There are a number of hidden and innocent, major and minor reasons that cause acne breakouts.

These breakouts usually appear on the face or a localized part of the face such as the cheeks, the chin, the jaw, or around the mouth. They can also appear on the parts of the body such as the chest, back or neck, or even the scalp.

The causes of these acne breakouts on different parts of the body vary and range from hormonal changes to medications, misuse of beauty creams to use of wrong kinds of toothpaste.

There can even be time-bound reasons such as when you are undergoing stress or just before your menstrual period.

In addition, the breakouts may onset suddenly or in a gradual fashion. They may appear at a particular time such as before the periods in females or they may come on at random.

Causes of acne breakouts

There are various causes of acne breakouts in the body. The main reason is hormonal changes that occur during different times of life and this stands out as the main etiology.

Then, there are other reasons such as medications or the use of certain everyday objects, that trigger an outbreak in the different parts of the face and the body.

Hormonal causes 

The major cause of acne breakouts is the hormonal change that takes place during different periods in life or due to certain conditions that bring about this change.

Acne breakouts commonly occur during puberty and teenage and are the result of the hormonal changes that take place in the body during that period.

It is during puberty that the sebaceous glands in the skin come to life and start secreting sebum, an oily substance. This stimulation of the sebaceous glands is brought about by the male sex hormones, androgens, secreted by the adrenal glands at puberty in both males and females.

Androgens include the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is found in higher quantities in boys and girls during this adolescent period.

Our skin has a number of small pores and these pores are connected to the sebaceous glands. These sebaceous glands secrete the sebum through the pores onto the skin. The dead skin cells are also got rid of through these pores onto the skin.

It is during puberty that the level of the androgen hormone rises, which causes more secretion of sebum. The hormonal changes that take place in the body stimulate the sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum. Sebum is an oily substance and its additional secretion causes clogging of the skin pores.

Dead skin cells get trapped inside. Bacterial infection sets in. Propionibacterium acnes are the bacteria that live in the oily region of the skin’s pores. These bacteria can provoke an immune response, which causes acne to develop on the skin and present as red, swollen bumps.

This clogging of the skin pores gives rise to swelling and results in pimples. An outbreak of pimples is called acne.

Hormonal changes in the body rate as the top cause of sudden acne breakouts both in boys and girls during pub.

Certain medications

Certain medicines can trigger an acne breakout. You should avoid them if you have acne.

  • Steroids. Steroids, whether internal or topical can set off an acne breakout. Prednisolone is the oral form of the steroid, which is the main culprit. Overused and long-term topical steroid applications, which contain hydrocortisone can also cause acne breakouts. Though these steroids are essential for use in many medical conditions and emergencies, you could ask your doctor for a replacement.
  • Oral contraceptives. Other medications to watch out for are oral contraceptives, which are the most common medications causing acne breakouts. Though oral birth control pills are supposed to have the opposite effect, it could take up to six months for acne to appear due to the hormonal changes caused by these pills.
  • Lithium. Lithium and certain forms of iodine are some other medications that can cause an acne breakout.


You can suffer from physical stress and mental stress. Both these types of stress can cause acne breakouts of sudden onset.

Stress may not be a direct cause but it acts as a trigger. Both mental and physical stress stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete a hormone called cortisol. This causes a hormonal imbalance, which triggers an acne breakout suddenly.

Huffington Post mentions a study, which found an increased incidence of acne breakouts peaking in students around exam time.

What causes acne to break out on the face? 

Acne cosmetica is acne caused by the regular application of topical lotions, creams, and makeup on acne-prone areas. This acne is typically seen on the face, neck, and scalp.

Some people regularly apply oil and hair nourishing ointments to the hair. This gets onto the pillow while sleeping and rubs on your face. Either change the pillow cover every night or put a clean towel on the pillow to prevent these products from coming in contact with your face.

Makeup brushes collect leftover makeup, dust, bacteria, and yeast from your face and you should thoroughly clean them once a week. Else, they can cause infection in the hair follicle and result in folliculitis.

Causes of acne breakouts on chin, jaw, and around the mouth

Cell phones collect dirt and bacteria throughout the day. They are the cause of acne breakouts typically appearing on your chin and around the mouth. Prevent this by cleaning your cell phones every day with an alcohol-based cleanser.

Hormonal changes, too, cause acne to break out in these areas, especially the mouth, the jawline, and the neck. This breakout can appear suddenly.

Why does acne break out near the mouth?

Certain kinds of toothpaste that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can cause acne-type breakouts called perioral dermatitis.

These types of toothpaste also contain fluoride plus whitening and anti-cavity agents called sodium pyrophosphate, which can damage your skin and initiate a breakout.

Change your toothpaste and use one that does not contain sulfates. Secondly, after brushing rinse your mouth well and wash your face with warm water. Make it a habit.

The use of wrong cosmetic products such as lip balms and makeup products can also cause acne to break out around the mouth. Women who tend to sleep with their makeup on are also potential candidates to suffer from such acne.

The use of a lip balm can become addictive. That is because of the fragrance and flavorings added to it. You should avoid using this product or at best use a lip balm that contains only pure wax and without any addition of fragrance and flavorings.

Never sleep with your makeup on because it can clog your skin pores if the makeup is left overnight. Wash your face with warm water and soap well before going to sleep.

An exercise mat and exercise gear

If you exercise or do your yoga on an exercise mat, make sure you carry your own mat, which you clean regularly.

You could be putting your face on the side where your (or someone else’s) feet were the previous day. It will be better to put a clean towel on the mat before you start using the mat.

What causes acne to break out on the forehead?

Dandruff in the hair can trigger an acne breakout on the forehead. Make sure you wash your hair on alternate days with an anti-dandruff shampoo.

An oily scalp too can trigger an acne breakout on the forehead. Oil from the scalp can seep onto the forehead and clog the skin pores.

A habit of using a helmet or a cap can trigger an acne breakout on the forehead. These types of headgears can cause excessive sweating on the scalp, which can seep down on the forehead and clog the skin pores. Acne breakouts are then, a natural fallout

Why do acne breakouts occur before periods?

Again, the cause of acne breakouts before the onset of the period relates to hormonal changes in the body. Before the menstruation period, the hormone progesterone levels increase in the blood causing the increased secretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

Sebum is thick and oily in nature and can easily block the skin pores preventing the sebum and dead skin cells to be thrown out onto the skin surface. The skin pores get blocked and the sebaceous glands get swollen and inflamed resulting in acne breakouts.

Talk to your dermatologist and go prepared by reading this article on treatments to get rid of acne.  Another article educates you on how to treat acne vulgaris

What causes acne to break out during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is again, another instance of acne breakouts being caused by hormonal changes in the body. During pregnancy, there is an increased secretion of the hormones called androgens.

The increase in levels of androgens throughout pregnancy is for the maintenance of pregnancy and initiation of childbirth.

As explained above, high androgen levels increase the secretion of the oily sebum from the sebaceous glands and this can cause the skin pores to get blocked and the sebaceous glands to get swollen appearing on the skin as acne.

Pregnancy is a sensitive time and most drugs may be contraindicated. You could follow natural remedies to get rid of acne.