It’s easy to feel like you don’t have control over your breakouts. But the fact is, you do in most cases, says Mandy Epley, a master clinical facialist at Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa in New York, who specializes in converting challenging skin into glowing complexions.
Acne is a “tremendously embarrassing and burdensome problem” for about half of the women who book time in her Midtown treatment room. “Many attribute their acne to oily skin, food allergies, or say it’s hereditary. But none of these are absolutes,” says Epley. “Sometimes, all your body needs is the right nutritional balance and proper skin care.”
So what works? “Natural remedies can be just as effective as prescribed topical products. Possibly more powerful,” says Epley. She sees a lot of frustrated women fresh from the dermatologist with “dry, irritated, usually red, and sensitive skin.” In most cases, they just need to know more about how to use their prescriptions properly—and use way too much, she says. And they’re missing a few extra tips on what they can do in the day-to-day to try to reduce their acne.
To that end, Epley offers some easy things you can start doing today that help heal acne. (Naturally, she’s a fan of getting monthly facials to help clear and calm your skin.) And good news: You should notice a difference in your skin in about four weeks, she says. Here’s how:
1. Scale back on your prescriptions for acne. If you’re using prescription topical products, try using them every other day to avoid excess drying. The alternate days, use a very gentle cleanser (Epley likes Bioelements All Things Pure Cleanser ($50)) and a moisturizer for your skin type. This will help balance the skin.
2. Use an exfoliating mask. If you have moderate to severe acne, do not use a Clarisonic or any facial scrub. This can irritate inflamed acne and spread bacteria. Instead, use an exfoliating mask that doesn’t abrade the skin as it sloughs dead skin cells and helps purge pores. Dr. Alkaitis Organic Exfoliating Enzyme Mask ($39) can do the trick.
3. Eat more carrots. Vitamin A strengthens the protective tissue of the skin and actually prevents acne. It helps reduce sebum production, too.
4. Limit your dairy intake. Too much dairy can cause oil glands to kick into high gear, studies show.
5. Don’t touch the face or pick. People know not to do this, says Epley, but some may not even realize they’re doing it. If you sit in front of a computer most hours of your work days, try putting a post-it note on the side of your screen saying “Do not touch face!”
6. Add turmeric to your diet. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties that may reduce redness and inflammation of acne. It’s a good reason to order Indian food the next time you go out, or try adding this spice to your eggs or stir-fry at home, she says.
7. Cut out sugar. Limit it to once a week. Fruit is okay, but try to stick to melons and berries. Sugar is a huge culprit because it spikes your insulin, which in turn revs your hormones and the adrenal glands. So keep the sugar to one day a week and don’t eat much of it.
8. Exercise! Sweat detoxifies the skin. Plus, studies find that those who work out at least 3 days a week are more likely to choose healthier foods, she says.
9. Consider nutritional supplements. Acne can be a sign that something is nutritionally off in your diet, says Epley. Your skin depends on nutrition, and if your body isn’t receiving it, acne can result. Antioxidants like resveratrol, anti-inflammatories like omega fatty acids , and a good multivitamin can help.
10. Clean up! Wipe your cell phone, glasses, sunglasses, keyboards, with a device-friendly anti-bacterial wipe, and launder your pillowcases weekly. It can’t hurt.
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