Skin care mistakes that are making your acne flare up

Skin care mistakes that are making your acne flare up

Millions of people see their dermatologists seeking advice after an annoying acne flare up that is driving them crazy. You could be following everything that your skin care professional is recommending, but there still may be a few other habits in your skin routine that you are doing on a daily basis which may be putting you at risk for breakouts. In this article, I will present elements of your skin care routine that may actually be making your acne worse!

Frequently changing acne treatment strategies

Frequently changing acne treatment products without giving them sufficient time to work leaves you at risk for more skin irritation without the added therapeutic benefit of the medication. Try using each product for at least 6 to 8 weeks before giving up on it completely. If it doesn’t seem like the treatment working by then, talk with your dermatologist for further advice, being sure to tell them that you believe you’ve given the previous treatment enough time to work. Most acne medications will take 3 to 4 months to completely clear up your acne.

Spot treatment only on blemishes is a no-no

Theoretically, if you see the problem area on your skin it makes sense to only place the medication on that one area. However, many of the medications used to treat acne or utilized to prevent future breakouts. This is why it is of utmost importance to treat all of your problem areas even if they don’t necessarily have noticeable active redness or pustules. Always use as the medication is intended. Preventing the flare up before it happens can save you a lot of headache later on.

Cosmetic products may be worsening your acne

Skin and hair care products are not created equal. It is important to read the back of each of your products to make sure it contains the words “non-comedogenic” or explicitly states that it will not clog your pores as a result of using it. It seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make just by eliminating a product that does not contain that label. Certain fats contained in many products  can have a big impact on whether your break out or not.

Being friendly with your makeup, brushes and applicators

Growing up, mom always told us to share with others. In this case, we will need to go against that very advice. Even if you use non-comedogenic products, if you share them with others, you still run the risk of causing a breakout. Shared makeup can transfer the previous users oils, bacteria and flaked off dead skin cells to your own skin. This is thought to increase the chance of clogging your pores when you use that product. In turn, you are poisoning the well a bit.

No matter how sleepy you are, don’t sleep in your makeup

Sleeping in your makeup is one of the easiest ways to cause a vicious flare of your arch nemesis acne. Luckily enough, this is one cause of breakouts that can be easily prevented. Clean your face with water each day before you go to bed. Your skin will thank you for this. If you don’t have water, use a makeup removal towelette.

Washing your face multiple times throughout the day

It’s true. If you wash your face too many times throughout the day, it can cause irritation to your skin which will inevitably lead to worsening acne. Go ahead and was your makeup off before you go to bed. However, try to limit your face washing to only twice a day, morning and night is a good rule of thumb. Also, exercise is incredible beneficial for your skin, but it is advised that you wash your skin after you are finished with activities that lead to a large amount of sweating to remove the toxins, dead skin cells and any other junk that was washed up from your skin pores in the process. Also, when you wash your skin, be mindful not to harshly scrub. Instead, gently wash in a circular pattern. When drying, always pat dry your face instead of causing a lot of lateral friction. Ultimately, you do not want to cause more damage to your skin by washing your face or other acne prone areas too often or too vigorously.

Dry skin is not healthy skin

Since we were young, we were told that acne was caused by oily skin. Common logic tells us to dry out our skin in order to combat this threatening oily environment that we think is worsening the appearance of acne. However, always remember the mantra that dry skin is not healthy skin, and in fact puts you at risk of developing more acne flare ups. Use your prescribed acne medications as directed, usually twice a day. If your skin feels dry, apply a moisturizer that states itself to be non-comedogenic in order to add a little hydration. Most importantly, avoid applying astringents and alcohol directly to the skin.

No matter how satisfying, do not pop your pimples

In an era of satisfying youtube videos of people popping pimples, please avoid the need to do that on your own skin. The fact is that popping your own whiteheads (closed comedones) can cause the bacteria, dead skin cells and inflammatory cells to be displaced further into your pores. In the case of cystic acne, trying to pop the cysts can sometimes lead to further more aggressive infections deeper in the skin.

Bottom line, you’re always trying to do what is best for your skin. Sometimes what you think is helping may be the very action that is causing your acne to flare up. As always, check with your healthcare professional about your skin care habits in order to further clarify your questions. Using non-prescription acne medication can be helpful in the right circumstances, but always educate yourself about proper use. Bottom line, treat your skin gently, look for non-comedogenic products, and give your skin time to heal before constantly switching up medications. Avoiding these skin care routines that might be making your acne flare up are a good start to healthier skin and a happier outlook on your appearance. 1)Baumann L. “Cosmetics and skin care in dermatology.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:2360.2)Fulton JE, Acne Rx: What acne really is and how to eliminate its devastating effects! Self-published; 2001.3)Harper JC. “Acne: The basics.” Paper written by dermatologist Julie C. Harper, MD to help her patients get the best results from their acne treatment. May 2003.4)Jordan L, Baldwin HE. “Stratum corneum abnormalities and disease-affected skin: Strategies for successful outcomes in inflammatory acne.” J Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15(10):1170-3.5)Zaenglein, AL, Pathy AL, et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74:945-73.


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