Whether your acne occurs once a month or it’s decided to become a permanent resident of the United States of You, recurring blemishes can be your body’s special way of communicating with you. To find out what your acne is so desperately pleading with you, we sat down with Dr. Y. Claire Chang. A board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Dermatology in New York City, AKA a professional pimple whisperer, Dr. Chang told us how you can decode and listen to your acne.
All acne, whether it’s on your face or your body, can be narrowed down to the same root causes. The culprits? A blend of excess oil production, clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. If you keep breaking out in certain spots, it could point towards a range of things from lifestyle patterns to fluctuating hormones, so mapping your acne can be beyond helpful so you can figure out exactly what’s going on.
If you’re past the teenage hormonal stage, forehead acne could be due to your hair – or hair products. Yep, greasy hair or oily hair pomades, gels, creams can be a major cause of breakouts. This, due to it blocking your pores or increasing bacteria on your forehead area. “Long hair, bangs, or oily hair may exacerbate sweat and oily, clogging the pores, worsening acne,” says Dr. Chang. And completely avoiding doing your hair by wearing a hat doesn’t help, either. According to Dr. Chang, wearing caps or hats can also clog pores and trap bacteria. Yikes. To decrease your forehead acne, Dr. Chang says to wash your hair regularly (and also your dirty hats!) If that’s not helping, cut it short. “Oftentimes, cutting the bangs shorter and avoiding hair products can treat forehead acne.” And cut out forehead acne, for good.
Chin and Jaw
Did you know your beard could be why you struggle with acne along your jaw and chin? Isn’t that so rude? If you have a beard, ingrown hairs may irritate the skin into breaking out, but shaving your beard off isn’t the answer either. Shaving can inflame the skin, even leading to infection if you’re very unlucky, which means more acne. So, what’s a guy to do? According to Dr. Chang, prevention is key. She recommends, “using a moisturizing shaving cream, using a single blade or electric razor, shaving in the direction of the hair follicle, and keeping razors sterile before use.” Prevention isn’t a perfect science, so if your break outs still continue to flare up, you could always opt for these very effective treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin, topical steroids, and oral antibiotics.
Deep cystic acne, and sometimes small pink bumps and whiteheads, along the jawline can point towards hormonal triggers such as the menstrual cycle. In short, your period could be the reason for your monthly pimple pop ups. Although the hormone train that is your menstrual cycle can’t be completely stopped, Dr. Chang suggests slowing things down with oral contraceptive and even some forms of high blood pressure medication (oral spironolactone treatment).
Cheek and Nose
There’s nothing worse than waking up to a giant pimple in the middle of your face, but it is also one of the most common areas people break out in. One downside to how common cheek and nose acne are is that there are many different causes for the breakouts. The most likely reason, however, probably has to do with the fact the notoriously pesky T-Zone runs through your cheeks and nose. The T-Zone, where most people get shiny and greasy throughout the day, produces an excessive amount of oil and sebum. Your over-achieving oil glands make the cheek and nose area more vulnerable to clogged pores and acne. An quick and easy solution? “Avoid bacteria buildup by washing your pillow and bed sheets frequently, which can touch the skin while you sleep and flare the acne,” Dr. Chang advises.
Back, Shoulder, and Chest
According to Dr. Chang, the shoulder, back, and chest are areas with high concentrations of sebaceous glands.Unfortunately, this means they’re more prone to acne, just like the T-Zone. An obvious issue is puberty because your hormones cause higher levels of oil production in the sebaceous glands. Although you can’t fast-forward through puberty, simple swaps like opting for loosely fitting clothes rather than tight ones can make a big difference. Sweating during exercise or in the summer can also contribute to body acne, so be sure to immediately, and I mean immediately, get out of your sweaty clothes when you’re done at the gym or when you get home and shower. Why not make it a luxurious shower with your favorite shower gel and fancy shampoo while you’re at it? It’s not like you don’t deserve it! When breakouts still occur, which they could because you’re human, Dr. Chang says, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial medications can help significantly with chest and back acne. So take that salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash and use it stat!
Everybody’s favorite past time, Netflix in bed, could be contributing to acne on your tush. Unfortunately for us, “sweating and sitting for long periods of time can clog the pores,” Dr. Chang shared with us. Clogged pores, as we all know by now, increase susceptibility to breakouts. Ass acne (which will now be known as assne) can also come from folliculitis. What is folliculitis? Simply put, it’s an inflammation of the hair follicles that is commonly caused by bacterial infections or from shaving. To combat this, don’t skimp on the soap down there, and if you shave for a bare butt, be sure to follow the crucial steps you would when shaving your face. Use a nourishing shaving cream, sterilize your razor, and go forth.
While some acne can be easily remedied with simple solutions such as showering after the gym or prepping your skin before shaving, recurring blemishes can also have internal causes such as hormones. Although hormones aren’t something you can control, they are something you can regulate with the help of a doctor. Even still, Dr. Yang’s recommendation may not work for everyone, but there’s no need to worry because not every single breakout is one that needs to be banished. Acne is nothing to be ashamed of because it is something everybody deals with. Whether your skin is flaring up in breakouts or you’re having the clearest skin day in weeks, you are still you and you are still incredible.
Reporting by Blair Cannon