Although most of us have been taught to think of acne as a genetic condition, in truth, acne is often caused by plain old bad habits. Everything from diet to lifestyle can cause or exacerbate acne--in most cases, we don’t even realize we’re doing some of these things, which is why it’s so important to understand the bad habits that cause acne!
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: Acne can be caused by any number of factors, many of which are just bad habits. Food, lifestyle, and even mindlessly touching your face can all cause acne, which is why it’s important to be aware of them.
Good to Know: Making even small changes like drinking more water or remembering to wash your face after you’ve been sweating can make an enormous difference in terms of not developing acne!
What Causes Acne and How to Prevent It
It really is astounding when you think about how many things can cause acne that are all but out of our control. Although simple genetics have a lot to do with it, everything from hormones to pregnancy to medication can cause acne. That said, there are many, many factors over which we actually do have control that can cause breakouts to happen.
Narrowing down the bad habits that cause acne is a good way to at least lessen your chances of developing it. Let’s talk about some of what causes acne and what you can do to prevent it:
Diet - It’s a fairly simple equation: eating a lot of sugar, oils, fats, and even dairy can cause serious acne. Most foods that cause acne do so because they cause a rise in blood sugar. When that happens, you release more insulin. More insulin means your oil glands start to work overtime and that means you’re much more prone to breakouts.
One of the best ways to prevent acne is to change your diet. Filling up on foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids is an easy way to do that. These foods, such as salmon, leafy greens like spinach, and nuts like almonds, are known for their ability to calm the skin.
Touching your face - This is something most of us don’t even realize we’re doing, but in fact, we touch our faces many, many times a day. In doing so, we’re transferring everything from germs to dirt to oil to the surface of our skin, clogging our pores and encouraging breakouts. We realize this is tough, but if you can train yourself not to do it, we think you’ll find your skin improves.
Lack of water - Admit it: you drink a lot more coffee than water during the day. If you’re like most people, that coffee is probably full of sugar which can cause acne. That lack of water (real water--not a couple of ice cubes in the cold brew you get in the afternoon!), can cause acne by causing your skin to produce more oil to make up for the lack of hydration.
The rule of thumb to make sure skin stays hydrated is eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day, but for a lot of us, that seems like a lot. A good trick is to make it interesting with naturally flavored, no-cal waters that offer just a little taste.
Lack of sleep - Lack of sleep can cause everything from acne to bad judgement. The body’s cortisol levels go up which triggers an increase in oil production, causing--you guessed it--clogged pores and therefore, acne.
If you really make it a point to practice good sleep hygiene, we think you’ll find your skin will improve in a short period of time as your cortisol levels will go down. Why not treat yourself to a sleep app that plays soft rain or sleep-centered meditations?
Failing to use non-comedogenic products - You know how it’s super important to make sure you don’t accidentally fill your tank with diesel fuel instead of regular gas, otherwise you’ll hurt the engine? That’s kind of how comedogenic products work. They clog the pores which seriously encourages acne.
You should go through your products and really consider switching out problematic products, especially if you have oily or sensitive skin.
Using products for the wrong skin type - Oily and sensitive skins, are especially vulnerable to this issue. Using products with a lot of oil in them can really cause skin to go nuts (not a technical term), causing and encouraging breakouts.
The first step is evaluating your skin type and then buying products that are right for it. If you do, we bet you’ll see a vast improvement!
Using certain hair products - Yup, we’re talking to you, people with bangs! Shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products can really cause your face to break out, especially if you have bangs. If your skin keeps breaking out and you can’t figure out why, it might be your hair products. We know it’s hard to change hair products once you find something you really like, but is great hair worth it if it’s making your skin look bad? If you need to, experiment with sample sizes until you find something that doesn’t irritate your skin, and works for your hair.
Stress - We realize that stress isn’t necessarily a habit, but sometimes engaging in behavior that causes stress is. Nothing will mess around with your hormones like stress and if you’re like most people, at some point, you’ve experienced breakouts during times of great stress (exams, work pressure, pandemics). This is usually caused for the same reason a lack of sleep causes acne--your cortisol levels go up, causing an increase in oil production.
Try to eliminate stress. We realize this is much easier said than done, but it’s a good idea for many reasons. Remember that sleep app we told you to treat yourself to? It probably has a few guided meditations you can use each day to help bring down your stress levels.
Not washing your face after you sweat - We’ve all done it--our workout is finished, we’re tired, and we just want to go home and watch a little Netflix before going to bed, so we leave the gym/barre class/yoga without washing the sweat off our faces. When we do this, we’re allowing dirt and oil to get into our pores and stay there, causing acne.
If you can’t find a way to bring a cleanser with you to the gym, at least throw a package of cleansing wipes in your gym bag until you get home and can really cleanse your skin well.
We hope this helps illuminate why you keep having acne breakouts. Thankfully, these are all solvable problems and for the most part, the solutions take minimal effort. We think with some small lifestyle changes your skin can really turn around!