Allow me to be blunt for a moment: acne sucks. There’s just no other way around it. I remember getting my first pimple in middle school, and it’s been a whirlwind of acne cleansers, toners, dietary restricting, and wacky home remedies ever since.

I have learned a lot about acne in the ten plus years since my first breakout, including the fact that there is a lot of misinformation out there. I used to think, If I just cut chocolate out of my diet, then my skin will clear up. Or, If I invest in the top-shelf acne-fighting products, my breakouts will stop. Alas, it’s never quite as simple as that, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin like me.

sunscreen can cause breakouts

Wait a second! Before you apply sunscreen to your face this summer, keep in mind that it could trigger a breakout. Image: ashley via Flickr CC.

One of the things I’ve realized over time is that there are many things that affect the health of a person’s skin, and that breakouts can be caused by many, many different things. Here are a few of the sneakiest and surprising breakout culprits:

Sunscreen and sweat. This one is so, so hard for me to combat. On the one hand, my fair skin craves sunscreen in the summertime, but on the other, it does no favors for my acne-prone complexion. Sunscreen is incredibly important to wear, so skipping out on it altogether is not an option. Instead, be sure to opt for sunscreen brands that won’t clog your pores and are less greasy.

Your pillowcase. Think about it: your pillowcase is the place you lay your head upon every single night, so unless you take a shower and deep cleanse before bed religiously, it’s going to collect bacteria. This one feels like kind of a no-brainer, but it took me years to link one of the causes of my breakouts to my pillowcase. Just be sure to swap yours out for a clean one on a weekly basis, and this should help!

Dairy. A lover of cow’s milk, learning that dairy is linked to acne was kind of a devastating realization for me. Some scientists have linked skim milk (and its higher levels of the hormone dehydrotestosterone, or DHT) to increased oil production, which can lead to breakouts. Luckily, there are many non-dairy replacements out there, including almond and soy milk, both of which are pretty yummy.

Refinery29 recently published a list of 11 surprising culprits behind your breakouts, so be sure to head there for even more insights on achieving clear skin!