The 12 Worst Things For Acne-Prone Skin

May 8, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

From over-scrubbing to overdoing it with one harsh product after another, those of us who suffer from acne-prone skin are often at a loss when it comes to the best way to prevent breakouts and irritation. We see all that oil and shine and we think: well, geez, it makes sense to attack these enemies with any and all arsenal at our disposal!

The problem with this aggressive way of thinking is that, when you aren’t kind to your poor pores, they’re going to defend themselves by producing even more oil, sebum–and, yes, pimples, blackheads and whiteheads.

“During certain times of life, hormones become imbalanced and hormonal acne needs additional assistance, but basic acne is caused by three things: dead skin, clogged pores, and bacteria–all of which create a commotion,” said Roberta Perry, president of Scrubz Body Scrub.

Sometimes, it isn’t just about what you should be doing for your skin–it’s about what you should never, ever do. We spoke with several experts and narrowed the list down to 12 of the worst things for acne-prone skin.

1. Touching your face. It’s a nasty habit and a great many of us can’t shake it. We touch our faces when we’re nervous, deep in thought, on the phone, or even compulsively checking on a giant pimple that feels like it’s about to break through and consume our entire cheek. All of that touching is just transferring bacteria from our hands to our faces, where it mixes with oil and dead skin and creates more acne, according to Perry.

2. Scrubbing too much. It’s natural to want to scrub and rub the oil off of our faces, but it’s the polar opposite of what we should be doing to our skin. “Using physical exfoliation, especially scrubs with beads or nut shells, can be very inflammatory for acne-prone skin and can also spread bacteria around, leading to more acne,” said Pearl Dworkin, a licensed esthetician and founder of Glamologie.

3. Abusing your Clarisonic. No offense to the Clarisonic, which so many celebs and gorgeous women rave about, but, like all products, it isn’t for everyone. If you suffer from acne, Dworkin says you should use the most gentle Clarisonic brush you can find, along with an antibacterial cleanser. Be sure to change your brush head often so that you aren’t simply spreading bacteria all over your face.

4. Allowing your fear of moisturizers to take over your life. Women with acne-prone skin are often dreadfully frightened of adding additional moisture onto their skin, but a moisturizer that suits your skin type will actually help with acne, not make it worse. “Keeping the skin hydrated will allow the oils in the skin to wick through the pores,” Dworkin said. “Hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid will keep your skin calm and not cause breakouts. Dry, dehydrated, acne-prone skin will break out more and take longer to heal.” One fantastic moisturizer to try? Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream.

5. Treating the whole face as if it is acne-prone. Chances are, you may experience acne in your T-zone (your forehead, nose, and chin), but could have totally normal or even dry cheeks. If this sounds like your skin situation, one of the worst things you can do is rely on just one product to cover your entire face. “It’s best to use the products specifically formulated to treat acne on the areas of the face where acne is occurring,” she said. “When you use acne treatments in other areas, then those areas get dry and dehydrated and can actually start to break out as they become imbalanced.”

6. Wearing heavy makeup. The urge to cover up acne with a thick concealer, foundation, and powder is strong, but Dworkin cautions women to check the ingredients in their cosmetics and make sure they are suitable for acne-prone skin. “For acne-prone skin, a water-based makeup is best,” she said. “Oil-based and heavier products, such as primers, can irritate and exacerbate acne-prone skin.” One water-based foundation we love? Make Up Forever Face & Body Liquid Makeup.

7. Not cleaning makeup brushes. Regardless of skin type, every woman should wash her makeup brushes with warm, soapy water at least once a month (every two weeks is even better). And you know that cute little poof that comes in your pressed powder compact? Don’t even think about using it! “The little pressed powder poofs can harbor bacteria,” Dworkin says. Same goes for makeup sponges, which you can never get 100 percent clean. Use a makeup brush instead.

8. Skimping on SPF. Acne-prone skin is vulnerable to skin damage, especially as a pimple is healing and leaves a red mark on the skin, Dworkin says. Using a moisturizing product with SPF each day will prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you can’t shake free from the worry that your SPF will cause additional breakouts, try Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen, which is super light.

9. Hopping from product to product. It’s difficult to be patient when you have acne–you just want to find that one miracle in a bottle that works. But Andy Bosselman, who created Arithmetic products to help sufferers of acne, says that’s the wrong approach when it comes to treating acne-prone skin. “Don’t abandon products before they’ve had a chance to work,” Bosselman said. “The skin needs time to react, heal, and adjust to a new wash, serum, or treatment. Unlike teens, whose acne tends to resolve itself quickly, for adults, it often takes two to three months before you can really tell if a new product is working or not.”

10. Not being consistent. Most people who are lucky enough to have gorgeous skin aren’t really lucky at all–they work at it and follow a pretty consistent skincare regimen. “In order to experience a product’s potential it’s important to be regularly using the product,” Bosselman says. “While this is not surprising, sticking to a regular routine isn’t as easy as it sounds. Keep your to-do list easy to remember by applying products morning and night, in between coffee making, teeth brushing, and lights out. If you need help, set reminders on your phone.”

11. Complicating matters. The relationship you have with your skin is a little like the one you have with your partner: the more you complicates matters, the less happy you’re going to be. “Everyone’s skincare routine should include four key elements: cleanse, hydrate, treat, and protect,” Bosselman said. “Do these religiously morning and night. Of course, don’t over wash or under moisturize. And always apply a moisturizer with an SPF sunscreen before you leave the house.” In other words: keep it simple.

12. Not washing your sheets. Washing our sheets and pillow cases is one of the most annoying chores on the planet. Who the heck wants to take time out of their busy day to strip the bed, wash, dry, and remake? But your skin could be suffering if you’re not washing your linens often enough. “Busy schedules and lazy Sundays keep many of us from tossing the sheets in the wash on a regular basis, but bacterial build up on your dirty linens, especially pillowcases, may affect your skin,” Bosselman said. “A hot wash eliminates the skin-clogging debris and provides your skin with a fresh place to rest.”

What aggravates your acne-prone skin?

For more beauty tips, check out 10 At-home remedies to try when zits pop up out of nowhere and How to chore-proof your manicure.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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