Remember when you were a teenager and couldn’t wait to be grown? You could (a) do whatever the hell you wanted to, and (b) finally ditch the pimply teen years and get that clear-skinned glow-up. Little did you know that adulthood also involves dumb things like the crushing weight of responsibility and a near-dependence on ibuprofen … and that those zits will still pop up at the worst times.
Only now instead of ruining your prom or your school pictures, they ruin grownup things, like your wedding (or someone else’s, when you’re dressing up and getting photos taken, not to mention having a night out for the first time in six months, damn it). No matter how old you get, you will always feel like a teenager when you look in that mirror and behold a breakout – and then you’ll be doubly depressed because it’ll be next to a wrinkle or a gray hair. Adulthood is so much fun.
You may not be able to pimple-proof your face completely, but chances are you’re contributing to breakouts in ways you’re not even aware of. Check these common factors, then prepare for the blemish-free skin of your teenage dreams.
1. Your phone
According to an actual scientific study, your phone is ten times dirtier than a toilet seat. Let that info sink in (much like the festering cesspool of germs that do the same to your cheeks and chin. Ahem). It makes sense if you think about it – you touch a bazillion dirty surfaces a day, and then transfer the bacteria from fingers to phone … and then to face.
When do you wear your sunglasses? When it’s sunny, duh. And what else does the sun do? It makes you sweaty and oily, which turns you into a dirt magnet. So it stands to reason that your sunglasses resting on your nose and temples are also picking up a ton of bacteria. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned anything but the lenses, get you a disinfecting wipe and scrub those puppies down.
Hats can be a fun fashion statement and offer protection from harsh rays, but they can also be a playground for bacteria and therefore responsible for some heinous forehead breakouts. They’re not the easiest to clean, so just make sure you clean your skin itself as soon as possible after wearing one.
4. Your hair
So you skipped the shower and your hair might be a little greasy, but you spray some dry shampoo in and call it good. Your face, however, calls bullshit. If you routinely wear your hair down and it brushes against your cheeks, it’s depositing oils and product residue and other stuff your pores don’t like. You might also consider winding it up in a (loose) topknot at night when you sleep.
Another surprising culprit? You suck at rinsing. Not your hair – it may be conditioner-free – but that rinsed-out ‘do lube has to go somewhere, and that “somewhere” is all over your skin. Make sure you do a final splash of water over your face, neck, shoulders and chest after rinsing out your conditioner so it doesn’t leave a pore-clogging residue.
6. Styling products
All those things you use to tame your tresses may leave your hairstyle on point, but your face a pimply mess. Use your hand to help shield your skin from the fallout whenever you use sticky hairsprays or leave-in conditioners or heat protectant or basically anything you spray on your head.
7. Your pillow
This is one of the biggest pimple-perpetrators, and you’re rubbing your face against it for hours every night. A buildup of dirt and oils from your skin and hair is depositing back onto your skin, so do yourself a solid and wash that pillowcase twice a week or so. (Which is worse? Laundry or zits? That’s for you to decide.)
8. Your hands
Scrub those mitts or you’ll get zits! Kidding – you could wash your hands with the diligence of a surgeon, but they still come in contact with all kinds of surfaces: your keyboard, your phone, your steering wheel, every handle of every door you ever walk through. Your best bet is to not risk transferring that bacteria to your face by just keeping your hands off it. This make take some retraining of habits – if you’re used to sitting with your chin resting in your hand, for example – but fewer breakouts are worth it.
Hydrated skin is critical, but if you’re not careful, your moisturizer could be giving you hydration and zits. First of all: make sure you’re using enough. It seems counter-intuitive if your skin is oily, but by not moisturizing enough, you’re sending a message to your skin to kick its natural oil production into overdrive. If you’re acne-prone, use a lightweight moisturizer (like a water gel) that says “non-comedogenic,” which means it won’t clog your pores. Also, be aware of what’s in it. Oils, petroleum, silicones (dimethicone, for example) can gum up the works, and alcohol or fragrances can cause irritation.
Now that you know those mysterious breakouts might not be so mysterious after all, you can avoid the triggers – and therefore, the pimples. Your skin’s future is so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades. Just make sure to wipe them down first.
This article was originally published on