5 ways you could be sabotaging your skin without knowing it

Young woman applying moisturizer to face, portrait
Young woman applying moisturizer to face, portrait

So you've cut out dairy and sugar, added acne-fighting oils to your skin-care routine, and taken up a de-stressing meditation practice—but you're still battling breakouts on the regular?

No, you're not destined for a lifetime of less-than-perfect skin, say Tara Curran and Hayley Roy, the health coach and aesthetician behind Skin Food—a wildly popular holistic beauty workshop series that takes place at locations around Los Angeles. (Next up: a class at Wanderlust Hollywood on May 2.)

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Even if you think you're doing everything right, they say, there are loads of (totally avoidable!) acne triggers we expose ourselves to every day—and skin eruptions can be a valuable clue that something in the outside world is causing you harm on the inside.

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"People can get really embarrassed or frustrated by their skin issues, when they really can be a good guide to what's going on internally," says Roy, who along with Curran, helps clients get to the bottom of chronic skin woes through a tag-team approach of diet, skin-care treatments, and lifestyle tweaks. "I look at my skin as a really great tool for my health," says Roy, implying we can all learn to do the same.

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And once you've done the right detective work and eliminated what's not serving you, say the duo, you might be surprised at how quickly your skin takes a turn for the better.

Keep reading learn the unexpected ways you might be undermining your beauty efforts—and learn the quick fixes that create clear skin.

1. You're feeding a low-level allergy
The first thing Curran and Roy suggest for nagging skin issues is eliminating the five most common food allergens—gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar—while keeping a detailed journal of what you eat and the daily state of your digestion and skin. "I find that cataloguing your day-to-day activities can be a really insightful way to see what your small triggers may be," says Roy. (You may notice, for instance, that you always get a zit the day after you eat hummus—in which case, so sorry!) The stripped-down approach also applies to skin care, she says—rather than blitzing your breakouts with harsh acne products, try switching to single-ingredient oils in order to eliminate as many potential irritants as possible.

2. You're using the wrong toothpaste
"If someone has breakouts going on around the mouth, the number one thing I'll say is 'What toothpaste are you using?'" says Roy. "It's usually something with a lot of different chemicals and fluorides." She says that switching to a more natural product (like those made by Dr. Sharp or Living Libations) often does the trick.

3. You're washing your face in the shower
And no, this one has nothing to do with mistaking your conditioner for face wash. (Or am I the only one who does that?) "As soon as you're done cleansing, you want to immediately move on to the next step in your skin-care routine," explains Roy, who notes that even the few minutes it takes to towel off after a shower can be detrimental. "Cleansing can make your skin really alkaline, so if you don't immediately [balance the pH] with a rose or aloe-based hydrosol [toner], it can take longer to self-regulate. Then when you go outside, the environmental factors could trigger inflammation."

Curran adds that it's important to have water filters on both your shower head and sink faucet—the pair are a fan of Vitamin C filters for the shower and Pur filters for the sink.

4. You live in a city
"If you live in New York or LA, the pollution can really affect your skin health," says Curran. "You could be doing everything right with your diet, but if you're not fully supporting your detoxification processes internally, your body is still working overtime to reduce the toxins." To help your body rid itself of toxins before they show up on your skin, the duo stresses the importance of eating an alkaline diet, taking regular Epsom salt baths (or floating), and using protective skin-care products with zinc, vitamins E and C, and omegas 3, 6, and 9 (like this one from 100 Percent Pure).

5. Your skin-care routine hasn't changed since college
"We have to remember that our skin is a live organ and it needs different nutrients at different times of the year," says Roy. "People tend to get stagnant in their routine when really they need to be switching it up." She and Curran suggest reevaluating your skin's needs with the seasons and swapping in different antioxidants, enzymes, and acids based on the climate conditions, while also being mindful of eating seasonally, as nature intended.

If you're in the throes of a gnarly breakout, try some of W+G readers' best acne remedies, read these pro tips from an MD turned beauty-product founder, or see how experts say you can make a serious zit bomb disappear...

For more skincare tips, watch the video below!

How to Make Pores Appear Smaller
How to Make Pores Appear Smaller

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Originally published