Acne is a helluva thing, isn't it? It's painful, it can affect your confidence, and there's a seemingly endless list of things that can make your acne worse — if you aren't careful. Whether you have deep cystic zits, blackheads, whiteheads, or nodules, it often doesn't take much to make those issues flare up.
That's because, as anyone with acne knows, oily and pimply skin is sen-si-tive. One night of not washing your face, or heading to work still sweaty from the gym, can push your pores over the edge and lead to all sorts of pimply agony. Knowing which habits can make your skin mad might be all it takes to keep things looking clear.
"The fact is, even your most routine activity might be the cause of your break out," cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss tells Bustle. "Talking on the phone ... is a common trigger that is often overlooked. In addition, pillowcases are often extremely overlooked. On average, bed linens are changed every one to two weeks. If you suffer from severe acne, then this is a major faux-pas." Read on for a few more things that can make acne worse, so you'll know just what to avoid for the clearest skin possible.
1. Hot Yoga Classes
If you're prone to acne, the last thing you want to do is marinate in your own sweat. And that's why you might want to avoid hot yoga classes. "Unfortunately, hot yoga or activities where heat is trapped inside a room and sweat can build up and sit on the skin leads to major breakouts," says Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon and skincare expert Dr. John Diaz, in an email to Bustle. "If you enjoy yoga go for the non-heated classes. If you don't want to totally give-up hot yoga make sure post class to shower immediately."
2. Caked On Makeup
While you should feel free to wear as much or as little makeup as you want, do be aware of the acne-causing powers of super thick foundation. "Acne sufferers tend to layer their foundation and makeup, which can lead to more blocked pores and breakouts," Diaz says. "Stick to clean products with SPF for coverage and protection." And always wash your face at the end of the day.
3. Dirty Pillowcases
Be honest. When was the last time you washed your pillowcase? If it's been a minute, that thing is likely riddled with acne-causing dirt, sweat, and germs. "I always recommend to my acne patients that they flip their pillow over every night and change the pillowcase every other night in order not to reintroduce harmful bacteria on their skin," says Idriss.
4. Super Sugary Foods And Drinks
This one may be tough, but limiting sugar can have a pretty positive impact on your skin. "Studies have shown that consuming refined sugar, salt, and foods high on the glycemic index can increase acne causing inflammation in the skin, as well as aggravate active acne breakouts," Diaz says. Eating fewer sugary foods, and avoiding super sugary drinks, can help.
5. Eating Too Many Carbohydrates
While carbs definitely have their place in any healthy diet, they are often worth avoiding for those of us with acne. According to Gwen Verchota, PhD, APRN-BC, a lead nurse practitioner with Virtuwell.com, it can help to limit them, as well as other foods with a high glycemic index. Give a try and see how your skin feels.
6. That Cheese Platter
Sorry to say, but that glorious cheese platter may be your skin's undoing. That's because dairy can lead to inflammation and often promotes the growth of bad bacteria, celebrity esthetician Gina Mari tells me. The choice regarding whether or not to eat it anyway? Completely up to you.
7. Washing Your Face Too Often
Washing your face may sound like the perfect acne remedy. And it can be. But it's definitely possible to overdo it. As Mari says, "This habit can really dry out the skin, which can lead to the skin accelerating its oil production, thus causing breakouts. Aim to cleanse your face twice a day — once in the morning and a good thorough cleanse in the evening."
8. That Spicy Topping
Ah yes, spicy food. It's great in all its forms, but you might want to avoid it if you're struggling with your skin. "[Spicy foods] aggravate and stimulate any persons that have Rosacea prone skin (chronic skin condition characterized by redness and swelling)," says Mari. While that may not be acne, per se, it may be worth avoiding all things that can make redness worse.
9. Your Late Night Pick Fest
If you have acne, then you're probably well-acquainted with the desire to pick at your skin. And yet we all know nothing good comes from squeezing away in the mirror. "This is a very common habit and although tempting to do, picking pimples can lead to scarring, spreading the bacteria to other areas of the skin, and usually making the pimple look worse than it did before," Mari says. Definitely not worth it.
10. Oil Absorbing Products
If your skin is pimply, it makes sense why you'd want to use as many oil absorbing products as possible. But do try to resist. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Carl Thornfeldt says, "Applying too many products focused on getting rid of oil will dry out the skin too much, and the skin will over react — making the acne worse."
11. Getting Too Stressed Out
While this is often easier said than done, avoiding stress is key to keeping pimples at bay. "Steer clear of stress as it raises your cortisol levels," says Thornfeldt. "Your glands pump out more oil and your immune system is suppressed, which leads to breakouts. Be sure to manage stress levels with something that works for you (exercise, meditation, etc.)."
12. Too Much Time In The Sun
While sun exposure can be good for acne-prone skin, going overboard can lead to problems. "For many people they will trigger acne, [especially] in patients who are taking photosensitizing antibiotics (doxycycline) or oral retinoids (Accutane)," board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD tells Bustle. A sunburn can also trigger acne, so do yourself a favor and wear a "noncomedogenic" SPF of at least 30 every day.
13. Scrubbing Your Face
When faced with a crop of acne, it can be tempting to scrub your face within an inch of its life. But did you know it can actually make things worse? "Face scrubs can be irritating on sensitive skin," says Shainhouse. "While exfoliation one to two times a week can help unclog comedones (black and whiteheads), they can irritate inflamed pink or pustular lesions, and aggressive scrubbing may lead to scarring." Not worth it.
14. Dirty Loofahs And Face Towels
This one may seem obvious, so here's your friendly reminder to wash your face towels. "If you don't thoroughly wash and dry the loofah after each use, you risk reapplying that yeast and bacteria to your skin the next time you shower," Shainhouse says. "This can lead to folliculitis, a version of inflamed body acne." As well as a lovely speckling of face acne.
15. Talking On Your Phone
If you have the choice, it may be worth texting instead of bringing a germ-riddled phone up to your cheek. "Like touching your face, cell phones are not the cause of acne, but they can potentially make acne worse due to the presence of bacteria on your mobile device," says celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. If you have to talk to on the phone, be sure to wipe your screen off as often as possible.
Little tricks like these will definitely help improve the state of your skin, as will avoiding any acne-causing habits. While it's impossible to avoid them 100 percnet of the time (because hey, sometimes you just wanna go to hot yoga) knowing what can make acne worse certainly can help.
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