Skip to chat with us. Skip to content

See all > Skin and hair care

15 habits that are making your acne worse

September 28, 2022 • read

Share this article

15 habits that are making your acne worse

Acne often feels like it pops up at the worst times. Your initial reaction might be to scrub your face as much as possible, but doing so can actually make your acne worse — so can many other habits you might have adopted through your teenage years and even adulthood. Don’t worry though, Maple can help you with acne skin care right here in Canada.

Maple is a virtual healthcare platform with Canadian-licensed doctors. This includes dermatologists who you can see within hours. That’s right, no referral or waitlist is required — just connect with a dermatologist from your phone, tablet, or computer, and get a personalized treatment plan online.

In the meantime, if you’re experiencing a sudden acne breakout on your face or you have acne-prone skin, we’ve put together a handy list of the most common habits that can worsen acne for all skin types — let’s get started.

1. Washing your face too much

It’s natural to think you must wash your face more than usual to help get rid of acne. After all, dirt and oil clog your pores and cause acne, right? It turns out that over-cleansing is actually one of the worst things you can do.

Washing your face too often breaks down the skin barrier and strips it of natural oils, making it work overtime to replace those oils — the perfect recipe for more acne. On top of that, scrubbing your face too much and too hard can cause redness and irritation, especially for those who have sensitive skin.

So how much is “too much” then when it comes to washing your face? Experts say you shouldn’t wash your face more than twice a day, even if you have oily skin.

And as for which ingredients should be in your face wash for acne? Look for benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. They can help reduce clogged pores by getting rid of dead skin cells.

2. Washing your face incorrectly

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not removing their makeup before going to town on a cleanser. Doing this often results in mascara trickling down your face — not the hottest look — which can also clog your pores and become difficult to remove. It can also wreak havoc on your white towels! Makeup should always be removed first, and then you can tackle its remnants with a cleanser.

Using very hot water to wash your face is also a big no-no. While hot water might feel nice, it can easily dry out your skin. On the flip side, cold water shrinks your pores, making it easier for dirt and bacteria to stay trapped. Instead, you should always use lukewarm water to wash your face.

Finally, that washcloth you’re using — how long has it been since you’ve changed it? Using the same cloth every day isn’t good for your skin either. If you’re not washing or changing your washcloth daily, stick with using your hands (but make sure they’re clean first). Otherwise, you’re stuck in an endless cycle of transferring bacteria back and forth onto your face.

3. Giving into the temptation of pimple popping

While it might be tempting, popping your pimples can push acne-causing bacteria and pus back into the skin and cause an infection or potentially permanent blemishes. Dermatologists, on the other hand, know how to extract pimples using the right types of tools, so leave it to the professionals to get their hands on your pimples if necessary. Stick to a good cleansing routine and acne medication if you’ve been prescribed any to help your pimples heal.

4. Using too much medication

There’s a reason it says “use as directed” on that tube of prescription acne medication. One is that putting on a gigantic blob of ointment can make your skin worse since certain ingredients may dry it out or even cause little bumps.

It’s safe to say that using a pea-sized amount of topical acne cream will suffice, even for a more extensive skin area. But if you’re unsure of the right amount, ask your dermatologist when they prescribe the acne treatment just to be clear.

5. Changing medications too often

It’s tough to have patience with acne, but it’s necessary. Changing medications too often can irritate your skin, making it look and feel even worse. So don’t jump ship on your newest acne treatment right away.

If you’re not noticing results within the first week, don’t worry. Most treatments need at least four to six weeks to start working. If you still aren’t seeing an improvement after those four to six weeks, it’s time to speak to a dermatologist.

6. Drying out your skin

Using products like harsh soaps, chemical exfoliants, or toners might seem like a good idea. And, it can be very satisfying to see the dirt that a toner pulls from your face on a cotton pad. However, using something too strong can dry out your skin, which can result in an overproduction of oil to get things back into check.

Instead of harsh soap, opt for a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser. And if toner is part of your skincare routine, look for an alcohol-free one and don’t use it more than twice a day. If you notice your skin is getting too dry, use the toner only once a day or every other day, and don’t be afraid to apply a light layer of oil-free moisturizer afterwards.

For chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid, stick to using them no more than two to three times a week, and if your skin is feeling dry, especially in the cooler, dryer months, you can also use an oil-free moisturizer afterwards.

Don’t forget the importance of sunscreen, either. Acne treatments often leave skin more vulnerable to UV rays, which can cause further damage. So no matter the season or how cloudy it is, you should always top off your morning skincare routine with sunscreen. Or, you can always look for a moisturizer with a built-in SPF.

7. Sleeping with makeup on

Taking off your makeup is crucial to keeping your skin clear from acne. Dead skin, dirt, and oil build up on your skin even if you aren’t wearing makeup. So when you do, it can make things even worse, and it doesn’t allow your skin to breathe. Hello clogged pores!

No matter how tired you’re feeling, head to the washroom, remove it all, and then get to cleansing. It’s worth it in the long run.

You might even want to consider going makeup free at least one day a week to let your skin breathe.

8. Sharing makeup and makeup brushes

Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to makeup or makeup brushes. Your makeup and brushes don’t just graze your skin — they’re in direct contact with bacteria, dirt, and oil. If you’re sharing your makeup or brushes with someone, you’re sharing all this too.

Not only can this result in acne, but it can also cause an infection — think pink eye or even a cold sore. So it’s best to stick to what’s in your own makeup bag.

On top of not sharing your beloved cosmetics and brushes, you should also clean your makeup brushes every seven to 10 days to eliminate any harmful bacteria. While some brands sell brush cleaning products, you can do this on your own by:

  • Rinsing the bristles off in the sink at a downward angle
  • Dipping the bristles in a gentle cleanser — baby shampoo and dish soap are options
  • Swirling the brush around on the palm of your hand and rinsing off the cleanser
  • Squeezing excess moisture out with a paper towel
  • Laying your brush down with the bristles over the edge of your sink

9. Not using the right skincare products and makeup

Reaching for skincare products at the drug store with descriptions about clearing your skin, reducing wrinkles, and more can be enticing. But sometimes, these products are loaded with ingredients that can cause breakouts if you have acne-prone skin, including coconut oil, wheat germ, isopropyl myristate and isopropyl palmitate, and parabens.

Instead, try using an acne wash with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, and skin creams with aloe vera, glycerin, and vitamins C and E. For skin and eye creams, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and peptides. You can also get in touch with a skincare specialist who will help you discover the best skincare products in Canada that’ll benefit your skin.

Makeup doesn’t typically cause acne on its own, but wearing too much or not removing it properly can clog your pores. If you do find that you break out from makeup, it might be time for a product change.

Non-comedogenic makeup is made with ingredients that don’t clog your pores, and there are many options available like non-comedogenic foundations and blushes. While you can’t get away with not washing this makeup off at night, it’s much better for acne-prone skin in general.

10. Not cleansing your skin after you sweat

What’s the first thing you do after a workout? Jump into the shower and wash off your body? It turns out this isn’t the only thing you should wash after a sweaty sesh. Leaving sweat and oil to linger on your face clogs pores, which, as you know by now, can spur acne.

So whether you’re doing a long workout at the gym or just moving heavy furniture, get to the washroom afterwards and remove that sweat with a gentle cleanser.

11. Not washing your hair often enough

Touching your hair when it’s greasy and then touching your face transfers that oil and dirt onto your skin, which can cause pimples. Hair gets greasy because the hair follicles are surrounded by oil glands that produce sebum. Sebum naturally conditions hair to keep it healthy and soft. But too much sebum can make your hair feel greasy between washes.

So, how often should you wash your hair then? If you have naturally oily hair, it’s ok to wash it every day. If your hair isn’t naturally oily, wash it whenever it feels greasy. You can also rinse your hair between washes to remove dust and dirt.

12. Getting hair products on your face

You might feel squeaky clean when you rinse shampoo off your hair in the shower, but all that sudsy goodness running down your face and body can lead to a build-up of product on your skin and clog your pores. While avoiding getting any shampoo on your body is nearly impossible, focus on the type of shampoo you use instead. Steer clear of shampoos with oils, sulphates, petroleum, silicones, and shea butter.

And, let’s not forget other hair products like gel, hairspray, or mousse. They often have pore-clogging ingredients, so try staying close to your hairline and scalp when applying them. If the excess product has gone beyond your hairline and scalp, clean anything your head touches, like your pillowcase, hair accessories, and hats.

13. Not cleaning your cell phone

If this made you do a double-take, we understand. But think about how many times you touch your cell phone each day. If you’re texting away or scrolling through Instagram, a ton of dirt, oil, and bacteria from your fingers is transferred to your screen. And when you get a phone call, all of that is sitting directly against your face.

To avoid this, you’ll want to clean your phone daily. All you have to do is use a microfibre cloth and alcohol-free screen cleaner, which you can easily get online. You can also use earbuds to avoid face-to-phone contact, but this still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cleaning your phone daily.

14. Touching your face

Did you know that one study revealed we touch our faces an average of 23 times an hour? Dirt, oil, and bacteria are all transferred from your hands onto your face when you touch it.

And, if you’re into the habit of touching your pimples, this could also bring on new acne. When your pimple is at the pustule stage — pus-filled and red with a white centre — you can spread that same bacteria to other parts of your face.

While it’s challenging to break the habit of touching your face, try keeping track of how many times you do it each day so you’re aware and can attempt to stop. You might even leave yourself notes as a reminder — sure, it might look a bit odd on your desk, but it’s totally worth it for your skin.

15. Not following a healthy diet

There’s some pretty good research out there that suggests a strong connection between diet and acne.

The big one you’ve probably heard about is sugar. When you eat sugar, your blood sugar spikes. This means that the hormone insulin has to get to work to counteract the sugar.

Since hormones can cause acne, this spike in insulin can result in more breakouts. Consuming high-fat foods — like greasy french fries or bacon — has also been shown to worsen acne.

And then there’s dairy. Many studies have revealed that eating more dairy products can cause acne — the theory is that it may have something to do with the hormones in milk.

If you try to improve your skin with what you eat, you’ll want to go for a low-glycemic diet. This uses the glycemic index to measure which foods are less likely to impact your blood sugar levels, like high-protein, low-sugar foods. And be sure to incorporate Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet too, like certain fish, seafood, nuts, and seeds. Research shows it could be beneficial because of its anti-inflammatory effects.

When to see a dermatologist

You can embrace many good habits to help prevent and treat acne, but sometimes it’s not enough. If your acne is getting worse day by day and nothing you’re doing is helping, it’s time to see a dermatologist.

With Maple, you can skip the waitlist and see a dermatologist for acne treatment online in Canada within hours. The whole process is really easy, and you don’t need a referral. Select “Dermatology” from the list of specialties, enter your symptoms, attach any required images, and you’ll hear back from a Canadian-licensed dermatologist with a personalized treatment plan that may also include a prescription.

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions out there, and many treatments are available. Take the necessary steps today to get on your journey to clear skin.

This blog was developed by our team and reviewed by a medical professional. 

See a dermatologist online

Get started
Preventative health and wellness
10 tips to prevent falls at home

Read more
Preventative health and wellness
When should a diabetic go to an endocrinologist?

Read more
Maple for business
4 tips to support employees with diabetes in the workplace

Read more