We’re officially calling time on constantly touching our faces.
I have two telltale spots that pop up each and every month without fail. Situated around my nose, the spots return time and time again to tell me my period is on her way. Swollen, throbbing, under-the-skin type pimples, they’re the precursor to a couple of days spent hugging my hot water bottle and pleading for sugar, dairy and ibuprofen. As for my sister, her recurring spots appear on her chin – a sign of excess stress and not enough sleep.
For a lot of people, these persistent spots have come to mean different things, either a warning sign of what’s to come or an effect of a change occurring in the body.
Often anecdotal (my friends have various reasons for their recurring spots: diet, sleep, exercise, hormones, medication and pollution being the big-hitters), I decided to speak to an expert to find an answer to the question we all ask: why do I always get spots in the same place and what can I do about it? Surprisingly, there were three possible common reasons for our persistent pimples. Read on.
1. Skin damage
“Some areas are prone to spots because there are more pores and sweat glands, such as the T zone,” explains Dr Qian Xu, founder and medical director at Skin Aesthetics. “Some people’s spots can be related to mask-wearing, so they tend to be found in the lower face, while hormonal spots tend to appear on the cheeks and jawline.
“If the spots do not heal properly, the skin remains inflamed and is more prone to getting another spot. This is why it is very important to find and address the causes of the spots, otherwise they will keep appearing and will eventually scar the skin.”
2. Unconcious face touching
Not that we needed more reasons to stop touching our faces but it can also be one of the main reasons you see the same spots sprouting up month after month.
“Many people touch their faces a lot without realising. Our hands are full of bacteria, and when we touch our skin, this bacteria can be transferred to our faces,” says Dr Xu.
“When the skin is healthy and the barrier function is good, this is not a big deal. However, people tend to touch areas with existing spots or recent spots. In these areas, there is already inflammation in the skin, which means that it is prone to further spots. Recurring spots in the same area can lead to chronic inflammation and scarring.”
3. Hormonal changes
“Hormones and genetics do play a big part. These factors determine the distribution of your sweat glands and how active they are. It’s very common for acne to start in teenagers because of the hormonal changes that happen during puberty. The hormonal changes tend to make the sebaceous glands more active. This, combined with the fact that teenagers do not usually have a solid skincare routine or even a skincare routine at all, can lead to these sebaceous glands becoming clogged, inflamed and even infected, resulting in the big spots filled with pus,” says Dr Xu.
“For many women, the appearance of spots also tends to coincide with their monthly cycles, which is also hormone-driven. Commencing HRT can also bring out spots in some older women.”
So, what can you do to treat and heal recurring spots?
As Dr Xu says, skin that undergoes recurrent spots and pimples can become inflamed and damaged over time, leading, unfortunately, to more spots. One way to help damaged or inflamed skin heal is by improving the healthy barrier function of your skin, incorporating antioxidants (like vitamin C and vitamin E to aid the healing process and protect against further damage) and, of course, wearing SPF every single day.
If you find your regular spots are a consequence of congested skin, regular exfoliation (there are gentle options for sensitive or reactive skin), will help to clear out pores and slough away dead skin that can cause spots to pop up.
For active spots, I like to put a pimple patch or sticker (ZitSticka, Starface and Hyperfade are my go-tos) on to treat the inflammation and, hopefully, reduce scarring. It also creates a barrier that stops me from repeatedly picking at the skin.
Main image: Getty