13 Sneaky Habits That Can Cause Acne
Article Published by: glamour.com
You cleanse, you moisturize, and you even slap on a mask (semi) regularly. So what is causing your acne? It could be one of these unexpected reasons.
In a world where skin care is self-care, we’re investing more time and money into taking care of our complexions than ever. We double-cleanse, mask religiously, and never hesitate to try the latest and greatest new thing promising flawless skin. And yet despite all our care and effort, acne strikes again. Unfortunately, the root of pimples isn’t always clear—hormones, genetics, and our environment can all be factors.
That being said, there definitely are things you can control to help cut down on breakouts. The catch? Most of them are habits you probably don’t even know you’re doing. Knowledge is power, so we talked to experts about the sneaky things you do that could be making your acne worse. Read on for the 13 habits that might be triggering your acne.
We touch our phones over 2,000 times a day, and bacteria and dirt from your fingers can build up on your screen, causing breakouts around your chin, cheeks, and mouth. To keep your screen clear, give it a daily rubdown with an antibacterial wipe, says David Bank, M.D., founder and director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York. Or switch to making calls using headphones to avoid contact with your phone at all.
Whether you fly coach or first class, there’s no escaping the dry air on a plane. When your skin is parched, the dehydrated cells build up and retain oil, which can leave you with an unwanted souvenir—acne. To prevent a postflight breakout, apply a hydrating serum before you board, and use a mild exfoliator after you land. “The serum will bring moisture deep into your skin, and the scrub will remove the surface cells that accumulated during your flight,” Dr. Bank says.
Your Makeup Brushes
Brush bristles are a magnet for bacteria, dirt, and oil. Unless you clean your brushes religiously, it’s likely they are contributing to your breakouts. “After every use, wipe the brush down with a makeup-remover wipe,” says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist who works in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. “Then wash your makeup brushes weekly—this includes the little ones in your compacts.” Soak your tools in a mixture of warm water and gentle shampoo, then rinse and let them air-dry on a paper towel.
Overscrubbing Your Face
“A common mistake I see in my office is overuse of a cleansing brush,”says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. “People see initial improvement, and then they start using it every day—or even twice a day. Their skin gets worse because excess exfoliation causes inflammation and swelling of clogged pores.” The safest strategy: Limit exfoliation (with a gadget or a manual scrub) to no more than twice per week, or use a gentle acid daily.
Your Yoga Mat
Even if you bring your own yoga mat to class, there’s a good chance it’s harboring bacteria, oil, and sweat, all top causes of acne. Try swiping your mat with a cleansing wipe, like Jo-Sha Yoga Mat Wipes, and always bring a clean towel as a barrier between your face and the mat.
You know how by 4:00 P.M. your eyes are glazed over and you’re propping your head up with your hands to not pass out at your desk? Yeah, that might be an acne trigger. “Most of us do it without noticing, but touching your face is a common cause of breakouts around your chin and jawline because you are bringing bacteria to your skin, as well as applying pressure to it,” says Dr. Bank. So hands off! That goes for squeezing pimples and picking at scabs too—that’ll only make breakouts worse.
Your Hair Products
“Many thick, greasy hair products like pomades and gels are chock-full of ingredients that can drip onto your skin and clog pores.” says Dr. Bank. “If you’ve noticed breakouts along your hairline, neck, and back, there’s a chance it could be from your products.” To avoid this, take the time to thoroughly rinse conditioner off your body in the shower, shield your face before you apply styling or conditioning sprays, and don’t apply oils and serums to bangs or layers of hair that graze your face.
“I’ve seen patients whose skin clears up significantly within a couple of weeks when they stop consuming dairy,” says Dr. Wu. “Dairy can aggravate acne because it can stimulate oil glands and increase clogged pores. Cow’s milk contains hormones that can interact with your skin as well as influence your body’s own hormones.” If you do decide to switch to a pizza-free lifestyle, be sure to load up on calcium-rich foods like kale, broccoli, almonds, and white beans to compensate. And of course, talk to your doctor before significantly changing your diet.
Sweat and friction from your gym clothes can cause a blockage to your sweat glands. The result? Acne on your chest and back. To avoid the problem, Dr. Shamban suggests wearing breathable, quick-drying fabrics with a looser fit. She also recommends sprinkling on a bit of body powder before you put on your exercise gear to help reduce friction, and taking a shower right after you work out. Another effective step: Swipe a salicylic acid toner (try Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner) onto your chest and back once a week.
No doubt the importance of using sunscreen has been deeply ingrained into your brain by now, but there’s just one little problem: It’s common for some sunscreens to clog your pores. It’s the ultimate beauty catch-22, but the solution is simple. Switch to a nongreasy, noncomedogenic formula like Laroche-Posay Anthelios SPF 50.
We can all agree that doing laundry is the worst, but let the fact that it’s a beauty secret motivate you. Dirty pillowcases hang on to surface germs, oils, sweat, and residue from hair products, which can all lead to acne. To stop your sweet dreams from turning into a skin nightmare, try to wash your pillowcases (or swap them for a fresh set) once a week.
Your Stress Levels
We’re all busy as hell these days, so take this with a grain of salt, but stress definitely has an effect on your skin. When you’re under stress, you produce more cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone, which kicks oil production into high gear. Try to create an effective strategy for coping with stress (it’ll benefit your mental health as well), including catching up on your sleep, exercising, and practicing self-care—whatever that means to you.
Your Bike Helmet
While exercise is great for your skin, the straps on your bike helmet are a common cause of acne mechanica, which is caused by friction, heat, or constant pressure, says Dr. Shamban. Before and after a bike ride, use an antibacterial wipe to give the straps a good cleaning—your face will thank you.
ABOUT IFFIE OKORONKWO, M.D.
Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.
Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.