When we talk about breakouts, we generally think of pimples that appear during the teenage years. Most people seem to think that breakouts are related only to teenage acne, a result of hormonal changes. But what we don’t realize is that breakouts can occur at every age and can have a variety of causes.
In this article, we will cover the causes that may trigger breakouts, what to do in each case and how you can improve your general lifestyle. Don’t forget that, if your breakout is worrying you, or doesn’t go away, no matter what you do, you must consult with a specialist to help you.
Why Do Breakouts Appear?
As mentioned above, one may think that breakouts appear only during teenage years, and magically vanish once we progress into our 20s. However, just as the teenage years, breakouts can still happen, for hormonal reasons, throughout ones life. This is something that should be monitored together with your GP and dermatologist who will help you with appropriate treatments.
Another cause for breakouts can be your diet. Some dermatologists believe that dairy products, carbs, chocolate and processed foods can contribute directly to breakouts. However, this can vary from person to person, so if you think this might be the cause, keep a food diary and watch the effects on your skin.
With nowadays environment being more and more hectic, perhaps stress is one of the causes of your breakout. While stress does not directly cause it, it can worsen it.
Last but not least, your clothing can be the culprit hen it comes to body breakouts. Tight-fitting clothing can rub on your skin, trap heat and moisture, and thus cause breakouts. Not only tight-fitting clothing, but also synthetic fabrics can contribute to breakouts.
Practise Good Hygiene
A thorough hygiene is key in having clear skin. Make sure to clean your skin according to your skin type, with gentle cleanser, and not too often. Having acne may make you clean your skin more often and with strong products, but this can actually exacerbate the acne.
Here are a few easy tips to practise good hygiene:
- Wash your hands before proceeding with cleaning your face. After using a cleanser, dry your face gently with a towel – rubbing the towel too much against your skin can make it worse.
- Avoid using a regular hand soap for the face as they can be too drying – make sure you are going to a cleanser that is specific for your skin type and concern.
- When it comes to exfoliation, you should also be gentle and go rather for chemical exfoliants, such as alpha hydroxy acids, which are known to be beneficial for acne.
- When it comes to your shower gel, go for a gentle one that contains salicylic acid, specific for acne.
- This should go without saying, but you must shower after you sweat, be it because of the hot weather or going to the gym. Sweat that stays on your skin can be a breeding ground for bacteria and can lead – or worsen – breakouts. Make sure to get a good, gentle cleanser for your face as well, so you can get rid of sweat and grease without clogging up those pores
When it comes to beauty and makeup products go for oil-free and non-comedogenic products. Go for water-based, rather than alcohol or oil-based, as those can either make your skin drier or oilier. And in both cases, this worsens a breakout.
If you are applying make-up regularly with brushes, make sure to clean them every week with soap and water, to prevent bacteria.
The golden that applies to everybody is to stop touching your face. Touching your face throughout the day, or picking at your pimples can worsen your breakout. The only time when you should be touching your face is with clean hands during your skincare routines.
Check Your Clothing Fibers
We have already mentioned that tight clothing made from synthetic fibers can lead to body acne. If you live in a hot and humid climate, opt for loose clothing made of natural fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen. Synthetic materials such as Lycra or polyester trap your sweat and make a great breeding ground for bacteria.
If you are working out regularly, make sure to always shower thoroughly after sports and always wash your sports clothing after each use. If you are wearing clothing close to your face every day (such as hijabs, hoodies, scarves), make sure to wash them regularly as well, to avoid breakouts.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress does not directly cause breakouts, but if you are having one, it can make it worse by triggering hormonal changes. Keep an eye on the times when you are most stressed and see if that is reflected on your skin. If yes, then you may have to try and be more proactive in better managing your daily stress. There are several ways you can go about this – but the best one if a combination of well-rested sleep and an exercise routine.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for the body, as it allows it to recharge and replenish its resources for the next day. When you are not getting enough sleep, your body is getting weaker, more stressed, and this is showing on your skin.
Having an exercise routine can do wonders for your stress levels. There are countless studies showing that exercise increases the overall health and well-being. It not only improves your mood, but it also makes you sweat, thus releasing toxins from your body.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, check with your doctor what exercise routine would work best for you, so that you don’t strain your body. The next step is finding something that you love. While not everybody loves running, you can go or other types – such as climbing, hiking, stair climbing, power walking, swimming. There are countless ways to exercise and keep your body healthy inside and outside.
If you are not a fan of intense exercise and sweating start slowly, and build up from there. Yoga is an excellent way to get started, and helps with the mind, body and soul. By combining it with meditation, you have a great way of managing your stress levels. And the best thing about this is that you can do it from your own house!
No matter the exercise you chose, it’s important to stick with it and be consistent. Daily exercise of any form – walking for 30 minutes or a 30-minute yoga routine – will show its effects on the long term on your mind and body.
Better Your Diet
There are mixed opinions on whether diet affects acne, but many people are convinced that the link is strong. It is rather obvious that great food will have great benefits on your body and skin, while junk, processed food will take its toll on your body.
The American Academy of Dermatology points out that foods with a high glycemic index (GI) can worsen acne, and dairy products might too. So what foods should you avoid to prevent breakouts?
- Refined grains and sugars: anything made with white flours (such as cakes, pasta, bread and pastries), sweeteners (such as cane sugar, maple syrup, honey), sugar-sweetened drinks (such as sodas)
- Dairy products: milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurts – you name it!
- Fast food: burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, French fries – anything that is fast food is high in fat, calories and refined carbs. While they are obviously bad for health, their effects may also show on your skin.
- Chocolate: because of its high levels of sugar
- Coffee: it can mess with the stress levels in the body, thus affecting hormones and possibly leading to breakouts. If you are overdoing it, then you will see the effects on the skin, from premature aging to breakouts. Keep your coffee consumption to two cups a day.
- Alcohol: just like other foods, alcohol can mess with your hormonal balance, which leads to over stimulation of the sebaceous glands.
What to eat then?
Basically, foods with low glycemic index seem to be helping with reducing acne. Focus your diet around these ingredients and see whether your breakouts are improving
- Omega-3: you can either take supplements or get them from fish, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds or flaxseeds. Omega 3 is good for your skin because it regulates hormones, has powerful anti-inflammatory substances and it stops the liver producing the hormone called ‘insulin-like growth factor’.
- Probiotics: these are basically fermented foods, so anything from kimchi, kombucha, pickles, and kefir. Probiotics foods had beneficial bacteria that can improve your gut health and balance. Yogurt is also in this category of beneficial products, but it’s also a dairy product. Keep a particular eye on how you react to yogurt to decide if it’s good or bad for you.
- Green tea is associated with reduced inflammation and contains antioxidants that fight DNA damage from UV rays. You can not only drink green tea for your overall health; but you can also use green tea during your skincare routine, as a toner, as it has powerful antibacterial properties.
- Mediterranean diet: whole grain pasta and bread, lots of vegetables, fruits and fish, a healthy dose of olive oil, – this should keep your entire body balanced!
- Water: it’s crucial for the body and the skin to be hydrated, so make sure you are drinking at least 2l of water per day
If you are unsure what to eat, and feel that some of the foods above do not affect you in particular, then keep a food diary. Also keep a food diary if you feel that there are specific foods that are, in theory, beneficial, but in practice, you feel they are worsening your breakouts. Diligently write down what you eat, while noting any changes in your skin. This will help you in devising a food plan that is specific for you and your skin! However, it can take up to 12 weeks for a diet change to see if it affects your breakouts or not, so always be patient.
What If You’re Doing Everything Right But Still Struggling with Breakouts?
You are leading a balanced lifestyle that includes good food, an exercise routine and a diligent skincare routine. Not only that, but you are choosing your clothing carefully and do regular checkups with your dermatologist. Somehow, you are still having breakouts and you do not know the cause. Visiting your GP and dermatologist and pushing for further tests and examinations can help you towards finding the root cause and finally, devising a treatment plan.
In the meantime, if your breakouts are lowering your self esteem, with a serious effect on your mental health and social life, make sure to speak with your friends and loved ones. If serious, seek help of a mental health professional that will help you and see yourself more than just your acne.
Having a clear skin is something most of us take for granted, but when breakouts are happening, it’s a sign that something else in our daily lives is wrong. By following the lifestyle tips outlines above, you are already on your way towards a healthy life, and clearer skin. Because skin care is more than just vanity – it’s part of our health care, and can highly influence our mental health.