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Dirty pillows, sugary foods, bad gym hygiene: These 6 lifestyle habits are causing your acne breakouts

Put that doughnut down now and start working on changing these lifestyle vices to keep your acne woes at bay.

So you’ve tried everything but nothing seems to work to banish those pesky pimples and zits that seem to pop out of nowhere. And to make matters worse, you no longer have the excuse of hiding behind face masks now that these are optional when you are outdoors. 

There’s really no better time than now to get your anti-acne act together. 

CNA Lifestyle spoke to dermatologists and beauty founders who shed light on what could be causing these seemingly random flare-ups. If you are guilty of these common bad habits, do your complexion a favour and stop, pronto.


(Photo: iStock)

You might feel tempted to stop changing disposable masks daily or to wear a reusable mask for a few days before washing it. For the sake of your complexion, do not be lazy.

“There is a lot of bacteria buildup from masks as we wear it throughout our day. The bacteria can lead to acne breakouts around the perioral region of our face,” said Dr Leow Hong Foo, owner of Bespoke Aesthetics, of the cause of the much dreaded “maskne”.

(Photo: iStock)

Your bedroom may be your personal haven but if you are not careful, your comfortable pillow which you smoosh your face into when you sleep might just be the reason for your acne problems. “When sleeping on our pillow, dead skin cells, oil and bacteria can build up on the pillow’s surface, resulting in acne breakouts as the skin is in contact with these oils and bacteria that can clog up and inflame the skin,” said Dr Leow.

To resolve this, change your pillowcase at least once a week – or more frequently if you can. Also, be sure cleanse your skin thoroughly before you go to bed. “Leaving makeup on your skin or simply not cleansing your face properly leads to clog pores and sebum build-up which in turns interfere with your skin’s natural ability to exfoliate and repair itself. This potentially leads to more acne,” said Dr Karen Soh, medical director of Prive Clinic.

What to do instead: Wash your face twice a day – when you wake up and before you go to bed. Double cleanse at night with a gentle cleanser, especially if you wear sunscreen throughout the day to ensure all traces of facial products are removed.

(Photo: iStock)

Most of us do not realise it but we tend to touch our faces without realising it. Unfortunately, even though this is often an unconscious gesture, this bad habit can wreak havoc on one’s skin.

“Touching spreads existing acne-causing inflammation and acne papules as our hands house a lot of bacteria,” said Dr Soh.

Likewise, do not pick on your spots or try to get pimples to “heal” faster by popping them as this could worsen the situation. “Trying to pop hard, inflamed or painful bumps that are lodged deep in the skin will end up taking longer to heal and could even cause blood clots, skin infections and scarring,” said Dr Soh.

(Photo: iStock)

The next time you step into your shower, take note of the sequence of steps you take during your daily bath time regimen. If you wash and condition your hair right at the end of your routine, this could be the cause of your skin woes.

Chia Su-Mae, founder of Singapore-based skincare brand BSKIN, explained: “Hair products, especially conditioners and serums, often contain oils and silicones to help impart a glossy shine to hair. But residue from hair products can end up on your face and back when you shower and can remain on your skin. They may clog pores, leading to facial acne and backne.”

To prevent this, wash and condition your hair first when you shower. Follow this with your body and finally your face to get rid of residual build-up that could potentially cause acne.


(Photo: iStock)

When the midday slump hits, it is tempting to reach for a pack of candy or chips to get an energy boost. But Dr Soh pointed out that studies have shown that consuming too much sugar can lead to breakouts as sugar raises insulin levels which in turn trigger pimple-causing hormones.

Instead, she suggested snacking on whole foods such as berries, veggie sticks, dark chocolate or nuts. Or you could enhance your diet with a collagen-rich supplement like Nuceuticals Skinergy Collagen Shot, which contains vitamin C and antioxidants to reduce scarring and inflammation while accelerating skin repair.

(Photo: iStock)

It is compulsory at many gyms for you to use a towel and to wipe down the equipment after your set for hygiene purposes. But if you are using the same towel to wipe your face, you could be inadvertently transferring lots of bacteria to your own skin.

“Gyms are notoriously dirty spaces because of the amount of sweat accumulated on equipment and not using two towels – one to wipe down equipment and a separate one to clean your face – can potentially result in severe acne or fungal infections,” said Chia.

Likewise, it is best to avoid touching your face, neck or other body parts with your bare hands after handling various gym equipment since you could be introducing acne-causing bacteria to your skin. “The best practice is to wash your face, or better still, have a quick shower, right after your workout to avoid accumulating bacteria on your skin,” she advised.

(Photo: iStock)

Dr Leow shared his top tips on how to prevent and treat breakouts if you have acne prone skin:

  • Besides cleansing your face daily, use a gentle exfoliating scrub with AHA as its active ingredient once or twice a week. “Sometimes, bigger and rough granules may tear and wound any inflamed skin and cause the acne bacteria to spread to the rest of the face. AHA exfoliants do the job of sloughing dead skin cells evenly and clears the pores as well,” he said.
  • Hydration is key. Drink at least two litres of water daily to allow skin to naturally flush out toxins and maintain optimal skin health. Hydrating masks may also aid in supplying moisture to the skin’s surface.
  • A lack of sleep also causes stress in the body, which increases cortisol levels. A spike in cortisol can lead to inflammation and production of sebum, resulting in clogged pores and acne breakouts, said Dr Leow. Do your best to clock seven to eight hours of sleep daily to wake up to a clear, glowing visage.
  • Those who might need more help bringing acne issues under control can consider medical spa facials that focus on deep cleansing of pores and relieve inflammation caused by acne. Dr Leow also recommends to his patients laser treatments such as CuRAS laser, to treat active acne and lighten brown spots caused by acne breakouts – or oral medication in more severe cases.
Source: CNA/yy