No matter what you call it — blemishes, zits, pizza face — one thing’s for certain: Nobody ever warmly welcomes acne. Sure, a few pimples here and there were the norm in your teens (right along with sporting college sweatshirts daily and having your parents drive you to the movies). As an adult? They’re way more burdensome than a mere growing pain. For some, bad skin is unfortunately a lifelong diagnosis. But others can easily score clear skin by making a few tweaks to their daily lives. Read on for eight simple ways to improve your skin.
1. Kick junk food to the curb
You know, you know: Junk food is the edible enemy. But after a long, stressful day of work, you simply can’t resist that bag of chips or a pint of ice cream. While you’re aware that these snacks have “a moment on the lips, but a lifetime on the hips” quality, they can also hinder your skin. Research shows that some of your daily indulgences such as sugars, processed meals, and dairy can lead to poor skin. Why? According to The Huffington Post, sugar is converted to insulin once ingested. Too much sugar results in inflammation (read: acne) all over your body. And guess what has tons of sugar? Processed meals like chips and pasta.
As for dairy, Forbes notes that it’s often thought that the hormones from cows (especially the oh-so common pregnant female cow) promote heightened levels of sebum, which is known to cause acne. “I find that the best skin diet is one that involves eating vegetables of different colors for every meal and a green juice every day,” esthetician Joanna Vargas tells Forbes. Since you’re human and all, you’re bound to indulge in these delicious snacks, and that’s OK. But to remedy your skin, try opting for healthy fruits and vegetables: Your body and skin will thank you for it.
2. Wash your face
It sounds obvious, right? Before you chalk this tip up to a no-brainer, be honest with yourself: Do you ever actually wash your face at the end of a long day? Sure, you may have the cleanliest intentions; however, it rarely turns into a reality when all you want to do is rest your head on that plush pillow. But when you think about it, do you really want to sleep with all that daily grime on your face? Um, gross. Instead of leaving your cleansing ritual to the last minute, wash your face as soon as you get home. Consider it a small pampering session after a stressful day at the office. When it comes to picking out the perfect cleanser that won’t make you break out even more, shop around for a pick that’s either made of natural ingredients or targeted for sensitive skin — both options tend to be less harsh on acne-prone faces.
3. Resist the temptation to pop
There it is, just staring at you in the mirror. The further you analyze that pesky whitehead, you quickly realize that it’s about to pop. So why not end this facial torture by squeezing the oil out with your fingers? Not so fast. While we’ve all experienced the utter satisfaction when a blemish is popped — and thus seemingly gone forever — the truth is that you could be causing more harm than good. “Popping your pimples will only result in inflammation, scarring, and yes, more acne,” writes Allure.
To get rid of pimples quickly, Everyday Roots recommends dabbing on a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to the problem area. The cider will help kill off unwanted bacteria and, if used modestly, will cause minimal irritations. If you find yourself still yearning to perform that squeezing motion, Allure suggests investing in a squeeze toy to tame temptation.
4. Switch your toothpaste
You’ve probably heard of dabbing toothpaste on your blemishes for a quick fix, but did you know that the product you use to clean your pearly whites may actually be the source of your pimple problems? While those fresh-breath, whitening, enamel-building variations make your teeth camera ready, they can also have harsh side effects for your skin. Perioral dermatitis looks like pimples and scaling around the mouth, and it can be caused by fluorinated toothpaste, Patient explains.
If you find yourself cursed with unwanted problem patches around your mouth, swap your fancy toothpaste for a frills-free alternative. Let’s face it: A clear mouth will make your smile 10 times better.
5. Don’t stress
As you very well know, there’s a laundry list of reasons why you shouldn’t stress: heightened blood pressure, headaches, inefficiency, and stress eating, to name a few. Sure, you may seem calm, cool, and collected when you’re a bundle of nerves, but a dose of stress acne is a dead giveaway. That’s right, stress equals pimples. Dermalogica explains stress increases oil production and can also make your skin appear more inflamed. From getting a yoga membership, to taking a walk around the office when the going gets tough, or downloading an anti-procrastination app, the options for minimizing the stress in your life are virtually endless.
6. Catch up on your z’s
Way back when, during infancy, all you did was sleep all day. Oh, the life. Now, it feels like you barely get any shut-eye. Between perfecting your presentation at work to a late night out with friends (followed by an early morning in the office), you’re well-aware that you don’t clock in the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. While coffee and a really good eye cream can help you not look and feel like a total zombie the morning after, the blemishes that result from too few hours of rest are more difficult to mask.
According to Porcelain Face Spa, a lack of sleep promotes stress, which tends to lead to an increase in cortisol. More cortisol equals more sebum that, if you’ve been paying attention, causes acne. We want you to have fun and thrive at work, dear reader, but sleeping the zits away is an easy solution. Set a strict bedtime for yourself that will allow eight hours of rest and relaxation. Whether that means waking up early to finish that project or only grabbing one drink, you’ll feel refreshed the next day.
7. Drink green tea
Watch out coffee, there’s a new preferred caffeine drink in town. Whether iced or hot, green tea has a bounty of perks: Time reports the drink can boost exercise endurance, improve bone density, and provide prevention and treatment for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. As Acne Einstein claims, green tea also possesses powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation (aka acne).
Quitting your precious morning coffee cold turkey may be almost impossible, so why not integrate green tea into your afternoon ritual? A plus since you’ve been looking for a way to get energized during the midday slump. But before you place your order with your barista, request a sugar-free brew. In case you didn’t remember from our first trick, sugar also has the tendency of causing blemishes.
8. Wipe your smartphone
Deny it all you want, but we know that you’re attached to your smartphone. Let’s be honest: It’s probably by your side as your reading this (or perhaps you catch up with us on your iPhone or Android). On a daily basis, you probably send about 100 texts and emails on your cell as well as press it up against your cheek for those on-the-go calls. See where we’re going here? If you think about how many germs are transferred from your fingers and the atmosphere to your phone, it’s a little disgusting.
Then to massage all that grime into your face? It shouldn’t be a surprise as to why you have blemishes on your cheeks. In 2013, the New York Daily News claimed that our smartphones and tablets have more germs on them than an average toilet seat. And lo, the cringing ensues. Do yourself a favor and wipe the germs off your trusty technical sidekick. While there are several fancy cleaning machines on the market, GottaBeMobile advises cleaning with a microfiber cloth and water or a specialized solution. While you’re at it, go ahead and slather on some hand sanitizer before feverishly texting your significant other.
Follow Kelsey on Twitter @KMulvs