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Like most teens, I had quite a bit of acne in high school and figured it would get better as I got older. When I entered my twenties and my acne still hadn’t subsided, I decided it was time to take a more proactive approach to treating it. I looked up how to get clear skin and started doing all the things beauty magazines recommended – drinking lots of water, reducing my stress levels, and using acne-fighting skincare products. But it wasn’t until I started addressing the less obvious causes of my breakouts like the type of sunscreen and toothpaste I used that I started to notice real improvements in my skin. 

To save you from all the trial and error I had to go through, here are my top tips for how to get clear skin and treat some of the hidden causes that may be behind your breakouts. 

Carbs

Oprah Loves Bread! - I LOVE BREAD

Like Oprah, I love bread, so I was super sad to learn that carbs can be a cause of acne. If you eat lots of refined carbs like white bread, crackers, cookies, and cake, your diet could be triggering your breakouts or at the very least increasing their severity. Although it’s hard to cut back on sweets and pasta, it’s worth it to get clearer skin. I’m hopelessly in love with carbs, so if I can do it, you can too!

Hair products 

If you don’t apply them carefully, your favorite hair products could be triggering your breakouts. Styling products like hairspray can transfer to your skin and block your pores, causing pimples to pop up.

Experts recommend switching to hair products you can apply with your fingers for more precision. It’s also a good idea to wipe your skin with a toner once you’re done styling your hair to remove any stray product that may have migrated to your forehead or cheeks. 

Using too many skincare products 

My best tip for how to get clear skin is to simplify your skincare regimen. When my acne was at its worst, I was trying out lots of cleansers, masks, and moisturizers instead of sticking to a consistent routine. I thought that using different products and exposing my skin to more active ingredients would help cure my acne, but it actually did the opposite. My face became oilier, redder, and even more prone to breakouts. 

Dermatologists agree that there’s no real benefit to following a complicated skincare routine. You only need a few good products that work for your skin type to see results. Constantly switching out your skincare and introducing different ingredients can also irritate your skin and disrupt its balance. Consistency is a key part of how to get clear skin. 

If you’re a serial skincare tester like I used to be, pick a few of your favorite products and stick with them for a month to give them time to take effect. I bet your face will look much clearer after a few weeks of using the same products every day. 

Sunscreen 

Thick, heavy sunscreens can clog up your pores and trigger breakouts, especially if you have oily or combination skin like me. Obviously you can’t go without SPF, which protects your skin from harmful UV rays and prevents problems like sunspots and skin cancer. Here’s how to get clear skin without leaving your face vulnerable to sun damage: look for sunscreens that are noncomedogenic and oil-free. They have thinner formulations and contain ingredients that won’t block your pores and cause breakouts. Since I made the switch, my face has looked and felt a lot less oily. 

Smartphones 

Pressing your iPhone screen up against your face could be causing the acne on your cheeks and chin. Dirt and oil from your fingertips build up on the screen and can transfer to your face when you make a phone call. To prevent your smartphone from contributing to your skin problems, wipe it down every day with alcohol wipes to keep it clean and fresh.

Yoga mats 

When I found out that yoga mats could be contributing to my acne, I was shocked. I thought that practicing yoga would help reduce my stress levels and clear up my breakouts, not cause them! But the accumulated sweat, oil, and dirt that’s on your yoga mat can get on your face during exercises like headstands and child’s pose and lead to clogged pores and pimples. 

To prevent your yoga routine from giving you breakouts, make sure you clean your mat with gentle soap and water regularly. It also doesn’t hurt to put down a clean towel where your head will be so your face isn’t making contact with the sweaty mat.

The same goes for pillowcases and anything else you put on your face – make sure it’s clean so you don’t get pimples!

Fluoride 

If you’ve tried everything and still don’t know how to get clear skin, it may be worth reducing your fluoride intake. Although there’s limited research on fluoride and acne, the studies that are available are pretty convincing. 

In one study, researchers asked 65 women to switch from their regular toothpaste to one without fluoride. Over half of them had the acne around their chin, mouth, and cheeks clear up within a month. When they went back to using their old toothpaste, their breakouts came back. 

If you need another reason to avoid fluoride, actress Olivia Munn says that limiting her fluoride intake is one of her best secrets for how to get clear skin. As soon as she stopped consuming it two years ago, all of the acne on her chin cleared up. 

Reducing the amount of fluoride you ingest can be difficult, since fluoride makes its into tap water, soda, black tea, toothpaste, and more. But if your acne hasn’t responded to medication or lifestyle changes, it’s definitely worth trying. I’ve noticed a difference in my skin since I started filtering my tap water and using fluoride-free toothpaste. 

Inflammation 

Another hidden cause of acne you may not think about is inflammation. Everyone has some level of inflammation in their body, whether it’s from stress, an acute injury, or eating inflammatory foods like sugar and refined carbs. This inflammation can cause your body to produce excess sebum and trigger your breakouts. 

One of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation and the amount of oil your skin produces is to take an omega-3 supplement. In a recent study, participants who took 250mg of EPA per day for two months reported significant reductions in their acne. You can also fight it by exercising regularly and adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet such as broccoli, berries, and green tea. 

One of the reasons acne is so hard to treat is that it can be caused by lots of different things. It took me about a year of trial and error to land on the right combination of diet and lifestyle changes to clear up my breakouts, and I still get pimples from time to time. But armed with these tips and the help of a good dermatologist, you can start to figure out how to get clear skin and achieve the pimple-free complexion you’ve always wanted.