You may be able to find out how to stop breakouts by doing some detective work.
Argh, those nasty breakouts. You scrub and you wash and you tone and you moisturize, and still they show up just when you least need them, like right before a big interview, presentation, or meeting with your new in-laws.
You know how to grin and bear it. You probably know how to cover it up. You may even know how to control your hormonal acne. If you want to say goodbye to your acne for good, however, the next time it shows up, you may want to perk your ears a bit. After all, we’ve heard that if you listen, your breakouts will tell you what you need to know to stop them from coming back.
Where are You Breaking Out?
Look carefully at where you’re breaking out. There is a theory called “face mapping” that suggests the location of your acne could present clues about what’s causing it. Traditional Chinese medicine, for example, maintains that a weakness or toxicity in a certain organ or gland in the body can result in acne showing up in certain areas of the skin. You can use this theory to do some detective work on your breakouts.
- Forehead: Pimples here are usually linked to the digestive system, and may indicate that you’re having a hard time breaking down certain foods. It may also indicate liver problems, stress, or an irregular sleep schedule. Try using bitter herbs or digestive enzymes like bromelain and papaya before each meal to help break down foods, and make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you suspect liver issues, try some dandelion tea or some extra garlic and onions. Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning may also help.
- Between the brows: Did you have to break down and get fast food yesterday? Greasy, fatty foods may be connected to acne here. Stick with healthy choices as much as you can! Another possible cause—too much alcohol. If you find pimples here after a night out where you consumed a few drinks, that may be your issue.
- Cheeks: If you spent time in the city, had to sit in traffic for hours, or otherwise came into contact with polluted air, that may explain pimples showing up here. And unfortunately, the air in our homes can be just as bad, or worse! Consider adding plants that clean the air to your home. Allergies that affect the respiratory system may also be to blame, or if you pressed your cell phone against your skin while talking, germs may have been transferred to your face. Always wash skin thoroughly before bed to try to get rid of trace contaminants. Sometimes, acne here can be a symptom of too much sugar in your diet—cut back for a few days and see if that helps.
- Chin: Did these show up around that time of the month? Chin pimples often come around because of changes in your hormones. In the days before your period, try to pay extra attention to your skin care. Consider eating foods that help regulate our natural hormonal cycles. Also be sure you’re not resting your chin in your hands when bored or tired, as this can transfer oils from your fingers onto your chin, which can cause pimples.
When Did Your Breakouts Show Up?
Tracking just when your breakouts show up can also help you determine what may be causing them. Here are some tips to help:
- First thing in the morning: If you’re finding pimples in the morning that weren’t there the night before, there could be a couple things at work. First, you may have forgotten to wash your face before bed (always a must!). Second, you may have eaten something for dinner or dessert that didn’t digest well, causing changes in your skin. Eating too close to bedtime may also encourage the formation of pimples.
- Afternoon: This may be caused by hormones, if you’re getting close to your menstrual cylce, or it could be that your makeup or moisturizer is to blame. If you start out with a fresh face and then by afternoon see pimples and blackheads showing up, check the ingredients in your makeup and moisturizing products. Things like mineral oil, propylene glycol, dimethicone, and others can actually create a barrier on skin that traps bacteria underneath, increasing your chances of a breakout.
- Evening: Did you wash your face after work? Before your exercise routine? Before cooking? Remember that all day, your skin is subjected to pollution and contaminants in the air. Makeup, as well, can sit on your skin all day long. The second you walk in the door, wash your face and put on a fresh moisturizer.
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What kind are you?
Look more closely at your breakouts. Do you have just one or two inflamed pimples, or a cluster of blackheads? This information can give you more clues as to what may be going on:
- Blackheads and clogged pores: These are those tiny black spots that like to dot your skin like pencil pricks. Your skin may be dry in the area of the breakout. This may indicate a congested liver, in which case you may want to try a short detox-diet to flush out your system. Drink extra water, and try the liver-cleansing foods listed on Renegade Health.
- Cystic acne: These pimples like to sit underneath the surface of skin, forming swollen bumps. They can take weeks to heal. Oily or dry skin—doesn’t matter. All skin types can suffer this type of acne. It may be connected to hormonal issues, including PMS, menopause, pre-menopause, childbirth, and breastfeeding. It may also be related to digestive issues. Consider getting more probiotics in your diet (from things like yogurt and kefir).
- Frequent acne: This usually comes with whiteheads and blackheads, though they are usually small. The key here is “frequent”—this type of breakout comes around a lot. If this is your acne, look at your products, as it’s likely to be related to some ingredients that your skin doesn’t like.
- Occasional: This is the acne that shows up out of the blue. You thought your skin was fine, and then wham, the pimples show up. Most likely, this type of acne is related to stress. Have things been difficult in your life lately? Have you been worried about something? You may need to take some time out.
Check out our resources page if you're looking for more resources on various skin care issues or concerns.
If you would like to learn more on face mapping and the different parts of the face that are connected to different organs in the body, read our other posts: