In the battle against acne it’s common to focus on what you can add to your daily routine. It’s equally important to consider what needs to go. You may be sabotaging your skin by performing common daily habits that can actually make your acne worse and not better.
Here are 12 highly overlooked daily habits that can trigger acne breakouts:
Washing Your Face Too Often
It’s tempting to wash your face several times per day if you’re fearful of bacteria build-up or pollutants and dust in the air. Over washing, however, strips the skin of naturally protective oils and encourages more oil production in response. It can be irritating and drying to sensitive skin. Excess washing can actually cause more breakouts than it prevents.
The solution? Unless otherwise directed by your dermatologist, wash your face just twice daily, in the morning and in the night. If you’re working out, wash with cool water only in the morning, then use your cleanser post-workout.
Using the Wrong Products
Reaching for the newest, sweetest smelling, or fanciest packaged cleanser or moisturizer may not always be your best bet. Oily or acne-prone skin types need products specialized for their unique needs. Be sure to avoid ingredients like petroleum jelly and other natural oils. Say no to alcohol-based products or harsh scrubs, artificial scents and dyes.
The Solution? Look for product labels that contain the phrases ‘formulated for acne-prone skin’, ‘non-comedogenic,’ ‘for oily skin,’ or ‘won’t clog pores.’
Scrubbing Your Face Too Hard
In an effort to get the cleanest skin and remove dirt from pores, it’s tempting to scrub hard, use brushes or textured towels. Damaging the top layer of skin, however, can cause greater oil build-up in response to irritation, which only makes acne worse.
The Solution? Apply acne cleanser to your hands first, then use your fingertips to gently rub the face with small, circular motions.
Exfoliating Too Much
Over exfoliation has the same effect as scrubbing too hard. Damaging the skin’s outer layers can cause irritation, flaking, redness, and dryness which triggers an over-reaction as the body produces oils to balance the skin.
The Solution? Limit exfoliating products and use acne medications only as directed. If your skin becomes too dry, use a moisturizer that’s specially formulated for oily, acne-prone skin.
Reusing Dirty Washcloths or Towels
You may have your favorite face-washing towel, but don’t use it every day without a washing. Bacteria quickly builds up on dirty or damp towels, which works against the cleansing you’re trying to do. Rubbing your clean skin dry with a used towel can also put bacteria and dirt right back where you don’t want it.
The solution? Keep a stack of fresh face cloths and towels for washing your skin. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel each time.
Constantly Changing Your Acne Medication
Patience pays off when it comes to most acne medications like Accutane. We all want an overnight fix, but acne medications take time to work. Changing your routine too often, or constantly switching products can work against you.
The Solution? Be patient. Dermatologists say it can take up to 8 weeks for a medication to begin working, and 3-4 months before you see clear skin.
Using Your Medication Wrong
Use your acne medication exactly as indicated. Applying your medication to blemishes only won’t prevent new breakouts. Applying too much can be irritating or overly drying and causes skin to produce more oils, not less.
The Solution? Follow instructions on the label or those provided by your dermatologist. Apply a small amount of acne medication, evenly, to your whole face.
Squeezing Blackheads or Popping Pimples
Nobody wants to wait it out through a pimple, but extracting blemishes is best left to a professional. Resist popping that pimple! Squeezing or popping can actually force oil and debris further into the pore if done incorrectly.
The Solution? See a professional for blackhead extractions. Place a small dollop of medication on pimples overnight, to reduce inflammation.
Wiping Your Sweat with a Gym Towel
Sweating can be cleansing. The act of sweating clears your pores of impurities and acne-causing bacteria. Sweat that dries and sits on the skin for a long time, however, is problematic. It’s common to think the solution is to wipe sweat from your face during workouts, but this can push impurities into pores and cause more harm than good.
The solution? Let sweat drip but wash your face immediately after your workout. If you must clear your brow, lightly tap with a dry towel instead of wiping. Use a clean part of the towel each time you tap sweat from a new spot.
Holding a Dirty Cell Phone to Your Face
Every time you touch your cell phone to your face the oil and sweat on your skin transfers to your screen. If you repeatedly do this throughout the day, the back and forth between face and dirty cell phone clogs pores and leads to breakouts.
The Solution? Wipe your cell phone clean after each phone call. Better yet, use earbuds or put your calls on speaker to avoid holding your phone against your cheek.
Sleeping with Makeup On
At the end of a long night it’s tempting to roll into bed without washing your face, or to quickly rinse with water-only. But leaving makeup on while you sleep clogs pores and prevents skin cells from breathing and rejuvenating overnight. Makeup also transfers to your pillow, which will dirty your face on subsequent nights.
The Solution? Take the extra few minutes to thoroughly cleanse your face of make-up before you hit the sheets. Change your pillowcases often.
Eating Too Much Sugar and Carbohydrates
While science is still mixed on whether or not certain foods cause acne, there are several studies which point to a correlation between sugar, carbohydrates and breakouts. Sugar and refined carbs are inflammatory and raise insulin levels. This triggers the hormones that cause breakouts.
The Solution? Limit sugary and starchy foods such as white breads, white rice and white noodles, sodas, sweets, and sweeteners. Your skin will likely improve.