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When and why acne won’t clear

acne split face images

Table of Contents

Why acne won’t clear is the question we have when it seems we’ve been battling acne breakouts forever.

Have you tried everything to get rid of your acne, but it just won’t go away?

Or worse, that anti-acne routine that cleared your skin for the past few months stopped working and the breakouts are now back with a vengeance?

It’s like you’re cursed or something…

What if we told you you’re inadvertently doing something that’s sabotaging all your best efforts to clear acne?

It’s not your fault. A lot of the anti-acne advice out there is misleading, contradictory, or just plain wrong.

The good news is that once you understand what’s sabotaging your anti-acne efforts, you can clear acne once and for all.

Here are some reasons why your acne won’t go away – and what to do about them:

Is it really acne?

If you have acne that just won’t go away, you may want to take a closer look at your skin. It’s possible that you don’t have acne. Other skin conditions can look a lot like acne.

When acne won’t clear, this can also be a sign of something serious going on inside your body. To see clearer skin, you’ll need to get that serious condition under control first.

You’ll find descriptions of such skin conditions below:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women who have PCOS often have acne. They usually have other signs of a hormone problem, such as hair loss on their head, noticeable hair growth on their face, or an area of skin that starts to darken and sometimes thicken;
  • Rosacea. The acne-like breakouts usually appear where you have redness on your face. The redness may come and go or be permanent. The skin on your face tends to be very sensitive. It may sting or burn;
woman with skin condition
  • Keratosis pilaris. Unlike pimples, these bumps feel rough and usually appear on dry skin. You’ll usually see them on your upper arms and on the front of your thighs. You may notice that family members also have these bumps.
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). You have pimple-like bumps or deep acne-like cysts in places where skin touches skin, such as the underarm, groin, buttocks, or upper thighs. Women can also get these underneath their breasts;
  • Perioral dermatitis. You have a breakout that looks like many small pimples, but it develops only around the mouth. The skin may burn or itch.
  • Chloracne. It is very rare. If it develops, you’ll likely see blackheads. These can form on the temples, cheekbones, and elsewhere on the body. You may see whiteheads, nodules, or straw-colored cysts on the face and elsewhere. Some people have blisters. Most people with chloracne feel very sick.

If your acne resembles any of these, seeing a specialist can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

What causes acne?

You Don’t Know What Causes Your Acne?

You know what they say: knowing your enemy is half the battle won.

This is true in the fight against acne, too. If you don’t know what the root cause of your acne is, how can you treat it? Throw everything at it and hope something works? That’s more likely to make things worse.

On the surface, the cause of acne is simple:

  1. Your sebaceous glands go into overdrive and pump up way more sebum (oil) than your skin needs.
  2. This excess oil gets stuck in your pores, where it mixes with dead cells and other impurities, forming clogs.
  3. These clogs get infected with bacteria (P. Acnes loves excess sebum), giving you acne.

Hormones play a huge role here. Testosterone is the worst culprit. When it’s out of balance, it triggers an overproduction of sebum that eventually leads to acne. But insulin and many others can contribute to it, too.

If your acne won’t clear, you likely have a hormonal imbalance. This is different for every person. You’ll need to see a doctor to understand exactly what’s going on in your skin.

In the meantime, you can avoid common triggers that cause your hormones to react, like a diet rich in sugar, dairy, and processed foods, and chronic stress.

Were you going through a stressful period at work? Did you eat an irregular diet because you were too busy to cook healthy meals?

Keeping a log will help you identify the triggers to avoid, to keep acne at bay.

Is your diet good for acne?

Treating acne is an inside job.

Sure, skincare plays a part. As long as you use the right anti-acne ingredients. But skincare can’t do it all.

No matter how good your skincare products are. If you keep eatings foods that trigger acne, they won’t be able to clear it fast enough. The acne will just keep coming back again. And again. And again.

Every person is different. What triggers acne in one person may do no harm to someone else (unfair, we know). But there are some foods that are more likely to trigger acne than others.

You guessed it, they’re all the usual culprits: dairy, sugar, and processed foods. The less of them you eat, the better for your skin.

Do you have a good skincare routine for your acne?

Using a new acne product every few days may seem useful, but that approach can worsen acne. Acne treatment needs time to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts.

If a treatment works for you, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. It can take two to three months or longer to see acne clearing.

If you notice improvement, keep using the treatment. Even when you see clearing, you’ll want to keep using the acne treatment. This helps to prevent new breakouts.

f you don’t see improvement after 4 to 6 weeks, add a second acne product to your treatment plan.

This approach can help attack the different causes of acne. Bacteria, clogged pores, oil, and inflammation can all be the reason acne won’t clear.

Of course, the second treatment should attack a different cause of acne. For example, if you are using an acne treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, the second acne treatment should contain another acne-fighting ingredient. To help you select another product, here’s what the different active ingredients work on:

  • Benzoyl peroxide decreases P. acnes bacteria,
  • Retinol is one of the best, it unclogs pores and reduces oiliness,
  • Salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores.

You can get acne treatment that contains any one of these ingredients online or at a store. You don’t need a prescription.

Using skincare products that make acne worse

Are you using any of the skincare products below?

  • Anything high in oils
  • Essential oils
  • High pH-cleansers
  • Peel-off masks
  • Scrubs

Stop! They’re making your acne worse.

Oils are normally moisturising, but when your skin already produces too much of it, that’s the last thing it needs. You’re basically feeding acne bacteria!

Essential oils are irritating and can cause inflammation. Guess what acne is? An inflammatory disease!

Everything else disrupts the skin’s protective barrier, leaving your skin more prone to inflammation and irritations. You’re making your skin a more comfortable place for P.Acnes to live in. Of course, acne won’t clear!

Overusing your skincare products

So, you’ve finally got rid of all the irritating products in your stash and replaced them with tried and tested actives that can clear acne.

Great! Just don’t go overboard now. I know you want to throw everything at your acne to get rid of it ASAP. But in skincare, less is always more.

Washing your face more than twice a day, exfoliating daily all spell trouble for your skin.

In moderation, these products help you fight acne. When abused, they disrupt the skin’s protective barrier, causing inflammation, and creating the perfect environment for P.Acnes to thrive.

Acne-prone skin needs tender loving care. Use actives in moderation, be gentle, and do nothing that causes inflammation. Your skin will heal much faster.

woman with acne and magnifying glass


Your acne won’t go away? Figure out your triggers, switch to an acne-free diet, and make sure you use skincare products that kill P.Acnes. Your skin will thank you and your acne will disappear for good.

With today’s acne treatments and a specialist’s expertise, virtually every case of acne can be cleared. In our clinic we can tailor a treatment plan for your unique needs. We also offer skincare consultations to help you create the best skincare routine for your acne!


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