If you’ve had to deal with a never ending battle with acne, you might be wondering what it is that causes you to keep getting it. You can reduce the chances of getting acne, and save money you’d otherwise spend on more and more products or treatment to get rid of it.

However, chances are you can help clear up your acne and prevent pimples from forming just by changing a few of your bad habits.

Cause #1: Poor Dietary Habits

A study published in the Skin Therapy Letter in 2010 examined what foods could be linked to causing acne. In general, the best diet for reducing acne was food and drink that is high in protein and does not affect your blood sugar very much. Some examples of bad food and drink for causing acne includes:

  • Dairy products — milk, cheese, yogurt, etc from cow’s milk
  • High glycemic products — white bread, cakes, cookies, processed cereal, etc
  • Junk food — chocolate, chips, candy, etc
  • Fast food — fried or greasy food like burgers, fries, tacos, etc from fast food restaurants

Foods that are high-glycemic cause your blood sugar levels to spike, which causes your hormone levels to fluctuate. This in turn causes inflammation throughout your body, that has also been shown to contribute to acne. Dairy products can be the worst for causing acne, because it not only causes a spike in your blood sugar levels but a lot of commercially produced cow’s milk also contain other hormones.

Some of the hormones makes your body produce too much sebum, an oily substances that your skin makes, skin cells. This blocks up your pores, which is a contributing factor for an acne breakout.

Cause #2: Touching Your Face

There are two ways that touching your face can cause acne, or make your current acne worse. First, when you touch your face you can spread bacteria, dirt and dead skin cells to the skin on your face. These cause your pores to get clogged and potentially cause inflammation as well — both are leading causes of acne. If your skin is already prone to having acne, touching your face without washing your hands first will make things worse.

The other problem with touching your face is that people who tend to do it also tend to pick at or try and pop the pimples they already have.

Popping or picking at your pimples is almost always a bad idea, as you are causing your skin and pores to become more inflamed, spreading bacteria from your fingers into your skin, and rupturing the walls of your follicles. You are just going to make your acne bigger, more inflamed and infected, all of which increases the chances of you getting acne scars. So avoid touching your face as much as you can.

Cause #3: Over Exfoliating Your Face

A common misconception is that scrubbing or exfoliating the skin on your face will help clear away the acne you currently have, but it is actually more for prevention. The way it works is that by scrubbing the skin on your face you clean out your pores of any dirt, oil, and dead skin cells that tend to cause acne. While exfoliating your face is a good practice, if you do it too frequently and too aggressively you can actually make your acne worse.

You can tell if you are over exfoliating your skin if it looks or feels:

  • Puffy and swollen
  • Peeling and flaking
  • Tighter and sensitive
  • Shiny and sensitive

Over exfoliation causes problems when it starts scrubbing away your good and healthy skin cells along with the dead, dirty cells. The healthy skin cells are what form a protective barrier on the surface of your skin, and when you start stripping them away you are exposing new cells that are hypersensitive. It also clears away the natural oil your skin produces to keep your skin hydrated and protected, especially for people who are more prone to acne in the first place.

Cause #4: Overusing Facial Products

Another case of “too much of a good thing” causing acne is overusing your facial products, or using products that are too harsh, in the name of clearing your face of acne. It is very common that people will use a product hoping to help clear their acne and if it doesn’t work in a few days will try different products, and so on. This can put a lot of stress on your skin, potentially causing more acne to develop and making your current acne worse.

It gets worse if people think they need to start using harsher, more abrasive products to get results that the previous products weren’t getting. Stay away from using highly abrasive face brushes or scrubs, or harsh products that contain excess sulfates, acids or alcohol. They tend to irritate and dry out your skin, and strips away the good oil and healthy skin cells that are necessary to have healthy skin.

An extreme version of this problem is with prescribed acne-treating medication, where people don’t see immediate results and start using more of the medication than was prescribed. The key to all effective acne treatments is consistency for long periods of time. There is no single acne treatment that will completely cure you of acne for all time, so you need to follow the recommended guidelines for use, especially for prescribed medicine.

Cause #5: Not Changing or Washing Your Pillowcase

As has been mentioned already, one of the leading causes of acne is when your pores get clogged with dirt, dead skin, and bacteria. Think of how much time your head and face are in contact with your pillow case, and then think about how much of your own dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria are rubbed off onto it. The longer you use the same pillow case, the more of it builds up to be spread back onto your face as you sleep. It is a good idea to change your pillow case at least once a week if you want to see a big difference in how clean your skin feels.

A study done in 2013 showed just how much bacteria existed in several everyday parts of a home, including your pillow case as well as your toilet seat, kitchen counter, door handles, and so on. Specifically, it looked at the sources of bacteria for each part of the home, so you can see just how much human skin and oral cavity bacteria wind up on your pillowcase. Hint: it’s a lot, and it should really drive home why you should start changing your pillowcase more frequently.

Author Bio:

Christina C. is the lead esthetician at Silver Mirror Facial Bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC. She has over 18 years of experience in the beauty and spa industries, both as an educator for top skincare and makeup brands, as well as a highly sought-after esthetician providing high-end facials. Silver Mirror Facial Bar has been a natural step in Christina’s journey as it encompasses results-driven facials and treatments in a dynamic and skincare-loving environment. Connect with Christina on Twitter.