Skin Care

11 Tricks I’ve Learned That Keep Breakouts at Bay


I’ve been dealing with acne in some form or another for the past 10 years and along the way I’ve learned a lot. While I’m still working on finding the perfect products and working on a routine that gives me completely clear skin, these 10 tricks are my amazing, no-fail ways to keep breakouts at bay.

1. Get Rid of Sulfates in Your Products

I used to get breakouts around my mouth all the time and I had suspicions it had something to do my toothpaste. That’s when I learned about SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). It’s an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and anything else that needs that foamy quality–and it’s a skin irritant for some people.

I started using an SLS-free toothpaste from Tom’s, and swapped out my regular shampoo for an OGX shampoo without it. Since then, the breakouts around my mouth have been nonexistent. I’m an SLS-free believer for life.

2. Switch Out Your Pillow Case

You spend (hopefully) 8 hours with your face on your pillowcase, make sure it’s clean. It gets the bulk of your hair products and face oils onto it while you sleep, and if you’re like me, you have a cat that likes to sleep on it too. Wash it frequently.

3. Don’t Use a Dirty Towel

Assuming you don’t use a new towel every single time you shower, you probably use the same towel to dry off your body–and face–a few times. While it may be mostly clean, it still can get skin, hair, and soap products on it. You don’t want to be putting that back onto your face if you’re prone to breakouts.

Invest in small face towels so that you always have a fresh towel to dry your face after washing. I bought an 8 pack of white towels (you can see all the dirt and makeup that comes off!) from Target for $4.

4. Wash Your Hands Before Your Wash Your Face

You touch a lot throughout the day, don’t put it on your face when you’re trying to get clean. You’re already at the sink, so taking the extra step to clean your hands is easy!

5. Layer Products (The Right Way)

This will vary slightly depending on your skin care routine, but learn the best way to layer products for you. With acids, it helps to let them work on your skin for about 10-20 minutes before you use something else. Other products absorb better when your skin is already damp. I discovered that applying a serum immediately followed by my moisturizer made my skin glow so much more than waiting in between.

6. Don’t Pick At Your Breakouts

I used to stare at my skin in the mirror and pick at anything I saw. It was “fun” to try to clear out my pores and get rid of blackheads. Without realizing it, I was adding new breakouts to the mix and irritating my skin.

Once I stopped doing this, my skin calmed down. I still find myself absentmindedly touching my face when I’m watching TV or on the computer, but I’m trying to stop. Don’t let yourself touch your face!

7. Sometimes Less is More

Sometimes breakouts go away faster if you don’t touch them. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, your skin knows what it’s doing. If you don’t breakout often or the pimple is minor, I’ve found it’s best to not spot treat and just let it do it’s thing. Apply skin care products to it as usual, but nothing more. I’ve even found that my skin tends to scar easier when I try to treat a breakout versus just leaving it alone.

8. Moisturization Is Key

If your skin is oily, moisturizer might seem like the enemy… but it’s just a sheep in wolf’s clothing (see what I did there?). Sometimes, skin makes too much oil because it’s craving hydration. If you give it what it needs, it will balance out and stop becoming so oily.

For a while, my skin felt dry and oily. I realized it was because my skin was screaming for a drink of water! Now, moisturizing is one of my favorite skin care steps. My skin heals faster, feels softer, and my makeup look better when it’s well moisturized.

9. Acids Should Be Your Best Friend

Acids can be absolutely wonderful for your skin. I use a few acid products in my skin care routine, and I love them all. BHA’s and AHA’s are the main types of acids that are used in skin care products, and they work by clearing pores and exfoliating.

There’s a great post on reddit that goes through the differences to help you find the best type of acid for your skin.

10. Don’t Over Exfoliate

I wish I could scrub acne off my face, if only it were that easy. But when you’re scrubbing away with little plastic beads or pieces of almond, you’re kind of hurting your skin. It took me a long time to realize this–I thought my skin was tough and could handle it.

I have a clarisonic and used to use it twice a day, but rarely touch it now. I think it can be great for some people, but be careful! I discovered that using it on active acne prevented the from healing and seemed to almost ‘spread the acne around.’ Pay close attention to what physical exfoliation does for your skin, and don’t do it more than needed.

11. Check Your Product and Make Up Ingredients

I used to blinding buy products and just hope they wouldn’t break me out. Then someone told me about CosDNA tells you what ingredients in your products are potentially pore clogging or irritating on a scale of 0-5. Just enter the product name in the search bar, click on what you’re looking for, and take a look at the chart. I was told to avoid anything above a 3 on the acne scale, but what ingredients actually causes acne will vary from person to person.

It can also be helpful to use the site retroactively to learn what you absolutely need to avoid, and what might be okay for you skin. Put in products you know caused breakouts in the past and see what CosDNA says might be the cause. Or, put in products that worked for your skin and if it has any potentially irritating ingredients, you know that your skin isn’t affected by it (at least in that product, in that concentration). It’s not a perfect solution, but it can prevent you from by a product that will mess up your skin.

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