Certain foods cause acne.
For years skin docs thought there was little connection between what you ate and how your skin behaved. But now a growing body of research is proving that diet really can lead to breakouts. Some of the worst offenders are foods that contain refined sugars and processed grains. These items are high on the glycemic index, which means they break down quickly in your body, causing an insulin spike and raising your blood-sugar levels. This, in turn, leads to hormonal fluctuations that trigger low-grade inflammation, more oil secretion, clogged pores, and acne flares, says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.
Gohara says she sees the link between high-glycemic-index foods and acne in patients of all ages. “I tell them that, like any other organ, skin requires a healthy diet.” While junk food is a common culprit, dairy products that contain whey (like milk, yogurt, and cheese) may also mess with your skin. The exact mechanism is unclear, but derms suspect hormones and growth factors play a role. To determine if what you eat is aggravating your acne, keep a food diary. If you make a dietary change, be patient; it can take up to three months to see a difference in your skin.
Everyone should moisturize.
Convincing women with oily skin or who are prone to breakouts that they need to moisturize is tough, says Gohara, since many of them equate moisturizing with adding oil—and that’s definitely not something they want more of! But skin needs a lot of hydration to maintain its ability to defend against harmful elements.
“Acne is an inflammatory condition, and if your barrier isn’t intact, your skin will be much less effective in fighting off irritants and bacteria that can create even more irritation and redness,” explains Gohara. The good news: It is possible to hydrate skin without making it look slick or encouraging breakouts. One easy way is to opt for a lightweight serum or lotion that’s loaded with hyaluronic acid (HA), an ingredient that attracts 1,000 times its weight in moisture to skin. HA is super light, so it’s ideal for anyone who’s pimple-prone.
You need to use a toner.
Dermatologists used to tell patients that toners were unnecessary or even damaging. But as the products on the market evolved, so has the expert advice, and more derms are now giving toners the thumbs-up. “While toners used to be alcohol-laden liquids designed to remove excess oil in people with oily and acne-prone skin, they now address a variety of skin types and issues,” explains Arielle Kauvar, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine.
Using a toner primes skin for anti-aging treatments and serums that follow, so you’ll get more out of your skin-care routine. The key is to pick the right one for your skin. If you’re in need of exfoliation, look for ingredients like salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acid. Seeing red? Reach for a toner with soothing chamomile, cucumber, or vitamin E. For extra hydration, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and rosewater can help. To reduce free radical damage, seek out grape seed extract or green tea. Got age spots? A toner with vitamin C can help fade pigmentation. (Make sure when washing your face, you don’t make these mistakes.)
Apply toner after cleansing and patting skin dry, then allow it to absorb before using additional products.
Sleeping on your back or with a satin pillowcase will help keep your face wrinkle-free.
Is choosing the correct sleep position the most important thing you can do to minimize lines and wrinkles? No. That honor goes to sunscreen, which protects against the UV rays responsible for 90% of the signs of skin aging. Still, there’s little doubt that resting your face on your pillow can lead to lines, that, over time, may become permanently etched into the surface of the skin.
Sleeping on your back is a good, but only a partial solution, since statistics show that sleepers typically change positions around 20 times a night and spend only one-third of their time on their back. Switching to a pillowcase made of silk, satin, or another smooth fabric also helps. (Here are 13 silk pillowcases that fight wrinkles and bed head.) “It cuts down on the potential for line-causing friction,” says Gohara. As for those special “anti-aging” pillows, which usually have a scooped out middle to reduce pressure on the cheeks, eyes, and mouth while you’re sleeping, there’s not a lot of proof that they work, though it can’t hurt to try. (One small study did find an average reduction of 12% in lines and wrinkles after sleeping on one such pillow for a month.)
You can detox your skin.
It’s understandable why experts have pooh-poohed the notion that you can purge your skin of rogue elements that are up to no good. As celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas points out, “detox” is a loaded word without a clear definition. However, she notes, the idea is accurate in the sense that some ingredients—for instance, clay and charcoal—can remove impurities like dirt, dead cells, and oils from skin, leaving it softer, smoother, less prone to breakouts, and more radiant.
You can also detox your skin from the inside out, reports Washington, DC dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. “Going on a diet that’s low in carbs, gluten, and sugar lessens inflammation in the body, which in turn can reduce acne and rosacea and give skin a healthy glow,” she explains. Some foods that Tanzi says are particularly skin-friendly (especially if you have rosacea, like she does) are salmon—which is packed with soothing omega-3 fatty acids—and bland veggies like asparagus and cucumbers.