Every day, you wake up and wash your face just like always. Hopefully, every night, you take the same care with your skin. Keeping your skin clean is important for its health. It will show you that you’re doing a good job if it looks clear and luminous.
And if it doesn’t, you might in fact be doing something wrong. Worse, you could be doing something that is causing your acne problem to spiral out of control. Scrubbing too hard, using the wrong cleanser for your skin type, and other seemingly simple things are easy to overlook but these things can all lead to more breakouts.
What’s more, most people make the mistake of associating acne with those pubescent teen years. Hormones are always going through your body and to think that once you move onward from your teens into your 20s and beyond that this will automatically make your skin behave, you’re wrong.
There are 60 million Americans with acne and 20% of them are full-fledged adults. Handling acne isn’t always easy though because there are so many products and so many tips. How do you know which things to use and what to do?
Start here and you’ll find the mistakes you’re making that can make your acne and large pores worse. You’ll clear up the mystery of your breakouts with these 22 habits you’ve got to break now so read on!
1- You’re wearing your glasses without cleaning them
Whether you wear glasses to see or throw on your sunnies as you step out the door, you should ask yourself this…when’s the last time you cleaned them? Much like your smartphone, you should be cleaning your glasses each day.
And if you’re not cleaning your smartphone, go wipe it down now. We’ll wait.
Back? Ok! Now onto the reason why you need to keep glasses and smartphones and other things like this that come into contact with your face daily. They harbor bacteria and dirt on them. This gets into your pores and voila! It causes acne.
You can easily solve the problem by stashing antibacterial wipes in your bag. You’ll always have a quick way to clean off your glasses and your phone so you can keep that yucky bacteria away from your skin.
2- You’re not applying the right sunscreen formula
If you wear sunscreen daily, we applaud you! Good for you for protecting your skin. You’ll prevent sun damage and wrinkles and skin cancer and all that jazz. But if you have blemish-prone skin, you need to be careful WHICH sunscreen you use. Some of them can cause your skin type to bust out into blemishes.
Always choose an oil-free, noncomedogenic formula. This keeps it from clogging your pores. Once you switch your sunscreen, you should see some differences in how your skin behaves, but there’s more.
See, the more sunlight your skin gets, the larger your pores might look. Those UV rays weaken your collagen. Collagen is what supports your pores and keeps them tight. But when it breaks down and becomes less elastic, your pores start looking like they could hold your spare change.
It’s not just about using the right sunscreen and reapplying it properly when spending active time out in the sun, but also about spending time away from the sun. Finding a cool place to hang is greatly advised because pigmentation can be brought on from just the heat.
Some sunscreen and sunshine tips:
- Choose zinc! Zinc oxide gives you the best protection from broad-spectrum UVA and UVB rays. It needs to have a high concentration of zinc for your best results. Read the labels and choose one that is PUFA-free with a content of 20% zinc at minimum or even 15% zinc and a minimum of 7.5% titanium dioxide.
- Don’t use chemicals! Chemical sunscreens don’t protect as well. Plus, they get into your bloodstream, mess up your hormones and destroy your cells. Mineral sunscreens are the way to go because they reflect the dangerous rays. Chemicals on the other hand trap that heat in your body and then lead to pigmentation.
- Be safe when going outdoors! While it’s great to use the best sunscreen for your skin and reapply it often, try to avoid being in the direct sunlight during the midday hours. This will cut down on the damage you do to your skin.
Also, you should know when to wear sunscreen and when not to. If you’re not getting 15 minutes or more sun exposure before or after your office job, you can skip it. That includes your commute though. If you live in California or Florida and have an hour-long commute each way down the highway, sunscreen is a must. But if you live in NYC and are a block from the train and barely see the sun, you don’t need to wear sunscreen every day.
3- You’re not cleaning your brushes or your beauty blender
Let’s play a game…can you remember the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes or sponges? Unless it was this week, you lose. Your makeup applicators are a prime place for dust to gather and bacteria to flourish. For those of you with Beauty Blenders, you should make sure to clean it and dry it properly after every use. If you use makeup brushes, you shouldn’t let more than 2 weeks pass by to clean them. And if you use those cheap makeup sponges, if you keep using the same one, ugh! Just toss it!
You don’t need any specialized cleansers for these tools either. Just a couple bucks and you can use baby shampoo to gently yet effectively clean your makeup application tools.
4- Your makeup ingredients may not be suitable for you
Have you taken a good look at what’s in the makeup products you use? Some of these might be causing your breakouts or making acne problems worse. The best thing you can do is read your labels. It won’t guarantee you won’t have a reaction, but generally speaking, if you look for makeup that is noncomedogenic or non-acnegenic, or says it does not clog pores or that it won’t cause breakouts, it’s a safer bet.
Go ahead and check out your makeup bag. We’ll wait here.
Hey, you’re back! Did you find those things on your foundation? If not, you can always check on cosDNA.com and find out. They provide acne scores on every product. Anything that you have that scores 3s, 4s, or 5s you should stop using.
You should see about using foundation with acne-busting ingredients. Formulations with salicylic acid can be very helpful, though it might be too drying. You can always experiment and see, but if you choose to use a foundation that doesn’t also double as an acne-fighter, do make sure you’re not unknowingly clogging up your pores and making your skin problems worse.
Additionally, you should watch out for ingredients that can irritate and clog the skin. Things like sodium lauryl sulfate, laureth-4, isopropyl myristate, and myristyl myristate need to be avoided like that creepy guy that keeps trying to ask you out.
When you have an active acne problem, silicone is a problem for you too. Without acne, it’s a great way for flawless skin, but it doesn’t let the skin breathe. You’ll find it in many primers though not all of them contain it. Read the labels before selecting one to steer clear of silicone and keep your skin clear. It’s sometimes listed as ‘dimethicone’ or may even have ‘-cone’ somewhere on the label.
Alcohol is another ingredient acne-prone skin (or any skin for that matter) doesn’t need. It dries skin out. And acrylics and oils are other evil pore-clogging things you want nothing to do with either. Your best bet with acne is to use mineral-based makeup since it sits on top of the skin and reflects light away. It serves as a barrier for dirt and pollution without sinking into the pores, making for a beautiful appearance every day.
5- You’re only relying on makeup wipes to remove your makeup
OMG we LOVE makeup wipes! Really, we do. They’re super convenient and can really help make short work of removing stubborn eye makeup. As handy as they are though, you need to follow them up with proper cleansing.
Makeup wipes don’t fully clean the skin. They really just smudge everything around so now you’ve got makeup, dirt, oil, and dead skin mingling. Oh, and if you’re using a chemical formulation (ugh!) then you’ve got chemicals too.
Another problem is that they can cause inflammation with that scrubbing and rubbing. You’ve got to be gentle with them or else in time, you’ll wind up with uneven skin tone, more breakouts, and earlier visible signs of aging.
Yes, makeup wipes are better than nothing and if you have no other alternative to washing your face, you should use them rather than leave makeup on all night. But it’s a habit you need to break pronto.
Take those makeup wipes to help you get that eye makeup off. Press gently and hold over each eye, then carefully wipe away. Then get into the cleansing process. You’ll remove all the other gunk on there and have a clean palette to apply your serums, lotions, and creams onto.
The right cleanser will remove all excess without drying the skin out. Makeup wipes will leave a residue that can clog your pores. Just take those couple of minutes to wash your face correctly after using the wipes to get that makeup off and you should start seeing mega improvements!
6- You’re over-cleaning your face
Dirt and debris definitely clog up pores and they can make them look larger too. However, you might be overdoing the whole cleansing thing. Some dermatologists recommend only washing your face at night so you don’t strip it of the oils it needs to stay supple. We’re not really into that though. There’s a better way.
See, you need cleansers that use salicylic acid to help fight the inflammation and kill bacteria. If you have a greasy face when you wake up, you’re going to pick at it all day. What’s more, you have dead skin cells on your face when you wake up and then, if you apply makeup as we all do, then you’re in essence applying it on top of oil and debris. That’s not ideal.
Neither is washing your face and immediately rinsing it away. Love that skin, girl! Take the time to gently massage your acne-busting cleanser into your skin. Just give it about as much time as you spend brushing your teeth and you’ll see better results. Concentrate that cleanser all over your face in the oiliest portions like the T-zone and anywhere you tend to get breakouts. Foam cleansers tend to work best for this.
But if you really want to go all out, try double-cleansing. We don’t mean wash twice with the same cleanser. That would definitely strip your skin. What you want is to get 2 kinds of cleansers. First, you’ll use an oil-based cleanser. While that might seem crazy for oily, blemish-prone skin, there are oil cleansers specifically formulated for your skin type that infuse it with the hydration it needs. This keeps it from getting dry and flaky, and it stops that vicious breakout cycle.
After cleansing with an oil-based cleanser, you’ll repeat the process with a water-based cleanser. By doing the double-cleanse, you’ll get rid of impurities from makeup, pollutants, sweat, sunscreen and more without drying skin out.
And speaking of that, if you always try to kill two birds with one stone by washing your face in the shower, stop! We usually use water that’s too hot in the shower which dries out the skin. You should cleanse your face either before showering or just after for the best results.
7- You’re forgetting to cleanse your face after the gym
Good for you on hitting the gym! But if you didn’t cleanse your skin afterward, you’re only making your acne problems worse. Bacteria from sweating gets into your pores and can give you a breakout before you know it. And that’s not just on your face…it’s on your body too. Take a shower immediately after getting home, using the proper products for your blemish control to avoid winding up with a fresh crop of pimples!
8- You’re exfoliating more than 3 times a week
Exfoliation is great for getting those dead skin cells out of the way. However, there is definitely too much of a good thing, especially where exfoliation is concerned. You don’t want to pull healthy skin away on top of a pimple and create an open wound. This will lead to scarring which won’t go away. You should limit exfoliating to 2 or 3 times a week max for the best results.
9- Shower residues can be a problem
Do you have acne along your hairline, on your back, or on your neck? The cause might simply be that you’re hopping out of the shower too quickly without amply rinsing away your shower products. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash can cause problems when you don’t completely rinse them off.
If your shower products have silicone, heavy moisturizing agents, or sodium laurel sulfate (the latter of which you should try not to use in any product ever), you can inadvertently clog up pores. Make sure you shampoo, condition, and then wash your body, rinsing all of it away before turning off the water. Be sure you use lukewarm water too. When it’s too hot, you dry out your skin and any body breakouts you have will only get worse!
10- You’re using too many hair products
Some of the hair products you’re using could be to blame for your breakouts, especially where your hairline is concerned. Keep sprays away from your skin by draping it with a clean scarf or t-shirt as you apply it. Being careful about your roots can help too. By protecting your skin from your hair care products, you will generally see breakouts that pop up along the hairline disappear fast.
11- You’re only treating breakouts when they pop up
Keeping acne away is a constant process. If you clear your skin and then neglect to keep up the routine, breakouts will be back. The biggest mistake people make when they get a pimple is to only focus on that one pimple. Your approach should be to use an acne-fighting routine daily rather than spot treatments when trouble arises, pardon the pun.
We’re not saying that those OTC acne treatments aren’t great for when you have one big zit, but you should be actively caring for your skin to prevent breakouts. Once you get clear skin, you simply need to manage that routine daily.
Should you get one big zit though, naturally right before a special occasion, you must remember that using it just on the existing pimple is a huge mistake. There are tons of pores on your skin and any of them can get clogged up too. So if you’re just applying that spot treatment to existing pimples, they will heal faster, but you’re not preventing something from popping up right next door to it on a clear patch of skin.
But don’t go hog wild and pig crazy here. Using too much of it can lead to dried-out skin. Dried out skin becomes irritated. And irritated skin? You know what it does. It breaks out. It peels. It turns red. And all that is totally tough to conceal.
Instead, use a thin layer of the OTC acne medication once daily. Nighttime is usually best. For sensitive skin, only treat the most frequent areas your acne pops up. Another way to do it is to go with short contact therapy as the pros call it. Simply apply the acne medication to your skin and leave it be for 2 minutes. Then wash it off with a gentle cleanser and be on your way!
12- You’re applying acne treatment to an un-popped pimple
When you start to see the beginnings of a blemish start out, you might think to head it off at the pass before it becomes a full-blown whitehead. You then dab your acne medication onto and think, “Hahahaha! I’ve got you now!” Only you might not.
Pimples need to be extracted first before topical acne treatment can do its thing. The only thing you’ll be doing is drying out your skin too much and making the problem worse. Well, worse than that would be following the advice of others online that suggest using toothpaste or rubbing alcohol on it. That’s not tackling the acne-causing bacteria. You need formulations with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to beat those blemishes.
13- You’re switching products consistently
Sometimes when you try too many products at once, you can make your skin break out more. When you switch it up too often, your skin is overexposed to more ingredients. And if you’re adding it on top of your usual staples, you’re not letting anything absorb into the skin as it should, to bring the results it’s supposed to bring.
So, if you want to try out a new product, try doing a spot-test first for a week or two to see how your skin acts. Much like an allergy test, you can see if the things you’re using are helping your skin or further causing it irritation so you’ll know what to use and what to get rid of. For many, this is the key to resolving breakouts. It might just be that an ingredient in what you’re using is causing them!
14- You’re picking at your pimples
Hands off! It might feel like you’re doing something to pop that whitehead into oblivion. But when you do, you’re spreading acne-causing bacteria around your face. Squeezing pimples that aren’t ready to pop can also make your blemish even bigger. And let’s not get into the dirt and bacteria that might be hanging out on your hands as you attempt to make them pop.
On top of that, popping pimples is bad because you’re essentially messing with the natural healing process of your body. Acne is how your body responds when the pores are clogged with dirt and bacteria. When you see it, at least you know your body is doing what it is designed to do. So if you pick at it, you can make it much worse by spreading the bacteria or adding even more bacteria into the mix.
Plus, every time you pick at pimples, you damage your skin. When skin is damaged, it tries to heal itself. That healing process can result in scars that could be permanent. Resist the temptation and add a spot treatment to the blemish.
First, wash your face using a gentle cleanser. Then, add a light layer of moisturizer to your skin. Once that soaks in, dab on the spot treatment in an even layer over all your skin.
For severe acne, you should consult a dermatologist to help get it under control. Just whatever you do, refrain from picking, poking, and touching your acne!
15- You’re probably using the wrong moisturizer
Skin, even acne-prone skin, needs moisture. Too much of it or even the wrong kind of moisturizer leads to greasy skin, breakouts, and can also cause the skin to be lazy. Often, it’s a problem when using anti-aging treatments that are too heavy and rich for your skin type.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you don’t have enough moisture for your skin, it gets dry, dull, and feels tight. Sometimes, it’s the moisturizer itself. Many include ingredients that only make you think your skin is hydrated when it’s really just a bunch of silicone to smooth the surface.
We mentioned earlier to avoid silicones for acne-prone skin, but here are some other things you need to do for proper moisturization of your skin type:
- Use a humectant! A very light and hydrating serum or even a mist is ideal. It can give you plenty of hydration without leaving a greasy feeling.
- Layer on the moisture! Use a moisturizing cream that doesn’t have PUFA oils or silicones.
- Use facial oil! Wait, what? Yes, we’re recommending oil. A good facial oil for your skin type will work wonders. Apply serum, moisturizer, and then the facial oil. It needs to be saturated or monounsaturated fat in order to be good for acne-prone skin.
No, we’re not crazy. Facial oil is different than oil-based moisturizers. For one, the oil and water content are important to balance in your skin. Even with oily skin, it doesn’t mean your skin is properly hydrated. Often, it’s a sign it isn’t because your sebaceous glands go into overdrive trying to compensate for the dryness. It’s all part of that nasty vicious breakout cycle we’ve spoken of before and using facial oil could be the key to ending it once and for all.
On top of that, you should know that just because you’re using moisturizer doesn’t mean you’re using the right one. When it’s too thick, it sits on top of your skin rather than getting fully absorbed. Sometimes, it’s too thin and doesn’t really provide any additional hydration.
Instead, go with lightweight products that hydrate and nourish without clogging things up. Water-based gels are great for moisturizer though we totally love anything with hyaluronic acid because it draws moisture from the atmosphere and into your skin. Lanolin, ceramides, and shea butter are also great ingredients for dry skin. An ideal approach is to use day and night moisturizers to fully target your skin’s needs.
16- Some oils can be toxic to your skin
Now, we said oils are good for your skin. They are! BUT! There are some that you have to stay away from. These can cause premature aging because they’re so unstable. They are PUFAs or polyunsaturated oils. Their molecular structure is prone to free radical attacks which means it causes oxidation. Oxidized oils may seem like they’re doing a good job to moisturize your skin on the surface, but in time, it can cause cell and connective tissue damage not to mention thyroid suppression and hormonal imbalances. Oh, and age spots. Yuck.
Get rid of these oils in your skincare routine IMMEDIATELY. And if you don’t have anything in your bathroom with them, keep it that way. Instead, use these tips:
- Use saturated oils instead! These fats are the safest and most stable of oils. Look for squalane as its noncomedogenic. Also, coconut oil, shea butter, and MCT oil are good oils to use.
- Next best are monounsaturated oils! These are a little less stable than those saturated fats but MUFAs as they are known are WAY better than PUFAs. Prime examples are olive oil, marula oil, or jojoba.
- Never use polyunsaturated oils! It’s best to stay away from oils that are more than 10% polyunsaturated. Argan oil, almond oil, rose hip, grapeseed, avocado, soybean, sunflower, and apricot kernel can be problematic for your skin.
- Say NO to PUFAs! This is also true for your diet as well as your skincare. You can cook with refined coconut oil or butter instead. Monounsaturated fats shouldn’t be heated but you can use them on salads like olive oil. Just buy the good stuff. Most of what you see in the supermarket is processed and has all the good things removed. PUFAs lurk in packaged foods too so read labels responsibly and keep your nutrition in check. What goes into your body exudes on the outside too and if you want your skin to look fantastic, part of it includes eating right and avoiding dangerous ingredients.
17- You’re consuming too much carbs
One of the biggest myths is that fats lead to acne. In fact, it’s carbs that are causing the problems. This goes beyond sugar, which you should avoid anyway. Too many carbs make your pancreas secrete insulin. The more this happens, the more it can mess with your metabolism and hormones. Even if you’re happy and healthy at your weight, hormonal acne can come from eating too many carbs.
18- You’re not drinking enough water
Since our skin is our largest organ and water is essential for proper organ function, it stands to reason that our skin needs water. It needs it for hydration and to get rid of toxins. Not drinking enough water? Maybe you think you’re too busy to get up from your desk. You’ve got to finish this deadline after all, right?
But the longer you sit there not drinking water, whether you feel thirsty or not, you’re trapping toxins in your pores. And those toxins can lead to breakouts. Drink 2 liters of water per day at minimum and you’ll find your skin not only looks clearer, but it will also look healthier and lit from within too.
19- You’re not having proper sleep
Without enough sleep, it stresses out your entire body from head to toe. And it’s not just your brain that suffers. Skin suffers too. For your best health, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
Use your smartphone to set a nighttime alert so you start going to bed on time. When you give your body the sleep it so desperately needs, it will reward you with clearer skin. Plus, those dark circles and puffy eyes will clear up too!
But before you get some sleep…do the laundry!
20- You don’t change your pillowcase often
Are you guilty of not washing your sheets enough? Many people are, not because they’re untidy but because they just forget. “Oh, I forgot to wash these today! I’ll just do it tomorrow.” If you have another set of sheets in your linen closest, go get them now and make your bed.
Back? Good! Now you can really get a good night’s sleep that really does you good. Dirty pillowcases can hold lots of bacteria and germs on them, not to mention dead skin flakes and other disgusting tidbits you probably don’t want to imagine right now. Aren’t you glad you just changed the sheets?
Now, you don’t need to wash your sheets every day, but if you change your pillowcase every other day, you can help keep acne away. Think about all the oils from your skin and hair, dust from the air, hair from your pets…yeah. Gross, right? Get a few extra pillowcases and be sure to change your pillowcase every other night. Then wash the sheets weekly for a fresh and healthy sleep for you and your skin!
21- You’re overstressing
Stress is just terrible for your body. The more you do it, the more cortisol it produces. That’s the stress chemical responsible for the fight or flight response. By being in a constant panic mode, you’re not only making it hard to lose belly fat, but you’re also making it hard to have clear skin.
On top of that, you put yourself at risk for heart problems and other health concerns. An easy way to help keep stress in check is to try meditation or yoga to help you center yourself. It sounds so hippie and drippy, but it really works. We’ve done it with fantastic results.
It takes time though so be patient. And if you can’t wait, go get a massage, soak in the tub, call up a friend, take a walk, or find one of a million other free feel-good things that can help you relieve that stress. You’ll feel so much better and your skin will look better too!
22- You don’t clean your phone
We said this earlier on and hopefully, you were listening! If not, go clean your phone. If you thought your pillowcase was disgusting, we don’t want to sicken you with the details of the kinds of germs and bacteria that are listening in on your phone calls!
If you’re making any of these mistakes, start changing them. With each bad skin habit you replace, you’ll be closer to better skin. Take care of yourself from the inside out and know what you’re putting in as well as on your body. When you do, you’re going to see clear results!