There are many things you can do right now to improve your acne that are completely free:
Grab an Ice Cube
When you discover a zit forming, grab an ice cube and rub it gently over the spot for about a minute. Keep it moving. Don’t let it sit in one place or you will burn yourself. This will bring down the inflammation and in some cases the pimple will go away by the next morning.
The temptation is so great! What are you going to do with a zit if not pop it? Isn’t it better to squeeze out those blackheads? Shouldn’t I just take the top off the white head and let it out? NO, NO, NO! You think you are getting rid of the blemish, but I promise you are making it worse. Your chances of rupturing the follicle wall are great, which will trigger your immune system to flood the area with inflammation and enzymes that will destroy healthy tissue and leave scars. If you are tempted to pick, grab the ice cube, or if you are our client, call and we will try really hard to get you in for a free extraction. If you find yourself picking all the time, slather your hands with cream and put on gloves. If you’re male, the gloves alone will do.
Change Your Pillowcase
There is evidence that changing your pillowcase every night goes a long way toward cutting down on blemishes. If you can’t see yourself doing that, use two pillows and be sure to turn them over so you have a clean side every night for four nights. Then into the wash they go!
Pass Up the Salt
As in, pass it by. Cutting down on salt has many health benefits (you really don’t want me to start, do you?), but it is the iodine in salt that is wrecking your face. Buy the un-iodized kind if you can’t stop using it. When you are out, order your food without salt and bring your own salt shaker. This is a good trick for French fries because you will get better fries. The restaurant has to make them fresh to get them without salt!
Watch out for Kelp
Kelp is very high in iodides, much higher than fortified table salt, which irritate the follicle walls in acne-prone people. This is true of all seaweed products (algae, carrageenan). Kelp is in a lot of vitamin supplements. Iodine is necessary for making thyroid, so vitamin manufacturers think they are helping people by including potassium iodine in them. (This is why it was put into salt in the first place.)
Say No to Cow’s Milk
Dairy is problematic for people with acne, but cow’s milk is the worst. There are conflicting theories about cheese, so we only recommend organic, raw, and hard block cheese. Is it the cows’ salt lick that has been iodized, the carrageenan as a common additive, the chemicals used in processing the milk, the hormones fed to the cows, or the additives used in making the cheese? Your best bet is to take a dairy holiday for 2-4 weeks, then resume with goat’s or sheep’s milk, kefir, and organic or raw cheese, and see what happens. Or, try one of the dairy alternatives, like almond, coconut, rice, hemp, or flax milk (as long as it’s carrageenan-free, so check the label first).
Skip the Fabric Softener
Dryer sheets are the worst, but any fabric softener leaves a waxy residue on fabric to cut down on static. It is highly comedogenic (clogs your pores), so especially keep it away from your pillowcases. If you can’t stand the static, many people have luck with the dryer balls you can get at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Chocolate, but Not Peanut Butter
Chocolate has a bad rap for causing acne, but clinical experiments have proven that it doesn’t cause or worsen acne. That doesn’t mean that some chocolate candies don’t have ingredients that can worsen acne, but chocolate itself isn’t acnegenic. However, peanut butter is. It has a substance that mimics androgen hormones and makes your skin more oily. Ditto for peanuts, peanut oil, and wheat germ. Can’t live without your fix? Try unsalted almond butter instead. Yummy!
Drink Your Water
People with acne often confuse dry skin with dehydrated skin. Dry skin has little oil, dehydrated skin has little water. Unfortunately, the products you use to dry up the oil implicated in your acne usually take the water with it. Dehydrated skin has trouble healing, it flakes more, and is more prone to breakouts. There are lots of products designed to keep moisture in your skin and some (called humectants) are able to attract moisture out of the air to your skin. Unfortunately, most of these also clog your pores.
Nothing works as well as drinking the stuff. Not only is it good for your skin–it’s good for everything. Drinking water helps with weight loss. Ironically, it helps prevent fluid retention. If you’re not drinking enough, your body tries to hold on to all it has. It helps with headaches. It helps with elimination. It flushes toxins from your body. The list goes on and on.
How much should you drink? A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half and drink that in ounces. So if you weigh 150 lbs. you should drink 75 ounces (a little more than 9 cups). Put a jug in your fridge and put that much in it and drink it by the end of the day. Or take an insulated jug to work with you.
Get Enough Sleep
Someone who knows more about skin than just about anyone says at least 7 hours every single night of uninterrupted sleep. I function best on nine! Seven is deprivation for me. It varies from one individual to another, but minimum is seven. If you think you do just fine with less you are fooling yourself. Lack of sleep definitely affects your skin. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing.
Reduce Your Stress Level
This is hard to do, but find a way–whatever it takes. Deep breathing. Yoga. My husband says weight lifting is the way to go. A walk around Town Lake at lunch time. Staying away from toxic people.
And be gentle with yourself when you have those stress-inducing life changes. Even the happy ones are stressful. Birth, marriage, a new job, a new home. Stress definitely brings about acne lesions in those of us who are acne-prone. It isn’t a coincidence that you get a big zit right before a big presentation or a date for the prom (I get one every single time KEYE invites me on “Austin Live” to talk about skin care–a terrific opportunity, exciting–and stressful!)