Why Does My Acne Get Worse In The Afternoon?

Oftentimes, we wake up and look at ourselves in the mirror. After a good night’s sleep, we feel rejuvenated, with plump skin, little redness, and flattened acne from our overnight acne treatments. However, throughout the day, both external and internal stressors can wreak havoc on the skin, causing it to look dull and lifeless as the day goes on. Why does this occur? 

Many variables including harsh cleansers, increased stress levels, damaging UV rays, and sweat and oil can contribute to your skin looking worse in the afternoon.

Why Does My Acne Look Worse After Washing My Face?

Before getting on with our day, most of us wake up and wash our face in the morning. Whether you use a face cleanser or you’re simply splashing your face with water, this is the first activity that causes your skin to temporarily look worse. Touching your face promotes blood flow to the area. Your skin will get red from massaging your cleanser into the skin. Even a quick splash of water can have an effect on the moisture of the skin – Contact with water leads to transepidermal water loss. This simply means that the water content in the skin is decreased because water is being pulled out of the skin. This temporary redness and decrease in moisture can make your skin look inflamed and dull. 

In addition, some people’s skin may be sensitive to the cleanser they are using. Foaming cleansers can contain harsh surfactants. These are cleansing agents that can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause irritation and redness. Two surfactants to avoid include sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laurate. These penetrate the skin, remove good proteins from the surface of the skin, and lead to dryness and redness. 

Another factor that can contribute to your skin looking worse after washing your face is hard water. Hard water contains minerals that can deposit in the surface of the skin and can affect the delicate pH balance of the skin. This can cause irritation. Skipping a morning face wash or using a water softening device can help prevent hard water from wreaking havoc on your skin. 

Why Is My Acne Flaring Up?

There are a number of reasons why your acne may be flaring up after you wake up and into the afternoon. For one, as you move throughout the day, the skin produces oil and sweat. This sebum causes the skin to look oily, dull, and greasy. This can cause your skin to become red. The sweat produced can get trapped by sebum and oil and may produce localized areas of redness and even small, rash-like bumps on the skin if not properly washed off at the end of the day. 

By the time the afternoon rolls around, you may have already experienced stress from daily activities and especially work. This stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”. It becomes elevated in stressful situations. When released, cortisol stimulates sebum production in the skin. Cortisol has a direct influence in increasing inflammation in the skin and body, leading to redness and a flustered look. This can cause acne to flare. 

In addition, as we move through the day, the skin loses moisture. The skincare products used in the morning begin to wear off, we wipe/touch our faces which removes moisture and spreads oil around. The skin becomes drier in the sun. This loss of water content in the skin can cause the skin to look dull.

Why Does My Acne Look Worse In The Sun?

While vitamin D from the sun is beneficial for overall physical and mental health, it is important to know the damaging effects of the sun on the skin. When the skin is exposed to the sun over a long period of time, erythema occurs. This is when the skin turns red and may even become dry, especially if the skin begins to burn without adequate sun protection. This makes the skin look inflamed and acne look worse.

Humidity generated from the sun’s heat and the moisture in the air tends to make the skin look oily. As sebum production increases, sweat also covers the skin which can cause irritation and redness. In addition, the sun’s UVA rays causes darkening of skin pigmentation which can begin to occur after intense sun exposure, causing the skin to look dull.

How Can I Prevent Breakouts During The Day?

There are a few ways to prevent breakouts during the day. For one, if you workout, try to work out first thing in the morning before your morning skincare routine or in the evening right before your evening skincare routine. This way, you can immediately wash your face afterwards and prep your skin to avoid breakouts from the sweat. If you workout in the middle of the day, washing your face more than twice a day can cause your skin barrier to become damaged and dry your skin out, leading to more breakouts.

Secondly, focus on moisturizing and soothing the skin barrier in your morning routine. This means using adequate moisturizer and sunscreen every morning. In addition, you can incorporate a gentle treatment in your morning skincare routine. You can use either a sulfur cleanser or benzoyl peroxide cleanser in the morning, which can both treat acne effectively without having to leave them on throughout the day, which causes the skin to dry out. Since these get washed off, there is less chance of irritation. 

Finally, try to reduce stress levels as much as possible. This will help to balance cortisol levels and reduce inflammation in the body and therefore, in the skin. This often involves lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising a few times per week. Your skin will thank you!

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