Health & Wellness

The Most Common Mistakes Students Make that Cause Acne

Girl holding her sweater up to her nose

Hormones aren’t the only factor that’s causing you to breakout during the semester.

How common is acne? Common enough that over 85% of people will experience some form of acne in their lifetime. Acne isn’t just a skin condition isolated to teens either. According to the International Dermal Institute, 40–55% of people between the ages of 20–40 have adult acne. While the underlying cause of acne is not always clear, dermatologists believe your genetics and hormones play a huge role. Your skin’s sensitivity to internal and external changes determines how acne-prone you are.

Those who have been battling acne for years usually know their “triggers”. For others, breakouts can feel random and sporadic, popping up at the most inconvenience of times like before a date or the day of your convocation. While acne can cause physical discomfort, it rarely poses an immediate health concern. However, acne can cause severe psychological distress. The American Academy of Dermatology has noted that acne can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

As a student, you can avoid (or at least mediate) a breakout by avoiding these common mistakes:

1. Staying up late & not getting enough sleep

Are you getting enough beauty sleep? Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad told Beautylish that a good night’s rest is important for skin cell renewal. When you sleep, your body produces melatonin (the sleep hormone) and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone). Too much cortisol in the body results in high blood pressure and skin inflammation.

For a vibrant complexion, go to bed early and aim for quality, uninterrupted sleep. Your body does the most repairing when you are in a deep slumber, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep is not only important for your skin, it’s also beneficial for your memory. Next time you debate studying until the wee hours of the night, think again.

2. Being stressed all the time

As mentioned, stress causes your body’s cortisol levels to rise, causing the skin to look thin, sallow, and discoloured. You can keep your stress levels at bay by managing your schedule and giving yourself ample time to get your school work done. You can also practice self-care and meditation as a stress-reducing technique.

3. Making unhealthy food choices

There’s varying debate whether or not diet affects your skin. Recent studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that a high glycemic-load diet may cause acne. Healthline.com advises individuals to avoid foods that spike insulin levels, such as pasta, white rice, white bread, dairy, and sugar. As insulin levels increase, so does the body’s production of oil.

Acne is an accumulation of oil and bacteria trapped in your hair follicles, causing the glands to clog your pores. Inside these hair follicles, a bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes accumulates, resulting in blemishes.

Eating low-glycemic foods and fresh fruits and vegetables will improve your complexion. Instead of grabbing fast food between classes, opt for a well-balanced meal.

4. Not drinking enough water

Your body needs to be adequately hydrated to function properly. If you want your skin to look fresh and bright, water will be your best friend. Drinking plenty of water daily ensures you are flushing toxins out of your body on a regular basis. Purchase a water bottle and fill it up using the water-filling stations throughout campus. Your largest organ (your skin) will thank you.

5. Touching your face throughout the day

There are over 36,000+ students at Ryerson — that’s a lot of germs and bacteria floating around campus. If you’re acne-prone, be careful you’re not resting your hands on your face during class. The last thing you want is to transfer grease and oil from your hands onto your face.

6. Binge-drinking

According to Exposed Skincare, there is evidence to believe that excessive alcohol consumption contributes to acne. Alcohol weakens your immune system, causes your liver to work harder than normal, and throws your hormones out of whack. Alcohol also dehydrates the body and depresses your system. Try cutting back on alcohol if you want to avoid breaking out.

7. Not washing your pillowcases enough

With all the stresses of school, laundry can take a back burner in your life. As a result, you may not be washing your pillowcases nearly enough. Dr. David E. Bank, the founder and director of the Center of Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, told First Derm that dirt, dust, saliva, and oil can build-up on your pillow. If you forget to wash your pillowcases frequently, this build-up can clog your pores and cause you to breakout.

Next time you toss your dirty clothes into the hamper on laundry day, don’t forget to throw those pillowcases in too.

8. Not having or following a skincare regimen

Having a consistent skincare regimen is key to combatting and preventing blemishes. When you change your products frequently or are inconsistent with your routine, your skin does not get proper care it needs. Your skin is exposed to many debris and dust throughout the day. Washing once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser will remove build-up on your face, allowing your skin to breathe. Don’t forget to tone and moisturizer afterwards to re-hydrate the skin. You might be tempted to come home after a long day and pass out, but taking the time to wash your face before bed will improve the look and feel of our skin in the long run.

9. Taking advice from friends instead of a dermatologist

Your friends may have your best interest at heart, but they’re not experts. If you’ve been struggling with acne (physically and emotionally), it might be time for you to visit a dermatologist to receive professional expertise. While some types of acne disappear with time or with a change of habits, some blemishes are skin-deep and require more powerful solutions only a doctor can prescribe. School is stressful enough that you don’t need acne to add to it.

10. Not listening to your body

Lastly, listen to your body and find out what triggers your breakouts. You know your body best and what it needs to look and feel its best. There isn’t a one size fits all to skincare. This list might be a great starting point to kick-start bad habits you might be guilty of, but it might not make a difference for you. Try making small adjusts and seeing if it makes a difference.

Acne can feel debilitating, but it doesn’t define you. Be kind to your skin and love the skin you live in.

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Jessica Huynh
Jessica Huynh is in her final year of Creative Industries, specializing in Storytelling in Media and Curatorial Practices. / iamjessicahuynh.com