You may think you're doing everything you can to treat your acne, but little mistakes could add up to make it worse. Here are 10 of them to avoid.
1. Using a Dirty Cell Phone
Think about it: Your face produces oil and sweat, which gets onto your cell phone when you're on a call.
If you don't clean that off, during your next call, you're pushing it back into your skin, along with any bacteria that has grown.
To clean your phone, follow the instructions from your phone's maker. You might try ear buds or another hands-free headset. Pressure from holding your phone against your cheek can also cause breakouts by irritating your skin.
2. Putting Hair Products Too Close to Your Hairline
If you use an anti-frizz product, or a thick gel or pomade, apply it away from your forehead.
Otherwise, you can get a line of acne right there at your hair line.
3. Giving Up Too Soon
"Everyone wants clear skin yesterday, but we have no silver bullet that works immediately; acne treatments take weeks to start kicking in," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. He specializes in treating acne.
If over-the-counter acne products don't help within 2 to 4 weeks, then you may need to see a dermatologist. This is especially important if you have acne cysts or if your acne leaves scars.
4. Overwashing Your Face
"One of the biggest myths is: 'My face is dirty, and that's why I'm getting acne,'" says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, of Advanced Dermatology P.C. in Westchester, N.Y.
"Washing too much can strip the skin of essential oils, leading the body to paradoxically produce more oil, which can lead to more pimples," Zeichner says.
Washing twice a day is all you need.
5. Making Mistakes When Washing Your Face
Don't use a dirty or damp washcloth when you wash your face. Bacteria can easily build up on them. Use a clean washcloth each time you wash.
Also, don't exfoliate too often. Sandy or sugary products, rough scrubbing pads or loofahs, and even electric brushes can cause tiny tears in the skin if used daily. The result is irritation and inflammation.
That can make treating acne trickier. Exfoliate only once or twice a week, Zeichner says.
6. Too Much Zit Cream
"More cream is not necessarily better. In fact, [some] ingredients can be quite irritating to the skin," Zeichner says.
You may need less than you think. "One green-pea-sized amount is all you need to cover your face."
7. Picking and Popping Pimples
Bad idea. Pressing and popping your pimples may get the plug at the top out, but you may be causing deeper problems.
"Instead of clearing the blockage out, you're pushing it further down, and that can lead to scarring," Zeichner says.
Spot-treat the pimple instead. Put a little treatment directly onto the pimple to make it smaller and less inflamed.
8. Eating Sweets and Starchy Foods
"When Mom told you to stay away from those items, she may have been on to something," Zeichner says.
No food is proven to cause acne. But sugary, processed foods such as white breads, white pasta, potato chips, cookies, and cakes may be linked to acne, says Bowe, who has researched this. There's no downside to limiting sugary foods.
Some studies have linked dairy products to acne, but that's not certain.