We may spend most of our time talking about designer garms and fresh kicks, but we know there’s a whole lot more to looking good than what you’re packing in your closet. Groom Service is your no-BS guide in how to look, smell, and feel better. This week it’s all about preventing breakouts.
Sometimes, you just can’t prevent a pimple. You might be genetically inclined to get more than your friends, or you might be under stress from an upcoming interview or impending breakup. In those instances, you might want to summon some concealer and mask the pimple from sight.
Breakouts happen, but more often than not, they are preventable. That’s because they are frequently brought on by your own habits and decisions — and you can stop them before they rear their ugly white heads, by simply avoiding these behaviors.
To get some insight on the most common causes of avoidable acne, we spoke with board-certified dermatologist David Lortscher, who is also the CEO and founder of customized skincare line Curology. Here are the seven most common mistakes and bad habits that Lortscher sees repeated in his patients.
“The number one thing I recommend is using non-comedogenic (pore clogging) products,” Lortscher says. He suggests checking the website cosdna.com against the products you use. “Checking all skincare products, including body washes and body lotions, can be helpful when avoiding ingredients that may be clogging pores.” For example, you’ll learn that products with coconut oil are big culprits behind acne. “Coconut oil blocks pores slowly and imperceptibly, so I highly discourage acne-prone patients from using it. In my experience, many people will find that clogged pores and acne breakout begin or are worsened when coconut oil is used on facial skin.” You can also check a product’s label for the words “non-comedogenic” to ensure that it has been tested and proven as such.
It’s probably safe to assume that you don’t cook all your own food, and sometimes fall back on restaurants and processed, pre-packaged goods. Many of these foods are extremely high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and dairy. Such a diet is another cause of breakouts: “Latest scientific evidence suggests that these ingredients may predispose some people to acne,” says Lortscher. “A recent study showed that low weekly intake of fruits or vegetables and low consumption of fresh fish were also associated with adult acne.” So, eat with whole ingredients as best you can (that you purchased raw), or visit restaurants that cook with fresh ingredients and few processed products.
Consider all that soaks into your pillow while you sleep: Sweat, oil, and product buildup from your face and hair, plus any dirt and dust particles in the air. This can transfer to your face and clog the pores easily. “Change your pillowcase once a week at a minimum, more often if you perspire a lot—whether naturally or due to humidity in the environment,” says Lortscher. “Every other day works for some people who flip their pillows, and some of my patients opt for a clean, white T-shirt over their pillows every night.” He adds that moist environment are ideal for bacteria growth, so “natural fabrics like silk are better choices than sweaty synthetics like polyester, and may help reduce the potential for acne breakout.”
As good as it feels, hot water is extremely dehydrating for the skin. It strips away the natural oils that keep it soft, and far more than is good. “It causes skin irritation by depleting the skin barrier of its protective lipids,” says Lortscher.
Secondly, if your water is hard (with lots of minerals like calcium and magnesium), then a long shower is another hurdle against smooth complexion: “If you have hard water, you’ll typically need to use more cleansers with heavier surfactants to clean your skin and hair, since you won’t see the same lathering effect. This leads to precipitation of the surfactant, leaving a film of residue on the skin,” says Lortscher. “And this could lead to clogged pores.”
Remember tip 1, about non-comedogenic skin products? You need to keep the same consideration to your hair products, too. “Since they aren’t designed to be applied to facial skin, hair care products are not tested for comedogenicity,” Lortscher says. “However, as a rule of thumb, water-based hair products may be better than oil-based products.”
If you touch your face, or hold anything against it (like your cell phone), then you’re also transferring any grime and bacteria on the surface of those things. “Touching your face often may influence the development of acne breakouts, due to increased perspiration and moisture,” says Lortscher. “Try your best to refrain from touching your face, and wash your hands with soap and water often.”
An unhealthy, stressful lifestyle is reflected in your mirror: lack of sleep, little exercise, dehydration, and stress are all acne aggravators. “Life stressors don’t exactly ‘cause’ acne,” Lortscher clarifies. “But they can trigger breakouts. Even ‘good’ stress such as preparing for a vacation or a wedding can cause acne at the most inconvenient times. During stress, hormones that stimulate the oil glands are released, beginning a process that leads to acne.” Since you can’t prevent all kinds of stress, you can focus on your own wellness during the more trying times. Get lots of sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise on the regular, and you should find that much of your stress melts away.