11 Things That Cause Your Skin to Freak Out
Even with the best intentions, your daily routine might be secretly sabotaging your complexion. Here's a shortlist of issues to address this season.
Finding the right skincare routine takes time. Quite often, however, despite our best efforts, our complexion still goes haywire and blemishes set in. As you work to clear up the issue, consider how even the best intentions can be thwarted by daily habits and outside factors you may not have control over. From dry flakiness to rashes and sporadic acne, four skincare experts share their best advice on how to avoid some common blemish triggers.
In addition to the sniffles, seasonal allergies can actually make your skin reactive. Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology explains that your skin might become sensitive to products that it normally tolerates quite well. Topical acne medication can make skin dry, facial scrubs can cause skin to become rough and itchy, and chemical peels can cause burns. "Seasonal allergies can provoke a state of subclinical inflammation in someone's skin," Dr. Howe says. This state is commonly known as "reactive," as anything could set it off. Some signs that your skin may be in a reactive state? Patchy dryness as well as a tendency to break out in itchy red blotches that get worse if you scratch or rub them are good indications that you may need to adjust your routine for a bit.
Illness, weight, or age-related tightening of your airways can have an unexpected effect on your appearance. According to Dr. Michael Gelb, co-author of GASP!: Airway Health-The Hidden Path To Wellness, irregular breathing ultimately impacts 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." Dr. Gelb stresses that more oxygen will be provided to every cell in your body if you are able to normalize your breathing. In turn, your skin will have more color to it, and your eyes will open up and become whiter.
Sleeping in Your Makeup
Beauty rest is definitely important, but if you sleep in your makeup, you are sabotaging your skin. Dr. Jessica Weiser of the New York Dermatology Group explains that free radicals cling to makeup and skin during the day, ultimately leading to accelerated aging. "It is crucial to wash skin before bedtime to remove makeup, associated pollutants, and oxidants from the skin surface in order to allow the skin time to heal and rejuvenate overnight."
If you eat lots of sugary foods, it will show on your face. Why? "Excessive sugar consumption speeds the production of advanced glycation, which causes collagen breakdown and skin sagging over time." If that's not a reason to cut down on sugar (and to watch for added sugar in your daily routine), we don't know what is.
Certain Skincare Routines
Believe it or not, the products you are using may be all wrong for your age, 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," he says. "And that ignores the central fact that our skin is changing, both with the passage of years and from season to season." Skincare routines designed for teens are often loaded with astringents and other drying, oil-stripping chemical agents, which are far too strong for those with reactive skin. The skin only produces a set amount of oil each day, and once that is stripped away, your skin is unable to fix the issue by upping oil production overnight. As a result, your skin may become dry and flaky.
While getting exercise is important for overall health, Dr. Howe says it could cause your skin conditions to change for the worse. This is due to styling products in your hair or on your face that permeate as you sweat, he says.
Dr. Shereene Idriss of Union Square 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."
Dr. Weiser explains that there is a misconception about products being acne-friendly. Oftentimes, oil-free products can actually be comedogenic, leading to blackheads by clogging the pores in your skin. "Many acne-prone patients believe that oil-free products are crucial to blemish-free skin," he says. But it turns out that "emulsifiers used instead of these oils are often key culprits in triggering more breakouts."
According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, this is a very common ingredient in most acne-fighting skincare products. In small quantities, it can be very effective; but use it too much, and it may actually be counterproductive in fighting acne. "While effective, it may cause irritation of the skin, especially at higher concentrations," he says. Over-the-counter products contain this ingredient in formulations ranging up to 10 percent, which is simply too much. "Studies have shown that 2.5% is just as effective in treating pimples as higher concentrations, but is associated with less skin irritation," Zeichner says.
According to Dr. Weiser, "People often don't realize that chemicals and fragrances in skin care 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 just as irritating as those with synthetic fragrances added in. Determining your product's fragrance range is worth considering if your skin is reactive.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Any dermatologist will tell you that alcohol makes the fight for gorgeous skin that much more difficult. Consuming large amounts of alcohol without properly hydrating can lead to sunken, flaccid skin. In turn, leading to more pronounced lines and wrinkles and premature aging. Plus, it's been linked to increased facial flushing and flares of rosacea. According to Zeichner, increased alcohol consumption has been linked to "reduced antioxidant defenses" and "an increased risk of cancer" as well. These risks aren't tied to alcohol directly, but rather, the way it influences your decisions. In the summer, for example, "people may not protect themselves from the sun as diligently as they should," he says.