Decoding Skin Breakouts: What Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You

Carla Oates
Carla Oates The Beauty Chef Founder & CEO

As our body’s largest organ, the skin can be an excellent barometer of our health and wellbeing—with breakouts hinting at an internal imbalance. Beyond surface-level imperfections, however, blemishes can also serve as messages from the body’s complex communication system, revealing an intrinsic connection between skin and gut health and highlighting the importance of our diet and our gut microbiome. 

Here, we explore the role of the skin and delve into its dynamic relationship with our gut, aiming to decode its messages and uncover the essential role it plays in maintaining a balanced and thriving internal ecosystem.

Causes of Breakouts

A breakout—referring to the sudden appearance of multiple skin blemishes—can unfortunately have several causes. But the most common are hormonal fluctuations, gut imbalances, stress and skin irritations. Understanding these causes allows for targeted solutions to achieve clearer, healthier skin.

Changes in Hormones
Perhaps more than any other factor, fluctuations in our hormones can have a profound impact on skin health. This is exemplified during transitional periods that trigger hormonal changes, such as the onset of puberty or menopause and during menstruation and pregnancy. 

Most often, increased androgen production is to blame for the onset of acne. In simple terms, androgens are sex hormones that regulate the development and maintenance of male characteristics—the primary androgen being testosterone. And as far as how they impact our skin, androgens can stimulate the sebaceous glands, elevating oil secretion and increasing pore blockage and bacterial growth. This directly influences sebum buildup, skin cell turnover and inflammation, creating an environment that encourages breakouts. 

Gut Health

The digestive tract is lined with trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes—collectively known as the gut microbiome. An imbalanced gut microbiome, often stemming from poor dietary choices, lifestyle factors such as stress and exposure to pathogens in the environment can trigger systemic inflammation by allowing toxins to infiltrate the bloodstream. As a result, this inflammation heightens the release of pro-inflammatory molecules, potentially contributing to congested skin conditions. 

We know stress is bad for our mental wellbeing, but it can also wreak havoc on our skin as stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, increasing the likelihood of clogged pores and potentially triggering acne breakouts. Cortisol also promotes the release of pro-inflammatory signalling molecules, amplifying inflammation throughout the body—including the skin which can exacerbate  existing breakouts and contribute to skin irritation.

You can read more about the link between stress and congestion in our article, ‘An Expert On How Stress Can Show Up On Your Face’.

Skin Irritation

When the skin is irritated, it triggers an inflammatory response, promoting the release of cytokines and other proinflammatory factors—which can worsen existing congestion. 

Irritated skin may also compromise the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to pore blockages.

Face Mapping Your Breakouts

By examining pimple placement using face mapping, we can begin to better understand how specific breakout locations link to internal factors. For example, while forehead pimples may indicate digestive problems, cheek breakouts may be linked to respiratory issues. 

Understanding these correlations can empower individuals to address the root causes of their breakouts and uncover targeted strategies for a comprehensive and holistic approach that promotes overall skin health.

Forehead breakouts are often indicative of issues in the digestive system. Poor diet, dehydration and digestive conditions such as leaky gut and bacterial imbalances may contribute to breakouts in this area. 

The link between forehead pimples and gut health also emphasises the need for a balanced diet, adequate hydration and the implementation of inner beauty formulas containing pre, pro and postbiotics to help foster a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome.


Spots on the temples are typically linked to poor hair hygiene and the use of hair accessories or cosmetics that trap sweat and bacteria. Physiologically, the temples have also been associated with liver and gallbladder function in traditional Chinese medicine

Maintaining good hair hygiene, choosing non-comedogenic shampoo and conditioner and considering potential dietary changes (such as limiting alcohol consumption) may help address temple breakouts.

Cheek acne or breakouts localised in this area often relates to respiratory issues or an over-exposure to environmental pollutants. Smoking, allergies or poor air quality may contribute to cheek breakouts. By addressing environmental factors, supporting your overall lung health and adopting a clean skincare routine can be crucial in managing cheek breakouts  and promoting clearer skin in this area.

Chin & Jawline
Pimples along the chin and jawline are commonly caused by hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women—and can be stubborn to solve. Increased sebum production caused by excess androgens—common during certain phases of the menstrual cycle—can also contribute to breakouts in this area.But stress can also exacerbate hormonal fluctuations. 

This is why it’s so important to recognise the hormonal link between chin and jawline breakouts while implementing appropriate lifestyle changes and stress management techniques can help to address and prevent pimples popping up  across the lower face. 

Commonly co-occurring with temple spots, breakouts along the hairline often stem from oily hair, residue from hair products or friction from headwear. Buildup from the scalp can migrate to the forehead, leading to clogged pores and the formation of blemishes. Tight hairstyles and hats may also exacerbate acne by trapping sweat and bacteria. 

Loose hairstyles, proper hair hygiene and the use of non-comedogenic products can help prevent hairline pimples.

The nose contains numerous sebaceous glands and is thus prone to excess oil production. Poor skincare habits—such as infrequent cleansing—may allow oil and debris to accumulate, contributing to blackheads and pimples. But diet can also play a role, with a high intake of refined sugars potentially worsening nose spots. 

Adopting a consistent cleansing routine, maintaining a balanced diet and considering individual skin needs are essential for managing and preventing acne on the nose.

The Bottom Line: What Your Blemishes Mean

While breakouts may seem random, they often convey important messages about our internal health and wellbeing which is why understanding these triggers can be so helpful in determining the best strategy in your quest for for clearer skin. 

As we know, glowing skin is often an inside out process and unfortunately, it’s not a one size fits all approach. To discover the perfect personalised skin prescription for your skin—take our Your Remedy quiz and kickstart your journey to clearer, more radiant skin.

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