Nine surefire ways to stop breakouts in their tracks

Hate your problem skin? Suffer from regular breakouts? Here are nine surefire ways to stop spots in their tracks.

There’s nothing more annoying than waking up in the morning and finding your face covered in zits. White, black, and red pimples cover your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, making you look like you’re a teenager again on a Monday morning before school. 

Sometimes breakouts happen, and there’s no rhyme or reason to explain why. Other times, though, there is a cause. And that means you have an opportunity to intervene. 

Researchers think they know what causes breakouts at a mechanistic level. Most put it down to overactive skin pore glands. When they open up, they churn out oil and allow bacteria to enter. Over time, they become inflamed and eventually flare up into visible pimples. 

While breakouts are a complex interaction between hormones and genetics, there are lifestyle modifications you can make that helps to keep them at bay. Here are nine surefire things to try.

1) Understand your skin type

The type of skin you have plays a massive role in how many spots you get. If you naturally have small pores that produce very little sebum, then you’ll have fewer breakouts and probably aren’t reading this article. 

If you have larger openings on the surface of your skin, there are more opportunities for bacteria to penetrate, and breakouts become more common. 

Understanding your skin type is often the first step along the road to dealing with breakouts. If yours is naturally oily, then you’re at a much higher risk of a breakout. Oil is a natural carrier of bacteria. So when you touch or rub your face, you move the oil around, pushing microbes into other pores where they can thrive, allowing them to multiply. 

Treatments for acne usually involve finding ways to reduce the skin’s oiliness and target the underlying inflammation. Thus, things like regularly removing excess oils on your T-zone can help tremendously if you are especially prone. 

2) Moisturize your skin with noncomedogenic products

Even if you have oily skin, you sometimes need to moisturize it, especially if you’ve been out in cold weather or just taken a hot shower. 

But there’s a problem: most moisturizers contain oils and synthetic fragrances that can make breakouts worse, fuelling the fire, so to speak. 

Fortunately, so-called non-comedogenic moisturizers are free from these substances and help you get moisture back into your face after washing it with soap. 

3) Keep your hydration levels high

Staying hydrated is a critical part of preventing breakouts, but not for the reasons you expect. We tend to think of drinking lots of water as being useful for keeping skin plump and supple. But it is also essential for signaling. 

When you’re dehydrated, oils glands in the skin attempt to compensate by churning out more sebum. If you have breakout-prone skin, this is a problem because it means more opportunities for bacteria to spread around your face. 

So, the answer is the standard one: drink more water and avoid drinks that dehydrate you, like alcohol. 

4) Avoid touching your face

Given the discussion so far, you could probably see this one coming: don’t touch your face. When your fingers come into contact with your nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin, they transfer a fresh stock of bacteria to your face, ready to colonize your pores and cause breakouts.

If you have an itch on your face, try to scratch it using a hygienic implement of some sort. Also, wash your hands regularly – something that you should be doing to prevent the spread of disease anyway

5) Use tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has long been a folk remedy for fighting pimples. But now there is evidence that it really works. Mayo Clinic researchers, for instance, found that it reduced the redness and swelling associated with spots. They also discovered that it contained factors that prevented pores from becoming clogged and breakouts getting worse. 

If you have a pimple problem, place a couple of drops on the affected area, and spread it using a pad. 

If you have allergies, do a patch test first to see if you react. Tea tree oil contains powerful active ingredients and could irritate the skin. 

If you have sensitive skin, try diluting tea tree oil with hypoallergenic oils and reapplying. 

6) Limit your exposure to the sun

The motivation for limiting your exposure to the sun is much the same as it is for drinking more water. Sunlight has the unfortunate effect of drying out the skin, encouraging it to increase its oil production. As before, this increases the spread of bacteria across the face, allowing one infected pore to transmit microbes to many others. 

If you want to go outside for long stretches, be sure to use non-comedogenic sunscreen – one that doesn’t contain any fragrances or oils. Alternatively, just wear a big hat that keeps your sun in the shade at all times. 

7) Avoid popping pimples

When you have a big whitehead on the end of your nose, the temptation is to pop it. Dermatologists recommend against doing this for two reasons.

The first is that popping pimples can lead to scarring, especially if you have cystic acne. And the second is that the gunk that comes out is full of bacteria that can infect surrounding pores, causing the whole process to start all over again. 

Your best bet is to allow the spot to dry out and flake off. The body prefers this method, even if it does mean walking around with a white lump on your face for a couple of extra days. 

8) Don’t cake your face in makeup

Makeup is something that can make you feel more confident on a night out. Unfortunately, wearing it every day could actually be making your breakouts worse – not what you want!

So what’s the solution here? Where possible, go au naturel. If you can’t, focus on making yourself up using products that you don’t apply directly to the skin, like mascara. 

Another strategy you can use is taking your makeup off when you walk back through your front door. Heavy foundation or greasy spritzes can all leave you prone to breakouts like never before. But allowing your skin to breathe for the majority of the day can reduce your risk. 

9) Improve your diet

Like it or not, what you eat has a massive impact on how your skin appears. Those who avoid dairy and eat plenty of whole grains, beans, and vegetables invariably tend to have the best skin. Those who don’t can struggle. 

What you eat affects the quality of your complexion in fork key ways: 

  1. It determines the type of hormones you have careering around your body, and in what quantities. Eating more animal foods, for instance, increases estrogens. 
  2. It affects blood flow to the face. When you have a healthy cardiovascular system, it can supply nutrients to the face, making it healthier. 
  3. It changes the bacterial makeup of the face. When you eat well, your body naturally starts to change the composition of bacteria on the skin. And many of the species you get are less likely to produce inflammation.
  4. Anti-inflammatory foods reduce the level of inflammation in your body, helping to combat facial redness.

Eating a diet based around whole foods is usually best. 

Take back control of your skin

So there you go – nine ways you can fight breakouts and take back control of your skin.

Even if you’re a young adult between the ages of 15 and 25, there are many things that you can do to right breakouts. It’s not predetermined or “something that just happens to young people.” It’s usually related to your environment and lifestyle, which is good news as you can often make positive changes to see a difference to your skin. 

Photo by Jessica Felicio