Hands Off: Touching Your Face (and Other Things) That Can Contribute to Acne
Different Types of Acne
When people talk about acne, they usually think it is a one size fits all condition. Typically, what they are referring to is the most common acne condition: Acne Vulgaris. This is the general presence of blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of pimples. However, each subcategory of Acne Vulgaris gets more in depth as to what causes it and how it appears on your skin.
Comedones are basic acne breakouts. They form when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells, oil, sweat, and bacteria. A clogged pore that is open to the air will turn into a blackhead. Whereas if it remains closed, it is seen as a whitehead. Papules and pustules are other forms of common comedones which are surrounded by inflammation. Papules are seen as red or pink bumps on the skin. They are closed and reveal no pore. Pustules are red bumps with a noticeable white or yellow dot at the center because they are pus filled. Cysts and nodules are more severe forms of acne. They are similar in that they are both forms of acne that occur deep within the skin. Since they are deep in the skin they cannot be treated with over-the-counter medicines. The main difference between the two is that nodules are usually hard and remain intact, whereas cysts are pus filled.
The Many Factors of Acne
Acne can occur on any part of the body; however, it is most commonly seen on the face, forehead, and shoulders. While it is true that most teens develop acne due to their changing hormone levels throughout puberty, anyone can experience acne regardless of age and skin type.
Hormones are at the root of most acne. Androgen hormone levels are a direct contributing factor. When these hormone levels rise, oil glands produce excess oil (sebum), which can trap dead skin cells in the pore and create a breeding ground for bacteria. When the body responds to the bacteria, white blood cells accumulate creating a pus filled blemish.
Genetics are another contributing factor to acne. Your genes are why some people are more acne prone than others, even those exposed to the same environmental elements. Having an immediate family member who suffers from acne breakouts and acne prone skin is likely to increase your own odds of breakouts by nearly four times.
The foods you eat and the level of stress you experience may also worsen acne breakouts. Certain dairy products and foods rich in simple carbohydrates are suspected to make acne worse. Stress has been loosely linked to worsening acne breakouts as well. Cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones, which at a higher than normal level can cause your body to start producing extra sebum that can lead to breakouts.
Touching Your Face Can Worsen Your Acne
Touching your face may not necessarily "cause" acne, but rather encourages it. Think about how much you use your hands in a day. It is safe to say that whatever you touched (the door handle, your keyboard, your phone, the bathroom sink) was not perfectly clean. There are approximately 5,000 germs on your hands at any given time. This extra bacteria can begin the cycle of breakouts if you are constantly reaching for your face. It can also contribute to inflammation and worsen existing acne.
Simple Tips to Avoid Touching Your Face and Warding off Acne
You should now be aware that picking at your acne and touching your face can worsen your condition. So, how do you keep your hands off your face? It may be easiest to start by identifying why, when, and where you frequently catch yourself touching your face.
Once you determine your habits, try to keep your hands busy in some other way when in those situations. A lot of people tend to pick at their acne while in front of the bathroom mirror. If this is the case for you, a simple reminder note may be all it takes to prevent it! You can also ask for help from friends and family. Realizing how many times they call you out for picking at your skin may be surprising. More quick tips are to walk with your hands in your pockets, hold your hands when sitting, and keep your hands occupied in your down time by playing on your phone, drawing, or doing crossword puzzles. At the very least, try to remember some hand washing do's and don'ts. You should wash your hands before handling food and eating, tending to an injury, or if you need to touch around your eyes. Wash your hands when leaving the restroom, after touching animals, taking out the trash, or if they are noticeably dirty. Keeping your hands as clean as possible and touching your face as little as you can will reduce your chances of worsening your acne.