10 Lifestyle Steps to Help Your Acne

From the WebMD Archives

Beating breakouts isn't just about what lotions you put on your skin. You could see your acne improve if you make some simple changes to your daily routine.

No. 1: Get More Sleep

According to a study in Sleep, the risk of psychological stress increases by 14% for every hour of sleep you lose a night. So what does this have to do with acne?

"Stress increases glucocorticoid production, which can lead to abnormalities in skin structure and function," says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, a dermatologist in Danville, CA. And that can make conditions like acne worse.

To get your beauty sleep, crank your thermostat down to between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. French researchers found that a cooler body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep after you've hit the sack.

No. 2: Tweak Your Diet

Some foods cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, triggering a boost in insulin.

Too much insulin in your bloodstream can trigger changes in your body that can lead to the growth of pore-clogging cells. It can also boost action in your oil glands.

So make some changes to your meals. A study in the American Journal of Nutrition suggests you may have fewer breakouts if you add more whole grains, beans, and veggies and cut back on pasta, white rice, white bread, and sugar.

No. 3: Get Some Exercise

Exercise helps cut stress, which may contribute to acne outbreaks.

Physical activity also helps your skin by increasing your blood circulation, which sends more oxygen to your skin cells and carries cell waste away.

But keep in mind that sweat from exercise can also lead to breakouts by irritating your skin. So it's important to shower right after a workout.

No. 4: Sip Water

Increasing the amount of water you drink is a great way to flush out internal toxins and hydrate your skin from the inside out. Though there is no definitive research that shows toxins lead to breakouts, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that having about 2 cups of water significantly boosted blood flow throughout the body and skin.


No. 5: Say 'Yes' to Sunscreen

You may hesitate to put sunscreen on your face because you've noticed that after a day in the sun, your complexion looks clear and breakout-free. But the inflammation from sunburn can make your acne worse or cause more dark spots. Plus, staying out in the sun without sunscreen raises your risk of skin cancer.

Use sunscreen every time you're in the sun. Read the ingredients list on the back of your sunscreen, and if you're acne-prone, look for lighter chemical ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, octocylene, and zinc oxide.

If you have acne, look for "noncomedogenic" on the label, which means it should not clog your skin's pores.

No. 6: Become a Fan of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s have been shown to control the production of leukotriene B4, a molecule that can increase sebum and cause inflammatory acne.

Omega-3s can be found in supplements or in foods like walnuts, avocados, flaxseed oil, and salmon.

No. 7: Cleanse Twice a Day

The face has more oil-producing glands than any other part of the body, says Carolyn Jacob, MD, a Chicago dermatologist. Top that with a day's worth of makeup, sweat, smog, dust, and dirt, and you're left with a pore-clogging concoction that, if not washed away regularly, will seep into and fill pores, resulting in blackheads and pimples.

Even if you don't shower twice a day, it's important to wash your face thoroughly -- and gently -- in the morning and at night. Look for cleansers that say "noncomedogenic" on the bottle.

No. 8: Exfoliate

Sure, overzealous oil glands can lead to breakouts, but so can underperforming oil glands. Dry skin has tiny cracks in which bacteria can breed; plus, excessive flaking can lead to clogged pores.

The fix: Gently exfoliate your skin a few times a week with a scrub designed for the face, and follow up with a noncomedogenic moisturizer.

No. 9: De-Germ Your Cell Phone

Several studies have shown that cell phones are hotbeds for germs. Throughout any given day your phone can be exposed to thousands of bacteria, which spread from your fingers (via texting) to your face (via talking) and vice versa.

In addition, the heat produced by your phone can help bacteria to multiply. To keep the germs from landing on your face, wipe the surface of your phone with a little hand sanitizer each day. It’s best to use headphones.


No. 10: Style Strands Strategically

"Pomade acne” is a breakout caused by hair-care products including conditioner, shampoo, gel, and hair spray. This form of acne occurs when oils from styling products seep into skin, usually around the hairline, and trap acne-causing bacteria in pores.

To fight this problem, apply the hair products before you wash your face so that any pimple-producing residue can be washed away. Or choose hair products that are oil-free.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on June 19, 2014



Carolyn Jacob, MD, dermatologist, Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.

Charles Gerba, professor, University of Arizona.


Glozier, N. Sleep, 2010.

Onen, S. Presse Medicale, March 12, 1994.

Rubin, M. Lipids in Health and Disease, 2008.

Smith, R. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2007.

Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, dermatologist, surgeon, clinical instructor, University of California, San Francisco.

WebMD Feature: "Can't Sleep? Adjust the Temperature."

Wipke-Tevis, D. Wound Repair and Regeneration, March-April 2007.

Yosipovitch, G. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 2007.

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