Acne. I still hate the word so much even though it’s been years since I’ve actively struggled with it. But let me tell you, it was a serious struggle. I spent just about a decade combating mild to moderate, and at times severe, acne that was often cystic, and it put up quite the fight. I tried pretty much every product and method that Google could tell me about, and throughout all this, I was definitely that friend who had “bad skin” in my social circles.
I’m sure most of you have dealt with acne in one form or another. And as common as it is, it’s quite difficult to pin down what might be causing you to break out because there are so many factors that come in to play. Even in this overview of 10 different studies on acne, there is no single root cause of acne that is defined. It’s unfortunately even more complicated than it may initially seem because it’s often multiple factors that are all coming together to join forces and cause acne in the majority of cases.
While it’s next to impossible for someone online to pinpoint what’s causing any breakouts you may be dealing with and even harder to recommend a solution, what I can do is talk about the most common acne triggers I’ve seen in my time doing education and consultation in major U.S. retailers. In doing so, I hope to give some of you a starting point to begin your journey in healing your skin.
While it’s next to impossible for someone online to pinpoint what’s causing any breakouts, what I can do is talk about the most common acne triggers.
Here’s where I feel the need to state again that I am not a medical professional nor a licensed aesthetician, so take my experiences from my personal life and professional work with a grain of salt. With that said, here are some common acne triggers you may not have thought of.
Wash Your Face, Period
I have often delved into an extended discussion about how you should wash your face because my feelings about it are much more intense than the average person, but it really is such an incredibly crucial step in your skin care routine. In my work life I’ve heard some truly strange advice people have gotten from their dermatologists in regards to washing their face, including advising that your face not be washed with a cleanser at all, only splashed with water.
I really couldn’t disagree more. I’m on the other side of the fence along with many of the aestheticians that I follow online and know personally. Washing your face is something that needs to be done correctly and thoroughly in order to help keep the skin free of excess oils and debris like dirt or loose dead skin cells that do not do anyone any favors, regardless of what’s triggering their acne.
I promise I will go into more detail about face washing, but if I could wave a magical skin care wand and eliminate one thing from the beauty world, it would be makeup wipes. I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every person I’ve encountered who uses makeup wipes. I promise you that they are not getting your skin as clean as you would think, and the amount of harsh rubbing and tugging required to use them is not worth it at all.
You Are What You Eat, Kind Of
Among the other things that I am not, dietician is absolutely one of them, and I am not here to give anyone definitive guidelines of what they can and cannot eat. However, I think the importance of our internal health and its relation to skin doesn’t get talked about as much as other aspects of our skin health, and it’s definitely something to consider, especially when you’re in a place where you’re dealing with breakouts on a regular basis.
This is a highly individual thing, and I won’t make any blanket statements like eating chocolate will break you out (spoiler alert: chocolate doesn’t magically break you out). But if you’ve been through a few rounds of testing topical products to help clear things up and they don’t seem to be working, another area to consider would be food. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and clients see huge improvements in their acne by avoiding or cutting down on certain types of foods.
This is a highly individual thing, and I won’t make any blanket statements like eating chocolate will break you out (spoiler alert: chocolate doesn’t magically break you out).
That being said, none of those dietary changes can be universally applied. I’ve seen positive change happen with a lot of the more typical things like avoiding dairy or reducing sugar intake, and some very strange changes like eliminating avocado oil. You’ll likely need the guidance of a medical professional to help narrow things down, especially if it’s something atypical that could be a contributing factor, but my point is that this is an area that has the potential to make a big impact in the battle against breakouts.
Go Clean That
In what is probably an unprecedented time of sanitization around the world, I’d like to place an emphasis on the random ways a lot of people have been breaking themselves out that were easily solvable. It can be extremely frustrating to be dealing with breakouts and trying every product and skin care technique under the sun only to realize that all you needed to do was change your cleaning habits.
Phones, laptops, and tablets are things we deliberately handle and rub with our fingers day in and day out. So please make sure that you’re giving them a regular wipedown, especially if you hold your phone against your face when you’re on a call. You hold the phone up to your face with your dominant hand, and it’s equally likely that you use that dominant hand to tap on a tablet or scroll on a trackpad on your laptop. That’s also probably the hand you rest your cheek on, scratch your face with, or rub your eye with, resulting in a bunch of random bacteria from your devices being rubbed into your skin. The amount of one-sided cheek acne I’ve seen clear up after daily device wipedowns is more than you’d think.
To go along with that, towels and pillowcases are two other huge culprits that could use more frequent washing and replacing. You literally mash your face into your pillow as you sleep, especially if you flip-flop around during your sleep. The amount of oils and dead skin from your hair and body on that pillowcase, combined with the oils from your face, isn’t a great thing to keep adding to night after night.
Towels are the same idea, except now you’ve added in the potential for residual amounts of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner that you’re wiping your face with multiple times a day. Investing in some separate towels for facial use could be an investment that can go a long way to reducing your acne.
If you’re currently struggling with acne, you’re not alone, and the vast majority of us have an idea of what kinds of things acne can do physically and mentally. Remember to treat both your skin and yourself with kindness and compassion. I hope my brief discussion of these atypical but still very common acne triggers can help point some of you towards the path of clearer, healthier skin.