If your skin regularly breaks out with acne—even if it’s a single pimple at a time—that’s worth investigating. Breakouts usually have a traceable source, but it’s these patterned ones that are the easiest to diagnose. They can often be linked to a habit (or a lack thereof), and a simple fix can often nip those nose volcanoes in the bud.
This can often be done without the help of a dermatologist, too. Don’t get me wrong—you should absolutely see a dermatologist for chronic or severe cases of acne, because those can often only be treated with things like prescriptions and high-tech equipment. (I even recommend a prescription retinol if your skin endures low-to-moderate breakouts, and not just heavy ones. That’s because, in addition to retinol’s anti-acne powers, its overall handsomeness benefits are tremendous.) But if the worst of your Cases is a patch of pimples every few months, or one every few weeks, then it’s probably as easy as auditing your daily decisions, and working backwards to fix it. Here are eight things to think about.
1. Balance your grooming regimen
Whether you choose a minimal regimen (cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize) or like to add complexity (serums, toners, masks), you need to make sure everything is in harmony. If you’re oily or acne prone to begin with, then you should look for products that won’t aggravate the situation (making sure any oils are non-comedogenic, like argan, is a great place to start). Use gentle cleansers and always follow intense treatments (like a peel, pore-cleansing mask, or even a razor shave) with a nourishing, restorative hydrator. This is the most general, catch-all tip on this list, but it’s also in the top spot for a reason: your skincare regimen needs to be intentional and considered, all the way through—even if it’s just three steps.
2. Improve your pre- and post-workout protocol
You shouldn’t wait an hours to wash your face after an intense workout. If you don’t like to shower at the gym—honestly, we get it—pack a face wipe immediately to cleanse the skin and finish with a dab of moisturizer.
3. Wash pillowcases and towels weekly
Even if you go to bed with freshly cleansed skin, you’re going to spend the next 8 hours with your hair and face pressed against that pillow. Add to that any sweating, drooling, night moisturizer buildup…those pillow cases are about as clean as the kitchen sponge after a week. You get the point: You need to wash your pillow cases frequently, for the same reason you need to wash your underwear, gym clothes, socks, and towels. Yes, towels. Is there any reason you can’t stock up on a few extra sets of both pillowcases and towels, and keep them in a constant, fresh rotation? No, there isn’t.
4. Hydrate your sleep space
When the air is dry, it pulls moisture from every possible source, including your skin. That means even the most oily-faced among us can experience dry-skin blemishes at the height of winter and in summer when air conditioners are going full blast. The reason you need to be extra vigilant about your sleep environment is because you essentially lie in this environment for hours and hours, and your skin reflects the quality of the air in that room. So, keep a humidifier going in the winter, and mind the AC levels in summer. If you simply must Crank it up, then make sure your summer nighttime regimen is as robust as it is during winter. That bedtime moisturizer can create a shield over your skin and prevent moisture loss. Your complexion will thank you.
5. Quit touching your face
Your fingers are filthy, from your phone, from your keyboard, your hair, the light switches, faucet handles, doorknobs, etc. Even if you are careful about disinfecting and washing constantly, there’s no reason to believe your hands are ever clean enough to grace your face. It’s begging for a breakout.
6. Take a hard look at your diet
Your genetics play a big role in how your body processes food and how it affects onto your complexion. However, there are still some universal rules that benefit everybody’s skin. First, cut back on processed foods. That stuff will clog your pores, and it’s not great for you in general. Alcohol can dry out the skin and lead to breakouts, so try to limit the booze, especially in the day before any big events or photo ops. If you’ve been breaking out a lot while feasting on pizza, nachos, or milk, then it’s worth minimizing your dairy intake and just seeing how your skin responds. Most importantly, though, you need to stay hydrated. I don’t care if it’s annoying to have to pee 17 times in a day. Drink water. Drink lots of water. Make it a habit you keep.
7. Get enough sleep
It’s remarkable how good sleep is for you—including for your skin—since the body rejuvenates itself overnight. Every single one of your bodily functions benefits from a full 7 to 8 hours of rest. (All the more arguments for a good night cream.) And because staying well rested can keep cortisol levels low, it means less stress in your system, which yields fewer breakouts in addition to having all your systems running strong.
8. Stress less
Stress, in all its forms, can cause your cortisol levels to spike, and in turn cause oil glands to go into hyperdrive. If only it were as easy as choosing to be less stressed. But do what you can to temper stress on your body. We’re not necessarily saying to quit your job, but certainly make time for a long walk and a full night’s rest.