Is your lifestyle causing your acne? Certainly not. But the way you live affects your whole body, including its largest organ: the skin. The place you work, the hours you keep, the ways you play — all of these can take a toll on the epidermis, especially in those who are prone to acne. Following are a few everyday acne triggers you might not be aware of, and a few things you can do to avoid them.
Comedones on the job. Since some part of your skin is always in contact with your environment, it’s important to pay attention to the substances with which you come into contact on a regular basis. You may be exposing yourself to comedogenic (pore-clogging) substances on the job without even knowing it; while these substances are not the cause of your acne, they can aggravate it. For example: the airborne grease in a fast-food restaurant can create an invisible film on your skin, clogging your pores. Most industrial oils — the kinds used in cars, in factories, on bicycles — are comedogenic as well.
Acne & Sleep - Sleep and your skin. The simplest good deed you can do for your skin may surprise you: sleep! Scientists and mothers around the world agree that a good night’s sleep — at least eight hours — can do wonders for your complexion. How? A healthy, well-rested body has the resources to build a strong immune system. While a robust immune system won’t prevent acne altogether, it can help fight infection so your lesions clear up more quickly. Luckily, your body isn’t picky; uninterrupted sleep in the daytime is just as beneficial. So if you work late, sleep late — and try to maintain a regular schedule.
Acne & Sun - Savvy sun worshipping. While it’s true that small amounts of sun exposure may initially improve acne, don’t be fooled; the benefit is temporary. Consistent sun bathing will dry your skin, causing your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Also, skin that has been exposed to the sun has to slough old cells more frequently; when you combine the extra oil and extra dead cells, you create the ideal environment for comedones, or blocked pores. So if you work (or play) in the sun, it’s important to protect your skin with sunscreen. Look for oil-free products that provide at least an SPF 15 protection level from UVA and UVB rays.
Acne & Stress - The stress connection. Not surprisingly, stress often has a starring role in the ongoing acne drama. “Ninety percent of my patients complain about what stress does to their skin. It has a huge impact, and it’s becoming a bigger problem every day,” says Katie Rodan, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University.
How can stress — emotional anxiety caused by any number of factors in your life — show up on your face? The connection is purely chemical. When you become tense, your adrenal glands go work, flooding your bloodstream with the hormone cortisol. This triggers the sweat glands in your face to produce more oil. When your sebaceous glands go into high gear, there’s a higher probability that this excess oil will mix with dead skin cells and clog your pores, trapping bacteria inside. The result? More acne, primarily inflamed papules rather than blackheads or whiteheads.
What can you do? Of course, you can't eliminate stress from your life — it's part of being human. But you can minimize its damage by leading a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet and at least seven hours of sleep every night will help you build a stronger physical foundation; if you're well fed and well rested, you're less likely to feel irritated by the events of your day. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it's just a walk around the block at lunchtime. It's also important to take time out of every day to relax — read a book, take a bath, practice yoga, or do whatever makes you feel happy and calm. It's an important step towards overall good health, and therefore the health of your skin.