For many of us, achieving clear skin is about as simple as finding a needle in a haystack. I have news for you – it doesn’t need to be this difficult. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’ve probably tried almost every “skin-clearing” product lining the shelves of your local pharmacy (I know I have) and probably have tried prescription medications that didn’t even do the trick. This is likely due to the fact that acne is the result of a ton of different factors, many of which can’t be touched by topical creams.
What Exactly Causes Acne?
The 4 biggies are diet, stress levels, skin care products, and genetics.
What you eat affects your entire body, including your skin. Some of the most notorious acne-related foods are dairy products, foods that are highly processed with lots of refined sugar (cereal, cake, soda, white bread, etc), and even things that we might consider super healthy like fresh-squeezed fruit juices. It’s important to note that the examples listed above are not inherently bad (okay, maybe skip the soda), they should just be consumed in moderation.
How to Deal:
When it comes to overall health, I believe food is the best medicine. The best thing you can do for your skin (and your body in general) is to eat a variety of colorful fruits & vegetables and make sure you’re getting your omega-3 fatty acids in. Fruits and veggies provide you with an array of different phytonutrients to keep your body running in tip-top condition while omega-3 fatty acids assist the body in fighting inflammation. Some foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, chia, and flax seeds.
Chronic stress is one of the worst things for our skin. When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones like corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of Dermatology at George Washington University points out that CRH increases our skin’s production of oil which can clog pores and lead to pimples. When CRH is released, it actually stimulates the synthesis of cortisol which leads to excessive oil production, and in excess can do a lot of damage to the rest of the body.
How to Deal:
Find what brings you peace and implement it into your daily routine. This may be meditation, yoga, get
ting some fresh air, taking a bath, or even catching up on your favorite TV show. We often get so consumed with work or school that we feel like it’s impossible – maybe even irresponsible – to take time for ourselves. Don’t fall into this trap – allow yourself to do these things! As long as you’re taking time to relax and recharge, no time will be wasted & you’ll be doing your skin a huge favor.
3) Skin Care Products
Yep. Your skin and hair care products may be to blame for your breakouts. Many products contain heavy oils and pore-clogging ingredients that can ultimately lead to pimples. Some products have such long lists of ingredients, there may be a chance you’re allergic to one of them – check in with your dermatologist to see if this is the case.
How to Deal:
The best rule of thumb? Less (ingredients) is more. Choose skin and hair care products that are non-comedogenic. If you’re having trouble finding the right skin care products, the best thing to do is to check in with your dermatologist or esthetician. Some of my favorite ingredients for acne-prone skin willow bark & tea tree oil. Willow bark is salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that helps to absorb excess oils and exfoliate the skin. This helps clean out the pores and clear out skin debris. Tea tree oil has some pretty impressive antimicrobial properties, which helps keep bad bacteria at bay and your skin clear & glowing.
Unfortunately, your mom and dad may have passed you some genes that make you more susceptible to breakouts. If this is the case, it’s even more important to watch your diet and stress levels as these things can exacerbate breakouts.
How to Deal:
Getting enough exercise, eating healthy, and decreasing stress are all things you can do to fight back against your “acne genes”.