Gallery The 8 Things That Are Making You Break Out
Even if you're not a total stress case while gearing up for something awesome (wedding! vacay! graduation!), your body can read excitement as stress—and affect skin the same way, says Richard Fried, M.D., a dermatologist and psychologist in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Pores clog, your immune system freaks out and you get a pimple overnight.
When you feel overwhelmingly excited, pop 200 milligrams of ibuprofen. It'll help calm inflammation, Dr. Fried says. Take another dose in six to eight hours, then one more the next day. But that's it; chronic use can be dangerous.
OK, it's not actually your hair. It's your hair products, which can block pores. "You may not realize the connection because it takes weeks from the time a pore blocks to when you see a pimple," says David Bank, M.D., a derm in Mount Kisco, New York. An oily scalp makes matters worse. Oil glands feed acne-causing bacteria, which then end up on, say, your forehead.
Swipe skin near hairline with a salicylic acid pad twice a day to keep pores clear, and use dandruff shampoo; it's antibacterial.
You know the joke when a bunch of women are pregnant: Must be something in the water. That may actually be true about pimples. Hard water (i.e., with a high concentration of minerals) doesn't rinse away soap as effectively, and the leftover residue can clog pores, Dr. Bank says. Result? Bumps of the nonbaby variety.
Get a water softener. It's a cinch to install and costs about 30 bucks. At the gym or your guy's pad, use premoistened cloths instead of a rinse-off cleanser.
Small, red bumps around your mouth may not technically be acne but rather perioral dermatitis—a fancy name for what happens when skin reacts to certain ingredients in toothpaste. Fluoride and whitening agents are likely offenders, says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a derm in Boston.
Swap your usual tube for a fluoride-free, nonwhitening paste (use mouthwash for your cavity-fighting fix), and avoid acne products—they can be too harsh on irritated skin. Use sensitive-skin formulas until things clear up.
While it's tough to say if a dairy-rich diet is completely to blame for your breakouts, research suggests a sinister side to cow's milk. For some people, its proteins and peptides spur production of a zit-promoting hormone called IGF-1 and insulin, both of which "open up" receptors for androgens. That then increases oil and plugs pores, says F.W. Danby, M.D., adjunct assistant professor of dermatology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
The only way to know that dairy is the culprit: Quit cold turkey for three to six months. Soy lattes are yummy. Really.
His stubble looks H-O-T hot, but during a makeout sesh, it's N-O-T not. It causes serious friction that can inflame skin, leading to a breakout, says Jeanine Downie, M.D., a derm in Montclair, New Jersey. Your man's face is as smooth as Mario Lopez's chest, you say? Well, then the culprit may be fragrance-heavy aftershaves or colognes. If he's truly to blame, your skin will get red within a few hours of contact and zits will pop up within a few days, the doc says.
Tell him it's you or his stubble/scent. He'll pick you, obvi. Then gift him a nice razor and a fragrance-free aftershave.
Wait, doesn't the Pill clear up skin? For some, yes, but it can do the opposite for other gals. Everyone's estrogen and progesterone balance is unique and changes throughout her cycle, Dr. Hirsch says. That means hormonal birth control affects different women in different ways, including bringing on some nasty breakouts.
Ask your gyno for a new pill, Dr. Hirsch advises. Again, everyone's different, so experiment. Give it a few cycles; switching too soon puts you back at square one.
You might think UV exposure dries up oil and makes zits less noticeable—which it does, Dr. Bank says. But you'll be making a deal with the devil, and not only because the sun ups your skin cancer risk and causes premature aging. "When skin tans, it also thickens to protect itself," Dr. Bank says. "This especially happens around pores, which can block them." So, while skin might look better for a few days, you could have a fresh batch of breakouts a week or two later.
Wear an oil-free lotion with a physical UV blocker, like micronized zinc oxide, which can even help lessen flare-ups (try SkinMedica Daily Physical Defense SPF 30+, $45).