Avoiding breakouts by keeping your hands away from your face may be one of the oldest pieces of skin care advice in the book, but like any old-school beauty advice, there's always a question of how true it actually is (and how much of it is nothing more than a myth. As it turns out though, your mom was right — touching your face can cause breakouts, unfortunately.
"Touching your face can cause breakouts because some breakouts are triggered by bacteria, and our hands area breeding ground for bacteria," says Dr. Sandra Lee, M.D., the dermatologist better know as Dr. Pimple Popper (so you know she knows her acne). "Our hands are consistently touching all things that are not necessarily clean," adds Dermstore esthetician Cynthia Roberts.
And that includes other acne: If you're touching existing breakouts and then touching other parts of your face, "you can spread bacteria if the acne is at a pustule stage," says Roberts. "And if you are oily, you can spread oil in areas that you don’t necessarily breakout."
Of course, not all acne is cause by touching your face. Genetics, hormones, and the types of products you use on your face can also play a role, says Lee. But if you are dealing with acne, it's worth paying attention to.
"If you notice a pattern, aka you know you touch your face a lot and you are breaking out a lot, this could be an indicator that your breakouts are directly correlated," says Lee. Also take note of where your breakouts are on your face — for example, if you tend to sit resting your chin in your hand, if your breakouts are right around that point, that can be a sign as well.
Annoying as it is, the good news about acne that stems from touching your face is that the fix is equally as simple as the cause: Keep your hands clean, and stop touching your face.
"It’s forming a habit, and sticking to it. If you notice you touch your face when you are at work dealing with a stressful situation, leave a Post-it note on your laptop as a reminder to not touch your face, until it becomes second nature and you no longer need that reminder," suggests Lee.
The Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray, $3, Dermstore
Make sure you're keeping your hands as clean as possible, too. "If you need to touch your face, make sure you do so with squeaky clean hands to minimize the potential risk of bacteria-induced breakouts," says Lee. Roberts also reccomends keeping hand sanitizer around.
Of course, keeping your hands clean and avoiding touching your skin can be easier said than done, but it is possible. And in the name of keeping away preventable breakouts, it's worth it, too.