It’s happened to all of us. We drink loads of water, wash our face religiously, take off every speck of makeup at night, keep our health in check, sleep for 8 hours, take our vitamin and mineral supplements… basically, do every single thing to prevent acne.
Yet, those horrid zits keep cropping up over our faces, back and other assorted body parts. So, what’s one to do? A lot, it seems, as experts identify powerful hidden culprits that wreak havoc on our skin while seeming absolutely harmless.
The acne trigger: Skipping moisturizer
People with acne tend to skip the moisturizer, thinking it will make skin greasy and have them breaking out even more. In fact, it’s the opposite: When skin becomes too parched, it kicks into oil-production overdrive to compensate for surface dryness.
The acne trigger: Water
Dehydration is bad for skin but in a Catch-22, so is the wrong kind of water. Hard water, which has a high concentration of minerals, doesn’t rinse away soap effectively. And the leftover residue can clog pores, leading to acne bumps.
What to Do: Install a water softener at home (there are excellent ones for under $50). And when you are out and about, use pre-moistened cloths instead of a rinse-off cleanser.
The Trigger: Toothpaste
Those small, red bumps around your mouth may not be acne at all. Rather, it could be perioral dermatitis – a skin condition that comes about as a reaction to certain ingredients in toothpaste. Fluoride and whitening agents are the most common offenders.
What to do: Switch to a fluoride-free, non-whitening paste and avoid acne products – they can be too harsh on irritated skin.
The acne trigger: Your man
His stubble may look hot but it causes serious friction that can inflame skin, leading to a breakout. Your man is smooth faced? Then check for fragrance-heavy aftershaves or colognes.
What to do: Gift him a nice razor and a fragrance-free aftershave.
The acne trigger: Your hair
Do you use any products to keep your hair frizz-free, voluminous and healthy? Most of these contain silicone-based polymers that are good for your strands but bad for your skin. And when you sweat, wash your hair or have it brush against the skin, small amounts of these polymers can be transferred from strands to skin, acting like shrink wrap to block the pores. Result? Breakouts – particularly on your forehead and back. An oily scalp makes matters worse. Oil glands feed acne-causing bacteria, which then end up on your neck and forehead.
What to do: Rinse your hair and then put it up in a clip while you wash your back; on extra-warm days, keep hair up and out of your face with a headband; tie hair in a loose bun or pony while sleeping; and swipe skin near the hairline with a salicylic acid pad twice a day to keep pores clear.
The acne trigger: Your cellphone
Think about it: your phones go everywhere with you. Literally, everywhere. Then think about where all you put them down and all the germs they accumulate. Add in the fact that you use your hands to operate them all the time. One big, nasty germ-fest, anyone? Now think about how every time you talk on one of them, you’re pressing all this grime and germs against your skin? Basically, you’ve just applied a film of filth on your face. Yuck!
What to do: Wipe your phone daily with a hand sanitizer or disinfectant.
The acne trigger: Your birth control
Uh, doesn’t the pill clear up skin? Oftentimes, yes. But everyone’s estrogen and progesterone balance is unique, which means hormonal birth control affects different women in different ways. Unfortunately, for a fair proportion, it brings on some nasty acne instead.
What to do: Ask your gyno for a new pill. And since everyone’s different, you will have to experiment. But give it a few cycles: switching too soon puts you back at square one.
The acne trigger: Your latte
While the medical community remains divided over the dairy-acne connection, research does suggest that the proteins and peptides in cow’s milk increase the production of an acne-promoting hormone called IGF-1. It also increases the production of insulin, which further works on androgens to increase oil and plug pores.
What to do: To find out if dairy is the culprit, quit cold turkey for 3-6 months. Try an almond latte instead (it’s yummy!).
The acne trigger: Sun exposure
It’s generally believed that sun exposure dries up oil and makes zits less noticeable but it’s really a deal with the devil. That’s because when skin tans, it also thickens to protect itself. Consequence? Blocked pores, which are the forerunners to acne.
What to Do: Wear an oil-free lotion with a physical UV blocker, like micronized zinc oxide, which actually helps lessen flare-ups.
The acne trigger: Your workout routine
It’s not just tight fitting clothes and sweat that clog pores and bring on the acne; your workout routine itself may be the problem. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, New York based dermatologist and author of The Clear Skin Prescription, explains that lifting weights causes the body to release more testosterone, which can also contribute to breakouts.
What to do: Switch to yoga and other forms of moderate exercise. Plus, load up on an anti-inflammatory diet heavy on cold water fish, beans and low glycemic fruits and vegetables.
The acne trigger: Your pillowcase
Your pillowcase collects all kinds of crud – from conditioner residue and hair oils to sweat and body grime – that can clog the pores on your face over time.
What to do: Dermatologists recommend changing your pillowcase at least once a week. More, if you’re acne-prone.
The acne trigger: Stress
Stress spurs the release of cortisol (“the stress hormone”), which can make the cells inside a pore “sticky” and more prone to getting clogged.
What to do: Relax!
The acne trigger: Big plans
Sometimes, your body can misread even excitement (vacation! graduation! promotion!) for stress and affect skin the same way: pores clog, your immune system freaks out and you get a mammoth pimple.
What to do: Pop 200 milligrams of ibuprofen to help calm inflammation. Take another dose in 6-8 hours, then one more the next day. But that’s it: over-use can be dangerous.
The acne trigger: Your makeup products
Every time you apply makeup on your face and then dip fingers or brushes back in the pot to pick up more product, bacteria are transferred to-and-fro. Over a few days, this makes your powders and paints a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.
What to do: You should honestly clean your brushes once a week, and if that is too much for you, at least once every two weeks. As for makeup, follow these steps to keep everything germ-free.
Did you know this already? How do YOU prevent breakouts? Tell me below. We could all use every bit of help.