Does Bacteria Cause Acne? + 5 Tips to Avoid Breakouts

Does Bacteria Cause Acne? + 5 Tips to Avoid Breakouts

Some types of acne bacteria are present in virtually every human’s skin- not only those with acne.


Many people believe bacteria is the only cause of acne. With this mindset, they often fall for the idea that an antibiotic will kill the acne bacteria, causing acne to clear up. Although some find temporary relief after taking antibiotics, they often end up with unwelcome side effects, or no improvement in their skin at all.


Cutibacterium acnes (C. Acnes) is a bacteria that thrives in environments full of oil and debris, like hair follicles (or pores). Because of the bacteria’s ability to proliferate so well inside the pore, it has a role in the stimulation of inflammation and the formation of pustules, or pimples.

Bacteria like C. acnes can be reduced with my Clear Skin Boot Camp protocol and part of my focus is on reducing the “breeding ground” for bacteria in the skin. This is done by teaching you how to use acne-safe skin care and about lifestyle changes that reduce oil, dead skin buildup and other pore cloggers.

Something to keep in mind: C acnes bacteria is easily transmitted through skin contact. For this reason, it is important to avoid these common skin care mistakes that can spread acne bacteria:

1. Falling Asleep in Your Makeup

I know you’re probably exhausted by the end of the day… but the longer makeup sits, the more likely it is to mix with the oils in your skin and build up (along with bacteria) inside the pores. This causes premature aging and breakouts! On that note, be sure to clean your makeup brushes regularly- they can get pretty oily and covered in bacteria, too.

Instead: Use a Lush Makeup Removing Mitt (+water) to remove makeup- its quick and easy and so much better for your skin. (A microfiber cloth is already included in our new Lifestyle kits!)

PS. Don’t forget to check your makeup for pore-clogging ingredients!

2. Not Cleaning Your Phone

Think about those hours you spend chatting away on the phone with your boo or bestie- you put your phone directly on your cheek! Anything on your face will start to build up on your phone. Guess what happens when you get another phone call, later? All of that oil, dead skin and bacteria is going right back on your face. We don’t want that!

Instead: Use a device-safe solution to wipe down your phone after each phone call. I have a “cleanstation” cell sanitizer at Faces By Fern. Try it at your next facial appointment!

3. Mindlessly Touching Your Face or Picking

You’re bored, you see a mirror, you’re tired at work, you’re stressed… I get it. There are many scenarios where people find themselves picking and prodding, or simply resting or touching their skin. Like what we talked about with your phone, anything in contact with your skin adds to the spreading bacteria problem. Also, popping pimples especially proves to be problematic: it can cause a rupture and spread of bacteria underneath the skin, leading to more breakouts.

Instead: Keep your hands clean and off your face. Try to practice mindfulness and form habits to do other things with your hands during scenarios when you would previously be touching your skin.

4. Harsh Face Scrubs on Inflammatory Skin

Sugar exfoliants, salt buffers… apricot scrubs (~gasp~ I said it), whatever you’ve been scratching your skin with (Sorry, I guess I’m a little salty about this)… These mixtures are too rough for inflamed acne. They exfoliate too aggressively, causing more inflammation, spreading bacteria, and stimulating more oil to be produced (which will just feed the bacteria!) in the pores. Also, DIY scrubs aren’t better- no matter how cheap or easy they are to make.

Instead: Let me do the exfoliating for you with professional treatments of enzymes, peels, or other modalities that will be best suited for your skin type. I can also recommend professional products that are effective in giving you that smooth feel over time, without the harshness of a DIY physical scrub.

5. Sleeping on a Dirty Pillowcase

Before I sign off and head to bed, I’m reminded of the importance to regularly change my pillowcase. I think about not only the oil and bacteria, but also my hair product, (maybe a bit of cat hair, lol) and dust from the night before that has built up.

Instead: My face goes right on that fluffy rectangle, so I flip or change it, regularly. Especially for people prone to breakouts- replace your case, nightly! If you suffer from body acne, make a point to clean your entire sheets set, often.

PS. Ditch the detergents and softeners with pore-cloggers. And use my dryer sheets alternative (wool dryer balls! They are included in the Lifestyle Kits- Now available on the online store!) to avoid waxy buildup on your sheets.

*Thankful for the plethora of information provided by my esthetics training and to to inform this blog post.