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Acne Prevention

by Marcie Cook Licensed Aesthetician 
Exercise Prevention

When exercising wear as little make-up as possible, cosmetics can cause clogged pores. Don't sit around in your wet bathing suit or sweaty clothes when you're done exercising. Shower off immediately and change into dry clothes before driving home. If it isn't possible, change into dry clothes and wipe down as well as you can. When toweling sweat off your face blot gently rather than wiping. Vigorous wiping can irritate your skin. When you're going to be in the sun only wear lite-make-up, sunscreen can travel across the skin's surface and lodge in the pores - so wash immediately after working out. If you're prone to body acne, avoid garments made exclusively with Lycra or nylon. Synthetic fabrics can trap heat and moisture against your skin, creating a fertile breeding ground for the bacteria that contributes to acne. For moderate exercise your best bet is lightweight, loose-fitting cotton, or a lycra-cotton blend. If you're working vigorously and working up a good sweat try some of the new fabrics designed to whisk moisture away from your skin. It's best to shower off immediately after working out. If you can't shower right away wipe down with medicated pads. You may use a medicated exfoliate cleanser, but always be gentle with your skin. Scrubbing harder isn't going to make you any cleaner, or make the acne go away faster, and it may actually irritate existing lesions or promote the development of new ones. Some people are more likely to get acne or have lesions aggravated in the areas affected by sports equipment. The best defense against friction-related breakouts is a good fit, make sure your helmet doesn't slide around on your forehead, and your wetsuit isn't too tight under the arms. Try lining your helmet with a layer of soft, washable, cotton fabric. And remember to keep your equipment clean and dry when not in use.

Hormonal Prevention

Hormonal acne may fail to respond to traditional therapies, such as topical retinoids and systemic or topical antibiotics. Here are some clues that will help you and your doctor identify hormonally-influenced acne:

  • Adult-onset acne, breakouts that appear for the first time in adults.
  • Acne flare ups preceding the menstrual cycle.
  • Increased facial oiliness.
  • Excessive growth of hair, or hair in unusual places.
  • Elevated levels of certain androgens in the blood stream.

While hormonally influenced acne typically begins around age 20-25, it can strike teens and mature women as well, and is most persistent in women over the age of 30. Hormonally-influenced acne is usually moderate and limited to inflammatory papules and small inflammatory nodules and occasional comedones.

The treatment of acne in teenagers can be challenging, because their hormones are in a constant state of flux. They may initially respond very well to first-line treatments, such as topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, perhaps accompanied by an oral antibiotic. As their bodies develop, however, they may undergo severe hormonal shifts - and stop responding to the current medications. Courses of acne treatment may need to be adjusted more often with teenagers to accommodate these hormone changes. Many women pass into adulthood without "outgrowing" their acne. Others may not develop in until their 20's or 30's. During the course of a normal menstrual cycle estrogen levels peak at mid-cycle, then decrease as she nears her period. After ovulation, the ovaries begin to produce progesterone, another hormone which stimulates the sebaceous glands, and with extra oil comes acne. Hormones are responsible for acne in a percentage of pregnant women. Sebaceous glands go into high gear during the third trimester, causing oily skin and frequent breakouts. Some women even experience acne after menopause, when estrogen levels begin to taper off and testosterone becomes the dominant hormone. For a woman controlling acne may be as simple as regulating a woman's cycle.

Shaving Prevention

The acne like breakouts known as "shaving bumps" are the result of inflammation in the hair follicle brought on by shaving. As hairs grow back after shaving, waxing, or plucking, they get trapped inside the follicle, resulting in irritation and swelling. Anyone can get shaving bumps, but they're more common in people with curly hair. Before you begin shaving prep the area with warm water. The hydration makes your skin pliable: the heat will dilate your blood vessels, bringing blood flow to the area. Lather well. Thinner, filmier shaving cream help the razor glide over the skin, reducing irritation. Using the right razor is important. If you can use an electric razor, the shave won't be as close, but you probably won't break out. If you prefer blade shaving, use a single-blade razor each time you shave. Double and triple edged blades lift the hair out of the follicle for a shave that is actually below the epidermis. As part of the skin's natural healing process, the epidermis grows over the opening of the follicle. Then, as the hair grows back, it has to fight to get out of the closed follicle - causing an inflammatory response. Go with the grain, the closer you shave the more likely you are to get shaving bumps. Try to get into the habit of shaving with the grain, this will cut down on irritation and may help with nicks and cuts too. When you're done you may want to apply a mild alcohol-free toner or antibacterial gel; this will kill bacteria before it gets into the open follicles.

Make-up Prevention

Acne cosmetics, or acne that is caused by cosmetics, is a mild and fairly common form of acne. Because it is triggered by topical products rather than the complex process that creates true acne, it can strike anyone - even people who are not physiologically prone to the condition. Characterized by small, rashy pink bumps on the cheek, chin, and forehead, it typically develops over the course of a few weeks or months and may persist indefinitely. Over the course of the day make-up migrates across your skin, settling into your pores - much like rainwater collects wherever there are small holes in the ground. Some make-ups include ingredients that are considered comedogenic, or substances that are known to clog pores. There are seven rules for a clean beauty routine.

  1. Avoid penetrating oils. Not all oils are comedogenic petroleum products, mineral oil and sunflower oil do not penetrate into the pores. Most cosmetic oils however, can aggravate acne. One of the most common acne triggers is lanolin oil. Isopropyl Myristate, which promotes smooth, even application in many foundations, is such an aggressive penetrate that it's the main ingredient in most rust-removers!
  2. Steer clear of sweet smells. Fragrance is a major cause of allergic and irritant reactions on the face. It's best to stick with products that are labeled "fragrance free" and "hypo-allergenic".
  3. The stuff that puts the sparkle in your eye shadow, face powder, and blush is usually mica, a common mineral. The jagged, flaky shape of mica particles can cause irritation and/or clogging in the follicle, so it's best to use products without too much shimmer. Many of the red dyes used to put a bloom in your cheeks are coal derivatives; these substances are comedogenic. Cream blushes are more likely to have comedogenic ingredients, so stick to powder or gel blushes.
  4. Heavy eye creams and oily eye make-up removers can promote milia, tiny white cysts under the eye. These kinds of products can also migrate to neighboring areas, creating acne on the cheeks, temples, and foreheads.
  5. Most hair products are full of ingredients we'd like to keep away from our skin: alcohol, adhesives, and oils. When styling your hair cover your skin when you spray, and try to keep oils, mousses, gels, and promades away from the skin at the hairline. Don't use hair products when you exercise; perspiration from your scalp can carry styling products onto the skin, contributing to new breakouts.
  6. Sweat doesn't cause acne. Even non-comedogenic products can cause clogging or irritation in the presence of heavy perspiration. As a rule it is best to wash immediately after exercising.
  7. Lipsticks and glosses are greasy by nature, with high concentrations of petroleum, wax, and other comedogenic substances. The greater the shine, the greater potential for pore-clogging - so if you're breaking out, try going for a matte finish rather than a high gloss.
Lifestyle Prevention

Since some part of your skin is always in contact with your environment, it's important to pay attention to the substances with which you come into contact with on a regular basis. For example, the airborne grease in a fast food restaurant can create an invisible film on your skin, clogging your pores. Most industrial oils - the kinds used in cars, in factories, and on bicycles are comedogenic as well.

The simplest thing you can do for your skin is sleep. Surprised? Scientists and mothers around the world agree that a good night's sleep - at least eight hours - can do wonders for your complexion. A healthy, well-rested body has the resources to build a strong immune system. While a robust immune system won't prevent acne altogether, it can help fight infection so your lesions clear up more quickly.

Stress is a purely chemical reaction. When you become tense, your adrenal glands go work flooding your bloodstream with the hormone cortisol. This triggers the sweat glands in your face to produce more oil. When your sebaceous glands go into high gear, there's a higher possibility that this excess oil will mix with dead skin cells and clog your pores, trapping bacteria inside.

A balanced diet and at least seven hours of sleep every night will help you build a stronger physical foundation; if you're well fed and well rested you're less likely to feel irritated by the events of your day. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it's just a short walk around the block. It's also important to take time out of every day to relax - read a book, take a bath, practice yoga, or do whatever makes you feel happy and calm.

Hygiene Prevention

One of the most common misconceptions about acne is that it's caused by dirt. It's not! Acne is caused by a combination of factors you can't control, like your hormone balance and the natural pace of your skin's renewal process. Don't over wash your face, since dirt is not causing your acne, excessive scrubbing and washing won't make it go away. Try to limit yourself to two washings per day - anything more than that can leave your healthy skin dry, and your acne prone area irritated. Habitual over washing may also stimulate extra oil production, which could result in more breakouts. Skip harsh scrubs. It's okay to exfoliate, but be sure to use a scrub that is gentle. Avoid products with almond or apricot shell fragments; they can irritate or even tear your skin and further aggravate your acne. Say no to alcohol. Use a toner, but avoid products with high concentrations of isopropyl alcohol, or common rubbing alcohol. A strong astringent, alcohol strips the top layer of your skin causing your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. The result is dry, red skin and possibly more blemishes. Squeezing or picking your blemishes - with fingernails, pins or anything else - can force bacteria deeper into the skin, causing greater inflammation and infection. You'll also increase the damage to the surrounding skin, so the blemish is more likely to leave a permanent scar. Excessive touching of your face, including rubbing or even resting your chin in your hands, you can drive bacteria into your pores. Work out, wash off. Shower off immediately, heat and moisture trapped against your skin can create an ideal breeding ground for the spread of bacteria. Find a regimen and stick with it. Most cases of mild acne can be improved with "over-the-counter" products, or products that don't require a prescription. If you start treatment before your acne gets severe, you'll have a better chance of avoiding physical and emotional problems down the road. If your acne gets worse after more than a couple of weeks, sticking with the same treatment, see a dermatologist.

Diet Prevention

Don’t eat that - or you'll get zits! We've all heard it; from parents, friends, or even the family doctor. But the fact is, even after extensive study, scientists have not found a connection between diet and acne. Diet plays no role in acne treatment in most patients...even large amounts of certain foods have not clinically exacerbated acne. Here are some common nutrients that influence healthy skin.

Naturally occurring vitamin A is found in fish oils, liver, and dairy products. Vitamin A produced by plants is known as Beta-carotene, is found in yellow/orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, yams, apricots, and cantaloupe, as well as green vegetables like parsley, kale and spinach. Extremely high doses of vitamin A are toxic, so don't over do it.

Vitamin B-2. Stress has been known to aggravate existing cases of acne, and vitamin B-2 is often helpful relieving stress. High concentrations of B-2 include whole grain, fish, milk, eggs, meat, and leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin B-3. Found in peanuts, eggs, avocados, liver, and lean meats. Vitamin B-3 improves circulation promoting healthy skin.

Vitamin E. Vitamin E is found in almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, broccoli, wheat germ and vegetable oils. A powerful antioxidant, it protects your cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging.

Zinc. Even in trace amounts, the antioxidant known as zinc is known to boost the immune system, improving overall health. Zinc can be found in eggs, whole grains, nuts, and mushrooms.

Normal amounts of Iodine have not been shown to affect the skin, amounts greater than the RDA of 150 mcg may aggravate your acne.

Drink lots of water and eat a healthy, balanced diet - but don't be afraid to indulge your cravings every now and then.

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