I don’t have perfect skin. I feel like I’ve been fighting breakouts my whole life.
In fact, when I was a teenager I had acne. I used to get breakouts on my back and chest, which left me HORRIBLY embarrassed. I tried to always cover up my body as much as possible, because I never wanted anyone to know about my terrible skin.
I layered makeup on my face. Even still, I rarely go out without concealer because I don’t feel like my skintone is even to this day.
These days, I don’t get many breakouts on my body. Now it seems I’m mainly fighting breakouts on my neck, and along my hairline. My research (and conversations with my dermatologist) have taught me these are hormonal breakouts (yay).
I definitely notice they are related to certain things–stress, workouts, allergies. I’ve learned to combat each of these issues, as best I can, and have ended up with pretty good skin (for the most part). Here are the causes I’ve pinpointed and the solutions I’ve found.
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Stress is a biggy. I recently changed jobs (from my non-profit job to my dream job as a writer–woo!). Even though it was a positive change, I didn’t think my skin was going to survive it. Now obviously fighting breakouts by eliminating all stress from our lives isn’t a solution (or even recommended–some stress is a really good thing).
During stressful times I try to combat it by getting more exercise, sleeping properly, eating healthy, and taking breaks as much as I can. I try to say no to extra stuff, like social plans, when I need a break. I try to take care of myself as much as possible and keep things in perspective.
The other way I combat stress is by talking it out. Sometimes you need to talk to a professional and sometimes you just need to talk to a friend or mentor. Find someone who will listen when you need to bounce off stress and talk it out.
Hormonal birth control can help your skin…but it also tends to make me seriously moody and depressed. I’m pretty sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and I definitely notice a change in my skin during certain times of the month.
I was so excited when my dermatologist suggested I try Spironolactone which is a pill that is not only a diuretic (I dropped five pounds immediately) but helps with all sorts of hormonal stuff that I was dealing with. Then a few weeks after taking it, I broke out in hives. Like, crazy hives.
So, basically, I just try to keep my hormonal issues as regulated as I can without the help of any medication. Not ideal, but I also have learned to take care of my body when it’s going through hormonal times. I get more sleep. I avoid fatty, sugary foods. I drink lots of water (seeing a pattern here).
3. Sweaty workouts
Workouts combat stress, and they combat hormonal issues. Workouts seem like the perfect solution for fighting breakouts, right? Except they ALSO cause breakouts at the same time. Sweat, oil and dirt get trapped on your skin.
I know when I ramp up my workouts I definitely notice it in my skin. This is what I’ve found helps:
- Shower immediately every time I’m sweaty
- Wash with Dr. Bronner’s soap (which works great)
- Spray back and chest with hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle (watch out it will bleach clothes).
- Wash all workout clothes every single time I wear them
- Keeping my hair pulled back completely whenever I run
- Washing off makeup before I workout
Doing these six things really helps keep my skin clear, even if I’m working out frequently. In fact, I would definitely say these are the top solutions I’ve found for fighting breakouts.
4. Hair products
Hair products tend to cause breakouts for me. I use a pretty simple eco-friendly hair care routine to keep my hair looking good. I find that using a salt spray gives my hair texture, and I can make my own which doesn’t cause gross product build up.
I wash my hair every other day, and supplement with dry shampoo. I’m add a few drops of tea tree to Dr. Bronner’s to clear any product build up and to keep my hair from getting greasy. This seems to help keep my skin around my hairline from breaking out.
Whenever I workout I always pull my hair back completely and keep it totally off my face. I wash before and after.
5. Eating dairy
This one’s not a problem for me anymore, but it definitely used to be. I found that eating dairy was a huge issue for my skin. It was flakier, redder and I definitely had more breakouts. The good news is that there are tons of awesome solutions to replace dairy. Almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk…
I know one of the biggest hangups for people is cheese. Here’s the deal. There are definitely passable, decent cheese substitutes out there. Are they as good as dairy cheese? Honestly, some are, and some are terrible (being honest). Kite Hill, Miyoko’s and Daiya all have some really good options. There are also great recipe books out teaching you how to use them. I recently made almond ricotta that was so good I think I could slather it on everything and be happy. There’s Sour Supreme, Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, Daiya makes yogurt that’s awesome…basically there’s a solution for everything.
Vegan cheese and “dairy” subs have come a long way in the last few years. They used to be waxy, plastic-y, non-melting abominations, so if you’ve been traumatized by vegan cheese from years ago, give it another shot. Your skin will thank you.
6. Sleeping habits
Another skin-saver I’ve found is washing my pillowcases and bedding frequently–at least once a week. When I put my face and body on dirty sheets all of that oil, hair product stuff, and just grossness gets onto my skin. It makes it so much worse. Similarly, sleeping in clean pajamas, t-shirts or whatever, also makes a big difference.
Getting enough, quality sleep is also a big ally in fighting breakouts. If I don’t get sleep my skin LOOKS bad. It literally looks dull and sort of greenish and weird (I might be a little dramatic here, but I swear it looks bad). Getting enough sleep is vital. Aim for 7-8 hour of sleep per night.
7. My phone
I breakout along my hairline when I touch my germy phone to my face too much. Think about all the things our phones touch. They’re basically full of gems. They’re at least as dirty as our hands, and yet, we touch them to our face, sometimes for hours, without a second thought. Oh, and if you’re like me, you workout with your phone where it definitely touches your sweat, oil and ew.
I try to wipe off my phone at least a couple times a day. I just use a simple green cleaning solutions of soap, water and essential oil. If you prefer you can also use rubbing alcohol, or special phone cleaner. The point is, wipe off your phone, and use a hands-free device when possible.
Remember, your phone gets dirty, so don’t touch it to your face too much.
8. Nickel allergy
I have an allergy to nickel. This means, whenever I wear jewelry with even a tiny touch of metal on it, it makes me break out in bumps that look a lot like acne. It took a few trips to my dermatologist to figure it out, and it meant I had to stop wearing earrings (sadface).
Allergies can cause a lot of issues that can mimic skin problems. Rashes can be brought on by allergies to products, to soaps, to different detergents. You can also breakout from bacterial infections such as Staph.
If you have breakouts that don’t seem to be linked to anything in particular, consider allergies. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist to eliminate any causes that might be causing your skin to flair up.
9. Over-washing my face
Over-washing is another issues that I didn’t realize was causing my breakouts. See, when your skin is dry it actually produces more oil to combat the dryness. Crazy-strong medicated washes are probably okay for 15-year-old kids that have overly oily skin. However, adults can find these products way too drying, which can actually lead to more breakouts.
I wash my face once a day with soap and once a day with water. I use makeup remover if I’m about to workout, and at night before I wash (with soap). In the morning, I just splash water on my face and pat dry with a soft towel. I use plenty of moisturizer to help keep things from getting all dry and leathery (not a good look).
When I buy products (like sunscreen, which I always wear) I look for products that are non-comedogenic like Alba, Jason, and Kiss My Face. Yes To brand also makes great moisturizer and facial wipes that you can find in the grocery store.
If you’re fighting breakouts, watch for natural treatments like tea tree oil, which can help clear things up. Keep your skin clean, dry and try hard not to pick at it which can cause scars. If you’re really struggling talk to a dermatologist about medical solutions and treatments.
Just remember, there are plenty of things you can do to help your skin. Drink water, eat healthy food, get rest and manage stress. Many of us have breakouts, but they aren’t something we have to feel embarrassed or bad about. There are definitely solutions for fighting breakouts.