Interrupted sleep increases cortisol and makes it harder to clear acne:

  • Night-shift jobs
  • Broken sleep from new motherhood
  • Insomnia
  • Menopausal hot flashes
  • Long plane trips
  • Crossing time zones


dryer sheets

Laundry products must be free of perfumes and dyes.

Safe detergents

  • All Free & Clear
  • Tide Free & Gentle
  • Arm & Hammer Free of Perfumes/Dyes
  • Cheer Free & Gentle
  • Purex Free & Clear
  • CVS Free
  • Costco Kirkland Free & Clear Ultra

Safe bleach:

  • Clorox2 for Colors Free & Clear


Avoid laundry additives, enzymes and especially fabric softeners.

This includes fragrance-free dryer sheets, which leave a waxy residue that can clog pores and irritate skin. Instead, try dryer balls, which are chemical-free, last forever and are good for the environment.

Imported designer jeans are sprayed with toxic fungicides, pesticides and formaldehyde, that cause booty acne, and bras from Victoria’s Secret have been linked to chest and back acne, even after they’ve been washed. Wash these items several times before wearing the first time if you’re susceptible to body acne.



Avoid dietary iodine.

Sources of dietary iodine include

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream)
  • Processed foods
  • Take-out food
  • Frozen dinners
  • Fast food
  • Canned food
  • Soft drinks
  • Salty snacks
  • Salted nuts
  • Canned, packaged and restaurant soups
  • Ramen noodles
  • Tomato juice
  • V-8
  • Seasoned salt
  • Iodized salt
  • Salty condiments
  • Gatorade
  • Propel
  • Power-Aide
  • Other high-sodium sports drinks (Vitamin Water is OK)
  • Energy drinks
  • Seaweed
  • Chinese food (salty sauces, MSG, soups, soy sauce)
  • Mexican food (cheese, sour cream, refried beans and salted tortilla chips)
  • Processed meats (lunch and deli meat, hot dogs, bacon, franks, hot links, sausage)
  • Condiments containing kelp, MSG and/or iodized salt.



Avoid peanuts, peanut butter and wheat germ.

Peanuts, peanut butter, and wheat germ all contain androgen hormones that increase your oil production and cause breakouts. You can enjoy other nuts, as long as they’re unsalted. Try almond and cashew butter.



Look carefully at the ingredients in your supplements.

Safe supplements:

  • Opti-Zinc (zinc monomethionine)
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Fish Oil

Avoid nutritional supplements and green detox programs with these ingredients:

  • Kelp
  • Sodium
  • Iodine
  • Potassium iodides
  • Algae
  • Seaweed
  • Chlorella
  • Spirulina



Skip the dairy.

Dairy in your diet is strongly linked to acne. This includes cow’s milk and ice cream mainly, but also pre-shredded cheese and queso. Concerned about getting enough calcium and vitamin D without dairy? Eat lots of dark green veggies and take supplements with calcium citrate, magnesium and vitamin D. If you can’t give up the real thing at the very least drink organic milk, and almond or coconut/almond milk is even better.


Avoid seasoned salt, which contains iodine and MSG.

Try a blend of iodine-free sea salt, Mrs. Dash Table Blend, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper.


Sodium and bromide can aggravate acne.

This includes cold and flu medications like Alka-Seltzer.


Do not pull off flaky skin.

Washcloths, spa gloves, abrasive scrubs, brushes, buffing pads, alcohol-based astringents and rubbing with a towel can cause over-exfoliation, irritation, and darkening of the skin.


Don’t slack up on prescribed home care.

If we help you get clear, don’t think you’re so good that you can quit using your products. You might stay clear for a while, but skipping home care products will allow the microscopic beginnings of pimples to form deep in your pores, causing more breakouts, which will lead to new spots and scars.


Get refills on your home care products before you run out.

Stock up before you go out of town. Don’t stop your regimen because you run out of one or two products.

Use sunscreen every morning, rain or shine, 365 days a year (whether going to the beach or into a cave).

Reapply often when exposed to direct sunlight, including overcast skies, when driving, and when sitting in your house close to a window. Avoid direct sun, seek shade, and wear a hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen helps prevent red spots from old acne from getting darker. And it is your main moisturizer, so if nothing else wear your sunscreen in the morning for hydration so your acne products don’t dry out your skin.


skin picking

Stop picking, scratching, popping, and otherwise messing with your acne.

Leave “stop picking” notes to yourself on mirrors, day planners, briefcases, desk drawers, rear view mirrors and in lockers. Picking pushes bumps deeper into the follicle, slows the healing process, invites secondary infection, introduces airborne bacteria, causes thickened, dark dead skin build-up and scarring, and turns tiny bumps into huge red blemishes that take forever to heal and fade. Print off the POREspective picking worksheet. I personally made a 30-day pledge to stop picking my own skin. It worked! I broke the habit and never pick anymore.


ice cube

Use ice to reduce inflammation.

Rub ice cubes in a circular motion on red, inflamed pimples and hair bumps twice a day for two minutes. This really helps!


Avoid fragranced and scented products.

This includes skin care, hair and body products, scented aftershave, aromatherapy products, perfumed detergents, soaps, lotions, and fabric softeners. Sunburn, rashes, acne, dark blemishes and dark “staining” of the skin can develop, especially on sun-exposed skin.


Acne mechanica is caused by friction (rubbing), pressure and occlusion (restricted air flow).

Avoid leaning on your hand or phone, sleeping on your hand or arm, wearing tight hats, caps, visors, headbands (and moving them up and down on your forehead). Also, poor-fitting glasses, football helmets, tight bra straps and bands, heavy shoulder bags and backpacks, over-scrubbing and rubbing with a towel. Use a Bluetooth® device, headset, speakerphone, or ear bud to keep bacteria from your iPhone off your face.


Avoid pore-clogging chemicals in skin care products.

Avoid products with the fatty acid isopropyl myristate and its chemical cousins:

  • Isopropyl palmitate
  • Isopropyl lanolate
  • Myristal myristate
  • Isopropyl isothermal
  • Isostearyl neopentonate

Other cloggers are:

  • Sodium chloride
  • Algae
  • Potassium chloride
  • Decyl oleate
  • Oleic acid,
  • PPG myristyl propionate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Laureth-4
  • Lanolin and acetylated lanolin
  • Most natural butters and oils (except fragrance-free safflower, sunflower, petrolatum, and mineral oil).


hair products

Evaluate all hair products.

If breakouts are concentrated on the hairline, forehead, temples, sides of the face, neck and jawline, sideburns, scalp, behind the ears or upper back, be really choosy about your shampoo, conditioner and styling products. Think about it: Whatever you put in your hair will migrate onto your skin anytime you perspire–when you toss and turn in your sleep, get stressed, rush through your day, climb stairs and exercise.

Hairspray must be light and unscented; cover your face with a cheap paper plate before you spray.

See safe hair products on our pore-clogging ingredients handout.



Keep toothpaste in your mouth (where it belongs).

Toothpaste can cause small breakouts and darkening around and below the corners of the mouth, especially if it contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), tarter control, fluoride and aromatic flavors. If it gets on your skin, use cleanser to remove it. Look for SLS-free toothpaste.


woman sweating 3


Avoid sweat-induced acne.

“Acne mechanica” are pimples caused by friction from rubbing bacteria-laden materials like sweaty workout clothes, towels, hats, and helmets against your skin. This is especially common in people who play sports requiring helmets because they are impossible to clean, or for those who like to wear caps when they run. I call those little bumps on the forehead “hat acne,” most commonly caused by wearing a dirty, sweaty hat. I always tell my clients to wear a clean hat every day!

Wearing loose mineral powder while working out does no harm to your skin; in fact, I even recommend wearing it for clients who work around french fry grease or chemicals as a way to shield their skin from their environment. In the case of wearing loose mineral makeup while exercising, I recommend washing your face or wiping it down with a cleansing cloth after your workout to remove sweat and oils that will cause acne if they are left sitting on the skin.

Always carry your own towel and yoga mat, and clean them after each and every workout. Wash your caps and headbands after every workout, and NEVER wear them twice. Wash your face last, after you’ve rinsed out your shampoo and conditioner, so there are no acne-causing sulfates left on your face from your hair products.


Avoid recreational drugs.

Besides the obvious health reasons that you should avoid marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and speed, they can also aggravate your acne–especially if you’re a “picker.”  Alcohol is safe for acne, unless you’re too drunk to wash your face and apply your home care products.


Avoid oily cosmetics and skin care products.

FD & C red dyes in foundations, blushes, lipstick and powders, MAC foundations and powders (especially Studio Fix), Nars, Shiseido, Lancôme, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Chanel, and other cosmetics. Re-evaluate your cosmetics and moisturizers if breakouts continue. Oil-free products may be free of natural oils, but contain “synthetic oils” known as fatty acids. A good clue is if your make-up sticks to the sink when you wash it off.

Commonly added but highly comedogenic ingredients found in makeup are sodium chloride, postassium chloride, algae extract, and ethyhexyl palmitate. The only makeup I recommend for my acne clients is loose mineral powder, as it’s the only makeup I can say with certainty does NOT contain comedogenic ingredients. Mineral make-up should be free of fragrance, oil, fatty acids and red dyes.


Hormones are linked to breakouts and hyperpigmentation.

Low-estrogen birth control pills, Mirena IUD, Depo-Provera shots will break you out. Also, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and high testosterone can cause acne. Unfortunately, insurance companies routinely approve contraceptive substitutions that are cheaper for them, but not “true” generic equivalents.

Want an IUD? Choose the hormone-free T-shaped copper IUD over Mirena®.



Pregnancy, postpartum and menstrual cycles can cause hormonal flare-ups.

Use a calendar to chart your cycle. Practice diligent skin care and sun care throughout the month. Pay close attention to your lifestyle to counteract problems during these times. Avoid direct sun. Protect your neck (which darkens) and face (watch for dark melasma patches). Pregnant and lactating women should discontinue retinoids, antibiotics and hydroquinone, and discuss nutritional supplements and recent Accutane® (isotretinoin) use with their physician.


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