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Adult acne stinks. “I’ll have clearer skin when I get older,” I thought as a teen. And to a major extent, I do. However, I struggled with significant acne well into my 20s. It wasn’t until I stopped doing a few things (And got serious about a skincare regimen) that my skin cleared up.
Today, I’m sharing 3 things I stopped doing that led to clearer skin.
The path to clearer skin
First, let me say that this post promises no magic. I don’t have a quick fix for you (I wish I did!). Just like any other meaningful change in life, the key is to develop (And stick to) good daily habits.
I can’t guarantee that making these changes will eradicate zits from your face. What I do know is that they worked for me. They were things I didn’t even realize I was doing. I was literally sabotaging my own skincare routine.
One day, I had a little lightbulb moment. I started changing some bad habits into good daily habits. (Remember what I said above about the key to meaningful change in life?) I’ve had much clearer skin ever since. So, I’m sharing them with you, in hopes that you can start making some positive changes as well.
A moment ago, I mentioned a skincare routine. That’s a whole other post in and of itself.
For now, let’s assume that you already have at least a basic skincare routine in place. Something along the lines of: Remove your makeup at night, and wash and moisturize your face in the morning and at night. Because you do, right? If not… for the love of all things, start now.
Okay, soapbox speech over.
Where do zits come from?
In order to understand why it’s so important to stop doing the 3 things below, we need to take a quick look at the origin of acne. This isn’t high school health class. This will be brief and painless, I promise.
Here’s how a pimple happens:
- Hair follicles are attached to oil glands
- The oil normally exits your skin by traveling along the hair shaft and through the hair follicle (Like a teeny tiny highway!)
- Dead skin cells and oil mix to jam the opening of the follicle (Roadblock…)
- Bacteria gets trapped inside
- An infection occurs, and a zit is born (Gross.)
For a less succinct, but medically sound explanation, check out this helpful article from Mayo Clinic.
Now that we know the origin of zits, lets dive in.
1: Stop touching your face
Keep your hands off your face. Period. Just don’t do it.
Your hands are full of bacteria. By touching your face, you’re giving germs an all-access pass right into your oil glands/pores. They’ll hang out there and cause a pimple once the pore gets clogged. Break the acne cycle by banning hand-borne bacteria.
Not touching my face is something that I still sometimes struggle with. I sometimes catch myself at my day job, tapping my chin or resting my chin in my hand when I’m working on something especially challenging.
What to do instead
Let’s replace that bad habit with one that will help you get clearer skin.
First, figure out when and why you tend to touch your face. Is it when you’re bored? Tired? Thinking? Stressed?
Next, give your hands something to do instead of touching your face. A few options:
- A stress ball
- A small object to hold/fidget with (My go-to in my work situation above)
- Fold your hands together
- Give yourself a mini shoulder massage
2: Stop popping your zits
If you’ve never popped your zits, congratulations. You’re so much better than I was.
The truth is, this sick habit isn’t (usually) done to be weird and gross. It’s done out of desperation when an embarrassing and unsightly pimple rears it ugly head.
Popping a zit is almost always a bad idea, though. This article from WebMD explains why. Here’s a synopsis:
First, remember that a zit is actually a bacteria-filled infection. Popping it releases that bacteria onto the skin around it, where it can leak into other pores, causing more zits.
Second, pressure from trying to pop can force the bacteria deeper into the hair follicle, making the infection even worse.
Not only can popping a pimple make it worse, it can also cause scarring. A pimple is an infection – a wound – and picking at it won’t do you any favors in the long run.
What to do instead
There are a few options that allow you to safely treat a pimple.
- The WebMD article above explains how to safely pop a pimple yourself, if you just can’t resist.
- The article also helpfully mentions that you can pay someone else (i.e., a dermatologist) to pop it for you. What a job! Note that this is usually reserved for severe cases of acne.
- Finally, you can always go for good old concealer over spot acne treatment. See if your skincare brand has a spot treatment designed to work with your regimen.
3: Stop skipping exfoliation
Remember earlier when we talked about where zits come from? I mentioned that dead skin cells mix with oil to clog follicles/pores and trap bacteria.
Exfoliating removes those dead skin cells, reducing the chances of clogged pores. (It’s also super a super important step in the sunless tanning process. Check out my post on spray tanning for more info!)
There are lots of great exfoliation products out there. There’s a good chance that your favorite skincare line has one that fits right in to your regimen.
However, you don’t really have to use a product to start exfoliating your skin. You can use a washcloth, or even the ridges on your fingertips. Here’s how:
- Wait until close to the end of your shower to wash your face
- Once you’ve washed and rinsed, use a soft, wet washcloth or your fingertips to apply gentle pressure to your face in circular motions
- Work from your forehead down to your chin
First and foremost, the key word here is gentle. Don’t ravage the skin on your face by pressing too hard or pulling on your skin.
Second, it’s important to wait until the end of your shower to exfoliate. It allows the water and steam to get those dead skin cells nice and soggy, so they slough right off. Much better than allowing them to hang around, clogging up your pores!
A little bonus tip: Exfoliating in the shower works great for lips, too.
Gently rub your finger back and forth across your lips at the end of your shower. Watch those dry, rough skin cells come right off! Hello, soft lips! I wouldn’t recommend it if your lips are cracked or especially dry.
One more little bonus: Sometimes hormonal issues contribute to adult acne. Pay attention to when your breakouts occur. Is it when you’re stressed? Around your period? When you’re not getting enough rest? If you see a pattern developing, start planning to treat breakouts before they even happen.
For example, I almost always get breakouts on my chin right before my period. (It’s nature’s terrible, stupid version of a vey reliable clock.) Because I know this, I keep an eye out for any emerging acne around that time. As soon as I see it, I treat it with an anti-acne product.
As a result of anticipating and reacting to these cyclical breakouts, I end up with fewer pimples. And the ones I do get don’t last as long.
What I’m saying is…
Adult acne is no fun. But, you may be able to get significantly clearer skin by nixing a few bad habits:
- Stop touching your face to prevent transferring extra bacteria to your facial skin
- Stop popping your pimples to avoid spreading bacteria, making infections worse, and causing scarring
- Stop skipping exfoliation in order to clear pore-clogging dead skin cells from your face
Do you struggle with adult acne? What changes have you made to get clearer skin? Let me know in the comments below!