causing more breakouts or abrasions, embracing the fuzz and switching to a beard trimmer could be your next port of call. 

5. Sleep for 8 hours & take time to destress

A restful night’s sleep is beneficial to keeping your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) at bay.  

Stress can cause your cortisol levels to increase, and you guessed it, this can cause your hormones to become out of whack resulting in excess oil production. Take time out to relax and do some breathing exercises, talk to a friend, write down your thoughts or take part in your favorite hobby.

6. Increase your heart rate and get outside

“Fresh air, and exercise, including some time outside every day,” is recommended by Carslaw. Daylight increases vitamin D levels, and we need vitamin D in order for our bodies to synthesise Vitamin C.” And why is Vitamin C important? As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it helps to protect, calm and boost immunity so your body can fight off any harmful bacteria. It works as a shield and boosts collagen production – the protein that creates plump, glowing skin. Fresh air and exercise also contribute to lower stress levels.


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7. Avoid unhealthy food, alcohol and smoking

They have all been proven to affect your hormone levels resulting in clogged pores and those pesky flare-ups. Simpson explains the benefits of incorporating particular foods in your diet to contribute to blemish-free skin. “Some salons influence the skin through diet as when you look at conditions that are hormonally driven, lifestyle changes should be taken into consideration. Keratinoid, orange-red pigment through red-based food i.e. carrots and tomatoes, will treat the issues internally. Zinc is also a beneficial ingredient that is great at fighting bacteria.”  

Foods that contain zinc include whole grains, beans, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, seafood like crab and lobster, dairy products, red meat, and chicken. Whole grains release energy slowly so they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels leading to unbalanced hormones (that cause excess oil production resulting in blocked pores and breakouts).


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8. Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated with 2-3L of water per day can keep your skin hydrated too. Hydrated skin means your body doesn’t need to produce excess oil to function normally. Feeding your body with proper nutrients fuels normal bodily functions. Carslaw adds, “Increase your intake of water as this will help to flush toxins for the digestive system, the kidneys and liver. The stomach is known as the second brain so good gut health and diet are important in skin health.”

Clear skin formula

Now you’re clued up on every natural anti-acne remedy out there, it’s time to put it to the test. If your acne isn’t clearing up after a number of weeks, it might be worth consulting your GP or dermatologist for expert advice.  

Tackling acne and breakouts is never easy; it takes patience and testing, but now you know the formula you can treat your skin (and body) the right way for a healthy, blemish-free complexion.