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You’ve outgrown the squeaky voice and learned how to control your, uh, excitement, so…why does your face insist on maintaining a case of teenage acne? Those raging adolescent hormones might be long gone, but there are some surprising reasons your skin is still clinging to its junior high levels of imperfection. “About 4 million adult men in the U.S. have acne, so it’s a common problem I deal with daily,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. MF grilled the best experts to uncover five sneaky reasons you might be breaking out, so you can avoid them—and get clearer skin—for good.
1. Hats and Helmets
Have you noticed that your forehead is the spot of your most frequent breakouts? What you regularly put on your head—whether that’s a bike helmet or a baseball cap— might be bad for your face, warns Jaliman. Turns out your topper can harbor bacteria, transferring it right onto your face if you aren’t keeping things clean. Now, don’t sacrifice safety or style so skin stays clear. Just wipe down the inside of your helmet with rubbing alcohol after each use or toss the cap in the washing machine once a week to banish bacteria and keep your forehead clear.
2. Touching Yourself
No, not like that. (Phew!) However, if you’re noticing zits on your cheek, pay close attention to your hand habits, especially when you’re working on your computer or watching TV. Dr. Jaliman warns that if you have a tendency to lean your head onto your hand, you’re spreading germs directly from your desk right onto your face. Think of all the grubby stuff your hands come in contact with, and then think about rubbing it all on your face. That’ll motivate you to be hands-off. To train yourself out of the habit, try sitting on your hands for a few weeks. If you just can’t seem to hold your own head up, then at the very least, keep your hands clean with regular washings and a tube of antibacterial gel nearby.
3. Your Dairy Fix
According to Dr. Susan Stuart, MD, a San Diego-based dermatologist, researchers have found that young men who drink two or more servings of milk a day may be more likely to have acne—and the same might apply to older guys as well. Milk ingestion can lead to an increased production of an oily substance called sebum, which clogs pores and causes acne outbreaks. If you’re a big dairy drinker but find yourself dealing with pimples frequently, consider switching to an alternative like almond milk. And to improve your skin even more, Dr. Stuart recommends switching to a healthy diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates, which has been shown to reduce breakouts as well.
What good is a clean-shaven jaw if all that smoothness is ruined by a beard of blemishes? Whatever your grooming style may be, your tools could be damaging your skin instead of making you look your best, says Dr. Jaliman. Dirty razors can breed breakout-causing germs, so to keep your chin free of hair and of zits, put your razor in a cup of rubbing alcohol before you shower each day. Let it soak while you get cleaned up, then shave with your germ-free razor afterwards. Simple enough, right?
5. A Sweaty Workout
Getting your heart pumping and your muscles working is great for your health and your body, but unfortunately, it might cause some problems for your face. Dr. Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, warns that sweating at the gym can make acne worse, especially on your chest or your back. To get the benefits of exercise but keep the breakouts under control, she advises that you shower as soon as possible after a workout. Just pick up a travel-sized bottle of antibacterial soap or body wash, then toss it in your gym bag so you can take care of business as soon as you hit the locker room. (And since friction and mositure both contribute to breakouts, consider investing in some loose, moisture-wicking gym clothes that allow your skin to breathe.)
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