You might think that a bad diet and stress are huge contributors to acne breakouts. Not true. Experts say ordinary day-to-day stress is not an important factor. And, while eating a balanced diet always makes sense, scientific studies haven't found a connection between a diet and acne. Even so, if avoiding chocolate, French fries, or other food seems to keep your acne at bay, then doctors say it's a good idea to avoid them.
It's airborne grease that's a more likely culprit when pimples appear, so working at a fast-food restaurant is more likely to trigger breakouts than eating at one. There are steps short of quitting your fast-food job that you can take to keep your skin healthy:
- Wash your face gently a couple of times a day with mild soap and warm water to remove excess surface oils and dead skin cells. Because acne is caused by oily buildup, not dirt, scrubbing won't help control blemishes and can actually irritate the skin and further inflame pimples. Some lifestyle factors — playing football with the helmet's chin strap in friction with your face, for example — can increase oily buildup and make regular skin cleansing even more important. If you want to wipe the oil from your face but you're not near soap and water, O'Donaghue recommends carrying face-cleansing pads to wipe your face during a break.
- Shampoo your hair regularly. But avoid oily shampoos, hair gels and conditioners, which dermatologist Katz says can cause acne when your hair rubs against your face during the day or while you sleep.
- Don't use oil-based makeup or other products. For example, girls who wear foundation should look for the word noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic on the label. Avoid moisturizers all together — they aren't needed for oily skin — or if you need a moisturizer for dry portions of skin, look for the same words on the label, and apply the product only to the dry sections.
- Don't kid yourself that a summer tan can outwit acne. A tan can mask your pimples, but only temporarily. Wearing an oil-free sunscreen, such as a gel or light lotion, won't aggravate your acne and can help you avoid potentially deadly skin cancer in your adult years. Some acne treatments can actually increase your skin's sun sensitivity, making it even more important to wear sunscreen when outside. When these steps alone don't control your acne, two main categories of medicines may help suppress mild cases without a doctor's help:
- Benzoyl peroxide. Available in creams, lotions, and gels, benzoyl peroxide can destroy the bacteria associated with acne, typically taking two weeks to work.
- Salicylic acid. Available, like benzoyl peroxide, in lotions and creams as well as some pads, salicylic acid helps to unclog pores to treat and prevent blemishes.