It used to be that zits were just something teenagers experienced, but now women and men of almost any age are battling pimples for a variety of reasons. For about 10 years of my life I suffered from pretty severe cystic acne to mild breakouts that were persistent. So much of what I tried didn’t work for me. This is a pretty common complaint I hear from others dealing with blemishes too. No matter where you are on the path to finding a solution to cure your acne, there are some universal don’ts that everyone should know about — the habits and things that make acne worse.
Dr. Aurora DeJuliis, M.D., a skin specialist in New Jersey offered up some things she tells her patients to avoid doing. As I read her notes I kept saying “Amen!”. So I put it all together in an easy-to-understand list. If you ever get a chance to go visit Dr DeJuliis’s award-winning European Medical-Spa in Montclair, you’ll find she uses modern treatments in combination with natural ingredients and nutrition to get the best results for her clients. (Amen to that too!).
7 Things That Make Your Acne Worse
(starting with my two biggest pet-peeves)
1. Not cleaning your makeup brushes and tools regularly
I don’t know how often (but it’s way too often) as a makeup artist I get confessions from other women about how they either never clean their brushes, or do it just three times a year. Every single time I use a brush on a client, it gets washed. There’s a reason for that beyond just getting rid of the color pigment. Wouldn’t it be gross if I kept spreading bacteria from face to face with dirty, gunky brushes? Not to mention that by contaminating makeup you are ultimately ruining it. If you’re not cleaning your own brushes at home at least weekly, that’s 4 times a month, then you are asking for acne and potentially other nasties on your face. Read how to make a natural brush cleaner.
2. Sleeping with makeup on
Why? Why? Why would you do this? Nothing about this is a good idea. Dr. DeJuliis calls this “a mortal sin”. I don’t care if your makeup says it won’t clog pores, it will if you leave it on overnight, because the skin can’t renew itself properly. Then you end up with clogged pores, bacteria build up and inflammation, which is what causes big ol’ pimples.
Yes, makeup remover wipes can be handy when you’re just too tired to actually get to the sink and some soap, but this is not a good strategy for every day. If you just put in a little care into washing your face the right way you can actually make a world of difference in your skin.
This brings us to the importance of putting your face on clean things.
3. Not changing your pillow case and face towel often
Having clean pillowcases (especially if you’ve been sleeping with makeup on) and towels you use to dry off your face are super important. You’ll spend about 8 hours a night with your face on a pillow. If it’s dirty, you are sleeping on dust and dead skin cells. How’s that for gross? Towels can also be lovely breeding grounds for bacteria, so think about what’s touching your skin. And that leads us to why you should keep your hands off your face…
4. Putting your fingers on your face
We’ve said it so many times, if you need a refresher on why you should Stop Picking At Your Face and Stop Touching Your Face, and get some tips on how to get that under control, then read those articles and come back when you have. Here’s the quick summary what picking at your pimples will do:
- Spread infection
- Make the pimple even uglier and last longer
- Create a scar
5. Being a sun-worshiper
I grew up in Southern California where I was constantly told that the sun would make my acne better. Um, not true. “Sun, heat and humidity can cause oil glands to become overactive, which can lead to acne breakouts,” says Dr. DeJuliis. Obviously a little sunshine is good for you, but sunbathing and leaving your skin unprotected is not.
6. Using too many medications or over cleansing – particularly with the wrong products
This is what I like to call “pissing off your skin.”
Everyone wants their acne to clear up quickly, so you may be tempted to slather on your treatment products several times (or more) per day. Over-using topical medications can’t hurt, right? Besides, won’t your acne clear up faster if you apply your medications more often.
You may be surprised to learn that applying too much medication, or applying too often, won’t clear acne up any faster. But it will most definitely cause excessive drying, redness, peeling, and irritation.
In an effort to clear up skin, many people (I used to be one of them) will scrub excessively, morning and night with harsh or abrasive cleansers made for oily skin. This just dries out the skin, and doesn’t actually deal with the root cause. In fact, it inflames the situation because the main cause of acne is an overproduction of sebum by sebaceous glands located at the root of hair follicles and using too many cleansing products cause your skin to produce more sebum, not less, creating an environment conducive to acne.
I know I’m preaching to the choir as I write this reminder that many ingredients in your beauty products are awful for your skin. These specifically include (but aren’t limited to):
- mineral oil
- artificial colors
7. Only treating your skin from the outside
Your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. So your acne could be from any combination of hormone imbalance, excess sebum production, stress, tobacco use, food allergies and high blood sugar from an unhealthy diet. [Read: 6 Tips to Kick Sugar Cravings to the Curb]
While it is helpful to properly treat your skin topically, real change as I’ve experienced it firsthand, comes from addressing the inner balance of the body in addition.
On a final note, if you have severe or cystic acne, Dr. DeJuliis suggests you see a licensed aesthetician/physician rather than trying to treat it yourself through deep cleansing.
Here’s a handy, Pinterest-friendly chart you can save to remind you of the main points.
Feature image by Kristen Arnett