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11 Things That Cause Your Skin to Freak Out

Because knowledge is power.

woman looking in mirror
Photography by: Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images

We’ve all been there. Life is going great, it’s smooth sailing, everything is running the way it should. And our skin? It’s glowing. You look fabulous. And then reality hits -- your skin goes bonkers, and you don’t know why. There are a number of reasons why this could be happening to you and knowing why it could be happening could prevent future epidermal temper tantrums. 

Seasonal Allergies

Your allergies might be the cause of more than just feeling miserable internally. Aside from the sniffles, they can actually make your skin reactive. Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology explains that all of a sudden your skin might become intolerant to products that it normally tolerates quite well. Topical acne medication can make skin dry, facial scrubs can cause skin to be rough and itchy, and chemical peels can cause burns. It’s like you have a different skin. Dr. Howe explains, “Seasonal allergies can provoke a state of subclinical inflammation in someone's skin." It's this state we refer to as "reactive" as anything could set it off.  As for the signs that your skin is in a reactive state: patchy dryness and a tendency to break out in itchy red blotches that get worse if you scratch or rub them are two clear signs.

 

Your Breathing Is Obstructed

Obstructed breathing whether because of illness, weight, or age-related tightening of your airways can have an unexpected effect on your appearance. According to Dr. Gelb, co-author of GASP!: Airway Health - The Hidden Path To Wellness, Breathing that isn’t optimal ultimately affects the quality of your sleep, rendering it less restorative. And when you don’t have restorative sleep, you’ll find that your skin might look pasty and you look haggard and stressed. If your breathing becomes improved -- Dr. Gelb reiterates that more oxygen will be provided to every cell in your body -- your skin will have more color to it, and your eyes will open up and become whiter.

 

Sleeping in Your Makeup

Beauty sleep is important, as proven by the above, but if you sleep in your makeup, you are sabotaging your skin. Dr. Weiser of NYDG explains that during the day free radicals cling to makeup and skin, therefore augmenting oxidative damage and causing accelerated aging. “It is crucial to wash skin before bedtime to remove makeup and associated pollutants and oxidants from the skin surface in order to allow the skin time to heal and rejuvenate overnight.”

 

Excess Sugar Consumption

Derms across the board will tell you the same thing: If you eat a ton of sugary foods, it will show on your face. Why? “Excessive sugar consumption speeds the production of advanced glycation end products which cause collagen breakdown and skin sagging over time.” If that’s not a reason to cut down on your favorite gummy candies, we don’t know what will.

 

Your Skincare Routine

This is counterintuitive, but Dr. Howe explains, “Oftentimes, our skincare habits were adopted in our teens, when our skin first became a focus of attention, and have been continued -- as a matter of unexamined faith -- ever since. And that ignores the central fact that our skin is changing, both with the passage of years and from season to season.” Furthermore, a skincare routine for teenage skin is far too harsh for most adult skin, but especially for a person with reactive skin. The reason is that people are far less oily as adults than they were as teens. The skin produces only a set amount of oil each day, and once that is stripped away, any deficiency cannot be “made up for” by increased production, and as a result your skin might simply become dry.

 

Your Workout

While getting exercise is important for overall health, Dr. Howe says it could cause your skin conditions to change for the worse. He suggestes that this is due to styling products in your hair or on your face that permeate as you sweat. 

 

Processed, Fatty Foods

Dr. Shereene Idriss, of Wexler Dermatology explains that a diet rich in antioxidants is essential to beautiful, wrinkle-free skin. “Avoiding processed foods and an excess of salt and alcohol can help achieve a more radiant glow to your skin,” says Dr. Idriss, “because they tend to dehydrate you resulting in a ruddy look. Clean eating is essential for a healthy mind, body, and beautiful skin.”

 

Acne Products You Think Are Acne-Friendly

Dr. Weiser explains that there is a misconception about products being acne-friendly. Oftentimes, acne-friendly products can actually be comedogenic. “Many acne-prone patients believe that oil-free products are crucial to blemish-free skin,” but it turns out “emulsifiers used instead of these oils are often key culprits in triggering more breakouts.”

 

Benzoyl Peroxide

Another unexpected skincare saboteur! According to Dr. Weiser, this is a super common ingredient in most acne-fighting skincare products, but it might actually be counterproductive in fighting acne. This is because, “Use of this ingredient can overly dry the skin surface creating a rebound in oil production and worsening breakouts.”

 

Fragrance in Soaps

A hidden aggravator of skin might be the fragrance in your detergent. According to Dr. Weiser, “People often don’t realize that chemicals and fragrances in skincare products and laundry soaps or softeners can cause reactions on the skin surface.” Moreover, “Natural” and “organic” products often have more plant additives (and therefore natural fragrance) which can be similarly or more irritating than “chemical” product counterparts.” It’s worth considering if your skin is reactive.

 

Excessive Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption

Any derm will tell you caffeine and alcohol make the fight for gorgeous skin just that much more difficult. Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine and consuming large amounts of alcohol without properly hydrating can lead to skin cells becoming flaccid and sunken, in turn leading to more pronounced lines and wrinkles and premature aging. 

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