Spots are probably the most common skin concern of all, affecting as many as 85% of teens at one point or another. Unfortunately, research shows that more and more of us are continuing to suffer with breakouts in our twenties, thirties and beyond meaning that spots are definitely not just a teenage issue. In fact, it is estimated that 10 – 20% of adult women are still battling blemishes. When you think that spots can lead to scarring, poor self-image and loss of confidence, this amounts to a big problem.
Before working out how to keep spots at bay, it helps to understand what causes them. There are 3 main reasons that spots occur:
- Excess sebum production. Sebum is the natural oil produced by our skin. We start making more of it as adolescents which is when spots begin to be a problem for most of us.
- Build-up of dead skin cells. These dead skin cells mix with the sebum and get trapped in our pores.
- Bacteria. These bacteria cause inflammation in the skin leading to the angry red bumps and whiteheads that we all dread.
In additions to these causes, our genes, diet and lifestyle also play a role in the development of spots. We can’t change our genes, but there are a few lifestyle factors that we can try to address to keep spots at bay. Here are some of my top lifestyle tips for reducing spots:
- Develop a skincare routine and stick to it every day. It is never too late to start, but it helps to get in the habit from your teenage years onwards. Cleanse your skin well twice daily, follow with a toner to tighten pores and then use a moisturiser designed for spot-prone skin. Using products that aren’t designed for people with breakouts or blemishes can actually make things worse so choose carefully.
- Consistency is key. Stick to the items in your skincare routine and give them a chance to work. Unless you have a bad reaction to a particular product, I would usually suggest using it regularly for 2 – 3 months before switching if you haven’t noticed an improvement at that point. Don’t fall into the trap of using too many products or chopping and changing every couple of weeks. Similarly, don’t stop using the products when the spots are controlled as you could end up back at square one.
- Whatever you do, don’t scratch, pick or squeeze. This can introduce bacteria, increased inflammation and may ultimately lead to scarring. Always clean your hands before applying your skincare products and avoid touching your face at other times.
- Don’t go to bed without removing your makeup. Ideally, you should follow your usual nighttime routine even if it’s late and you’re tired. Keep some cotton pads and a bottle of micellar water next to your bed, however, for those occasions where you may otherwise be tempted to sleep with your makeup on.
- Greasy hair can contribute to spots on the forehead and around the hairline and neck. If your hair gets greasy easily, keep it tied back off your face and make sure that you wash it regularly.
- Avoid hats and hair accessories that are likely to trap sweat under your skin and stay away from oily hair serums, gels and waxes that may slide down onto your face blocking your pores.
- Shower every day. Remove sweaty gym clothes as soon as possible after a workout and don’t delay hopping in the shower. Bacteria thrive in sweaty conditions and can be a particular problem on the back and chest in people who exercise frequently.
- Change your bedsheets once a week at a minimum. This prevents grease from your pillowcase being rubbed back into your skin.
- Keep sugary, refined or processed foods to a minimum. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have an occasional chocolate or treat, however. Beyond this, there isn’t a great deal of evidence that cutting particular food groups out of your diet reduces spots. There have, however, been a few small studies suggesting that dairy, especially skimmed milk, may play a role in certain individuals. Always consult with a doctor before cutting anything out of your diet to ensure you are still getting all the nutrients you need.
- Look after your general health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep and stress can lower your threshold for breaking out. Try to go to sleep at the same time most nights, don’t scrimp on sleep and find ways to let off steam. This may be through doing a hobby, taking a yoga class or relaxing with friends.
© 2017 Dr Justine Kluk. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents of this post in any form is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, copy, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.