What To Do When You Suddenly Break Out

by Olivia Cox November 21

Let me start by saying that I have always been pretty lucky with my skin. Yes, I had the occasional break-out – but that’s just it: occasional. Few and far between, lone little spots that disappeared quickly. I remember thinking how far-fetched it was on TV shows when the romantic lead would bail on a date because she’d woken up with bad skin. Surely it would fade by lunchtime?

I think I owned a couple of skincare products growing up (slash, used mum’s Clinique – the launch of a new gift-with-purchase at Peter Jones was always a good day at Chez Cox), but by the time I hit uni and had to make decisions based on student-math, make-up took priority. I vividly recall making the decision to take my Maybelline Dream Mousse foundation into the shower with me so I wouldn’t have to risk seeing anyone whilst bare-faced on the short walk back to my room (note: I didn’t take any moisturiser in with me. That camouflage went straight on my freshly cleansed skin). I lived with boys. It made sense at the time.

Back then, make-up was make-up; skincare was skincare. There was no real cross-over, so I was really throwing caution to the wind with my absolute nonchalance toward moisturiser. Yet somehow I got away with it.

Then, about half-way through this year, things changed. I started getting breakouts more regularly. And these weren’t like one lone little spot. These were clusters, angry-looking, and with outrageous staying power. Naturally, I upped the level of my foundation coverage, ignored the issue, and carried on. But when things didn’t get any better, I quizzed the a couple of facialists about where I was going wrong. Team Dermalogica sent me away with the promise to actually commit to an exfoliation schedule, and Regent’s Place Aesthetics’ SJ gave me a crash-course in salicylic acid. FYI – Salicylic acid is the golden ingredient in acne products – it gentle exfoliates whilst getting rid of excess sebum to prevent future breakouts.

I was also gently encouraged to wash my make-up brushes WAY more regularly than I had been. An entirely fair homework assignment.

Here’s what I’ve been using to get my skin back to feeling like my skin again


Reform Repair & Renew Gel – Combines exfoliating glycolic acid with mandelic acid, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help ease congestion.

Institut Esthederm Intensive Propolis & Amino Acids Purifying Cleansing Gel – The name’s a mouthful but 100% worth a few false starts at checkout. Unlike some salicylic cleansers, this one won’t dry-out surrounding skin thanks to antioxidant-rich Cellular Water Patent.

Opatra Synergie Marble Rose Quartz – At-home facial device with a super-handy blue light LED phase to cleanse & detoxify skin. Plus the Rose Quartz head helps stimulate blood circulation to improve oxygen and nutrient delivery where it’s needed most.

REN Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm – One of the big mistakes I made when I first broke-out was instantly stripping-back my skincare. Limiting the hydration I was feeding my skin seemed an obvious step, but actually it can be counter-productive as a weakened skin barrier is more susceptible to irritants, environmental aggressors, and subsequent breakouts. REN’s balm calms my skin while I sleep, making it better-able to deal with the day.

Murad Rapid Relief Sulfur Mask – This is a recent discovery of mine and absolute game-changer. A powerful combo of  bacteria-destroying sulfur, exfoliating salicylic acid and hydrating Austrian peat to instantly reduce oil. Great for eliminating shine as well as fighting (and preventing) break-outs.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator – Results-driven yet gentle enough for daily use, Daily Microfoliant is a rice-based powder that activates upon contact with water, releasing Papain, Salicylic Acid and Rice Enzymes to deeply cleanse skin and remove impurities. Colloidal Oatmeal and Allantoin also work to calm and sooth stressed skin.


Seoul Glow Facial at Regent’s Park Aesthetics – A 10-step facial that literally leaves skin looking as smooth and pure as glass. The treatment starts with a thorough cleanse, then cycles through steps including extraction, hydra-facial (the cult-favourite device that deep penetrate deep-cleans pores with painless suction), manual extraction, lymphatic drainage massage to encourage skin’s own elimination process, an enzyme peel, and LED light therapy. Resets stressed skin back to feeling manageable again – it’s like sending your skin to rehab.

Laser Clinics Richmond – A one-stop shop for skin, Laser Clinics offer bespoke consultation appointments to discuss exactly what skin needs, from hydra-facials and LED light therapy to injectables. The team is well-versed in skin concerns, able to provide solutions for problem skin.

Dr Deniz – With a strong surgical background, Dr Deniz is the skin specialist you want on speed-dial. Appointments begin with face-mapping to establish problem areas, before Dr D gets to work on bespoke treatment packages.


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