Which Healthy Habits Can Actually Cause Acne?

Which Healthy Habits Can Actually Cause Acne?

You work out, eat healthy, use organic and clean beauty products, and put time and energy into taking care of your skin, but you still struggle with acne. How can it be possible? 

How is it that even though you make healthy habits a priority, you haven't been able to fully get rid of breakouts for good? Here are some everyday healthy habits that could actually be causing your acne despite putting all your efforts into healthy practices and self-care.

5 Healthy habits that cause cause acne:

1. Using Clean/Organic Beauty Products

It feels safe to use "natural' or "clean beauty" products. Clean, natural, and organic skincare offers security that ingredients within them won't leave any damage. However, what's been discovered is that the terms "clean" and "natural" and even "organic" only suggest the product is free from synthetic chemicals that may be linked to health problems or irritation from fragrance, dyes, and parabens. (Source 1)

The terms clean, organic, and natural in the cosmetic industry don't necessarily mean safer or better. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program, the organic label on cosmetics and skincare is granted if the ingredients are from agricultural materials; only then can it be certified organic. In addition, for a cosmetic product to receive the USDA Organic Seal, the ingredients must be 95-100 percent organic components farmed or created without chemicals, herbicides, or pesticides. (Sources 1 & 2)

Although it's safe to say that clean and organic products, especially those with the official organic label, are free of controversial and toxic ingredients, using these products is a healthy habit that can actually cause acne. Clean, natural, and organic products often contain pore-clogging filler agents heavy oils that may trigger acne or breakouts. (Source 3)

Just because an organic or natural beauty product is free of toxic or controversial contents doesn't mean they too are free of ingredients that can clog pores or cause acne. These products are often loaded with pore-clogging ingredients, even the "natural" and "clean" beauty products. The world of organic and clean beauty products is marketed and designed for normal skin types, not necessarily for acne-prone skin. (Source 4)

Many of these pore-clogging ingredients are, in fact, all-natural. But it's important to drive home the labels "natural" and "organic" do not necessarily mean "acne-safe."

Clean beauty still contains natural pore-cloggers like algae, seaweed, coconut oil, and shea butter, to name a few. For example, organic coconut oil will just result in organic pimples. The experts at CLEARSTEM Skincare have developed a detailed guide to help you discern between what natural and organic contents will keep your skin safe from dreaded breakouts.

So here is your new skin bible; check all hair, makeup, lotions, and facial products to make sure they don't contain these ingredients so you can avoid future breakouts!

2. Taking Supplements

Taking mineral or nutrient-packed supplements is a great way to keep healthy, boost your immune system and raise energy levels. However, nutritionists and skin experts have recently noticed a link between some supplements and how they may worsen problems like adult acne. Here is just another healthy habit that can cause acne. It's important to note that not all supplements fall under this category. The four leading supplements most influential in triggering hormonal acne are excessive amounts of Vitamin D, B12, Biotin, and Zinc. (Source 5) 

Vitamin D

Studies have shown that vitamin D and testosterone levels increase when people spend most of their time in the sun. Another year-long study shows that for those who take vitamin D supplements, specifically 3,300 IU of vitamin D per day, their vitamin D levels doubled, which we know raises testosterone levels as a result. (Sources 6 & 7)

San Diego Acne Clinic experts say as many as seven out of ten new patients they see have hormonal acne due to the excessive levels of vitamin D in their supplements. We know that vitamin D boosts testosterone, the primary hormone that triggers hormonal acne.  

A standard daily multivitamin contains around 250 percent of the daily requirements. In comparison, vitamin D supplements quite often have 400-500 percent. So if we aren't considering the amount you're already ingesting for your multivitamin, that's 2.5X – 5X what you should get in a single day! 

Vitamin B12

Recent studies now show that too much vitamin B12 can cause acne. How does this happen? Scientists discovered that vitamin B12 alters the skin bacteria gene, responsible for causing inflammation and acne. In fact, one out of ten subjects developed pimples a week after receiving vitamin B12 injections within a recent study. The San Diego Acne Clinic coincidentally also saw a massive surge in acne when B12 shots became more popular. (Source 8) 


Biotin is the 3rd vitamin that causes acne to worsen because it makes us produce even more keratin protein which contributes to clogged pores. In addition, biotin is considered a micronutrient that can impair the body's absorption of other nutrients. These include nutrients that assist the body's ability to fight breakouts. (Source 9) 


Ingesting excessive amounts of zinc is linked to heightened testosterone production. Although it's simple to achieve the necessary amounts of zinc needed in meat-based diets, some people opt to take zinc in supplement form instead or in addition to their standard zinc consumption through their diet. Zinc is found naturally in foods like oysters, crabs, and lobsters, which is why people refer to oysters as an aphrodisiac. Ever wonder why oysters make people frisky? It goes back to the zinc content in oysters. (Source 10)

3. Working Out

Is exercising bad? Of course not, but it's another healthy habit that can lead to acne. Therefore, it's essential to evaluate your current stress levels and what type of exercise you participate in. 

Sometimes, specific activities can worsen pre-existing cortisol imbalances, especially if you already live a stressful life and exercise at the end of the day or at very high intensities. Cortisol levels rise when you overwork. For example, cortisol levels rise during 45 minutes of high-intensity exercise, which can trigger breakouts if done too often. (Sources 11,12 &13 ) 

Because active and healthy people often have busy lifestyles, it can result in sitting in sweaty workout clothes and not being able to shower right away, which leads to body acne. This is why most personal fitness trainers and pro athletes get a ton of body acne, and these are some of the sexiest people on earth! 

While showering and using an acne-safe shampoo & conditioner after working out or sweating is optimal for keeping breakouts at bay, especially body acne, it's not always an option. Choosing breathable workout clothing that isn't too tight is ideal for preventing body acne. 

If sweat is stuck under non-breathable fabrics, it can lead to more breakouts. Just the same if your workout clothing is too tight, it can cause friction and trap in sweat and bacteria, causing acne. Wicking or performance materials are best for any physical activity as they are breathable fabrics that also absorb moisture, pulling it away from the skin. (Source 14) 

Another great practice is wiping down exercise equipment you use in your own home personally or any shared equipment. Any workout equipment that isn't adequately washed can contain acne-inducing bacteria. Lastly, it's important to remember to wash all workout clothing that we may overlook, such as hats or headbands, as they can hold and absorb bacteria, resulting in unwanted breakouts. (Source 14) 

Drinking protein shakes is another healthy habit that you may be surprised to hear can trigger acne. Whey and soy protein shakes both contribute to destroying your skin, and here's why: Whey protein is linked to spiking testosterone in your body, increasing sebum production. Sebum is a waxy oil produced by our glands that, when overproduced, causes clogged pores leading to breakouts. (Sources 15 & 16) 

PRO TIP: Be extra sure to splash your sweat off right when you’re done exercising to prevent blackheads.

4. Drinking Caffeine

It's totally healthy to keep busy and have a thriving personal and professional life, and drinking caffeine in moderation is generally safe; however, oftentimes, go-getters elect to have several servings of caffeine throughout the day. Although caffeine makes you feel energized and alert, it induces an elevated stress response. 

As a result, the amount of oil produced by your sebaceous glands may increase stress hormones like cortisol leading to more clogged pores and acne breakouts. In addition, large amounts of caffeine, mainly when consumed in the evening, can certainly negatively impact your quality of sleep, which directly affects increasing stress levels and can exacerbate acne. (Source 17) 

Some energy drinks or shots in today's market boast high doses of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. One of the most well-known energy shot companies claims that it can make you feel invigorated and alert for long stretches of time. On its label, it states it contains over 20,000 percent of the daily value of vitamin B12. Since vitamin B12 is linked to raising testosterone levels, this can directly trigger breakouts in acne-prone skin. It's no wonder why individuals who consume these drinks may have issues controlling breakouts. (Sources 18 & 19)

5. Keeping Busy

It's healthy to be physically and mentally active. The issue lies when there becomes an unhealthy work/life balance. For example, are you always on the go and find it difficult to relax? Or don't have the time to relax because of a jam-packed schedule? If we become so busy that we create stress in our life, it can throw off our entire system making us more vulnerable to breakouts. 

Whether you're in the process of finishing up school, receiving a promotion at work, starting a new business, becoming a new parent, or if you have a physically and mentally demanding profession in general; you can relate to the endless hours of work and the internal and external pressures that come with a busy lifestyle. It's essential to be mindful of balance when considering a healthy amount of business in your life to keep lifestyle stress in check.

In Conclusion 

We're explaining this, not to cause you more stress but instead to give you a major shout-out. We recognize you're doing it all, actively focusing on your health, taking the time to exercise, and taking care of your body, all while crushing it in your personal and professional lives. 

We feel you, we hear you, and we see you. We are you! Incessantly doing what you've been told is the best way to take care of yourself. But, in reality, some of those same proactive steps that you're taking to maintain success and optimal health are actually doing the exact opposite—completely backfiring and creating more unnecessary skin issues. We are here to help you continue living your best, most healthy, and successful life. CLEARSTEM for the win!


Source 1: What Are 'Natural' Skin-Care Products and Are They Actually Better for You https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-beauty/what-are-natural-skin-care-products-are-they-better-you/

Source 2: I Used Only Organic Skin Care For a Month and Broke Out — Here's Why https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/photo-gallery/45217895/image/45227698/What-Does-Organic-Really-Mean

Source 3: Organic Skin Care and Acne https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/photo-gallery/45217895/image/45227697/Organic-Skin-Care-Acne

Source 4: Is Natural Skincare Causing Your Acne?https://skinutritious.com/blogs/articles/is-natural-skincare-causing-your-acne

Source 5: Are Your Vitamins & Supplements Making You Break Out?https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/protein-supplements-vitamins-acne-breakouts

Source 6: The 8 Best Supplements to Boost Testosterone Levels https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-testosterone-booster-supplements#1.-D-Aspartic-Acid

Source 7: Vitamin D increases testosterone production https://sciencenews.dk/en/vitamin-d-increases-testosterone-production

Source 8: Too Much Vitamin B12 Linked to Acne https://www.livescience.com/51338-vitamin-b12-linked-acne-bacteria.html

Source 9: Can Biotin Cause Acne? https://thedermatologyclinic.com/can-biotin-cause-acne/

Source 10: Want Optimal Testosterone Levels? Eat More Of This https://barbend.com/zinc-supplements-for-testosterone/

Source 11: The Link Between Cortisol and Exercise https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/high-cortisol-levels-exercise-stress

Source 12: Is It Better to Work Out In the Morning or at Night https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/hwhcCDkxkWT5W0AvXcRqArm?domain=shape.com

Source 13: Working Out and Acne https://naturopathicbeauty.com/does-working-out-help-acne/

Source 14: 7 Ways to Prevent and Heal Workout-Related Breakouts https://www.byrdie.com/workout-acne-5184406

Source 15: Wait—Does Whey Protein Powder Cause Breakouts?https://www.byrdie.com/whey-protein-breakouts-5115362

Source 16: Does Coffee Cause Acne?https://www.healthline.com/health/does-coffee-cause-acne

Source 17: Does Coffee Cause Acne?https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/can-vitamin-b12-really-give-you-an-energy-boost

Source 18: Can vitamin B12 really give you an energy boost?https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/can-vitamin-b12-really-give-you-an-energy-boost

Source 19: Why Is Vitamin B Complex Important, and Where Do I Get It?https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/vitamin-b-complex#benefits