The 4 Causes of Blemishes — And What You Can Do About Them Right Now

No matter the trigger or the type of breakout, your blemishes are dependent upon 4 underlying factors. Understanding these root causes — and making minor adjustments to your skincare routine as needed — can make a huge impact on your journey to clear skin.

Image of genes that contribute to acne according to Dr. Pimple Popper


While there is no one blemish gene, spots are strongly determined by genetics. Parents can pass on their skin type to their children, which can make them more susceptible to blemishes. Some families have a hereditary tendency to either overproduce sebum (oil), which can mix with bacteria in pores to create inflammatory acne, or to overproduce dead skin cells which can get clogged in pores.

In short, people who have skin that is conducive to blemishes will pass on this skin to their children who will also be more susceptible to breakouts. If a parent had bad blemishes as a child, their children will more likely have them, too.


Blemishes are created when dead skin cells get trapped within the sebum (natural oil) of our skin. Hormones, particularly androgens (read: testosterone), trigger increased sebum production in the skin which leads to increased breakouts.

For this reason, men tend to get blemishes mainly during the teenage years when hormones are spiking. Women can continue to break out well into their adult years, due to fluctuating hormone levels associated with their menstrual cycle.

Hormonal blemishes can appear anywhere on the body, and it typically flares up the week before or during your period. To keep your pores from getting clogged with excess oil and other impurities, use a gentle exfoliating cleanser like SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser followed by a treatment lotion like SLMD Skincare Sulfur Lotion, to control oil and further prevent blemishes.


You probably know there are consequences to UV exposure on the skin — but there are various other environmental stressors that can exacerbate your blemishes:

  • Air pollution can wreak havoc on the skin by increasing skin inflammation and triggering hyperpigmentation.
  • Environmental pollution also exposes the skin to free radicals, which contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, leading to sagging and wrinkles.
  • Water quality can also affect the skin. Hard water is known to cause dryness due to the presence of alkaline minerals. If you live in an area with hard water, consistent use of a moisturiser is key. SLMD Skincare Facial Moisturizer is a great oil-free option that combats dryness and contains antioxidants like vitamin C to keep your skin protected from environmental stressors.


Living a lifestyle that encourages skin health is more than just building a skincare regimen. Your overall health contributes to your skin health, so factors like stress, hygiene, diet, and heavy products can play a role in promoting blemishes.

Stress elevates cortisol and depresses your immune system — leading to a higher likelihood of breakouts and a decreased ability to heal inflammatory blemishes. On top of that, stress may cause you to pick at your skin, which usually worsens breakouts. Instead of popping your spots, use a spot treatment with salicylic acid to help heal and protect.

Maintaining good hygiene is a full body effort, and there are simple steps you can take to prevent breakouts. After you work out or perspire, try not to sit in sweaty clothes for too long. Sweat can make clothes occlusive, meaning they trap sweat, dirt and bacteria by binding to the skin. Try to shower off as soon as possible post-workout. To keep body skin clean, try SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Body Wash — an exfoliating gel-to-foam cleanser formulated with maximum strength salicylic acid.

In terms of your diet, dairy consumption has been linked to blemishes due the presence of additional hormones. A high-glycaemic diet—one with many refined carbohydrates, including sugar— rapidly raises your blood glucose and insulin levels and may lead to more frequent breakouts by causing inflammation and skin stiffness.

Salicylic Acid Cleanser, Sulfur Lotion, Retinol Serum, Facial Moisturizer Blemish-Prone Skin System SLMD Skincare

What are the best products for blemish-prone skin?

If your skin is prone to breakouts, your best bet is to choose formulations that are lightweight and non comedogenic — meaning they won’t clog pores. Much like your sweaty workout clothes, heavy products — like some makeup and sunscreens — can be occlusive. Mineral-based makeup and sunscreen are good options for blemish-prone or oily skin.

If your skin is dry and blemish prone, layer on SLMD Skincare Skin Drink — a hyaluronic acid serum that hydrates without clogging pores. And be sure to choose SPF and makeup formulations that are tailored for blemish prone skin.

If you don't know where to start in combating these factors, a simple regimen like SLMD Skincare Blemish-Prone Skin System is a great choice that will get you in the habit of taking care of your skin, morning and night — in just 3 easy steps!


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