As I write this article, a new zit has spent the day marking its territory on my chin. As someone who’s always had acne-prone skin, I’m aware of basic acne breakout dos and don’ts like keeping my face clean and not picking at the inflamed area during a breakout.
But between the old wives’ tales and the latest TikTok trends, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. So to remind us of the absolute no-nos, I spoke to The Acne Guru, Danielle Gronich, CEO and co-founder of CLEARSTEM Skincare and owner of San Diego Acne Clinic.
3 acne breakout don’ts from a skin expert
1. Don’t touch your skin
“We definitely should not pick when we are breaking out because it scars the skin in a way that can leave marks for months, if not years,” Gronich says. There’s a real reason why this is the cardinal rule when it comes to breaking out. When we touch our face, we’re streaking oils from one part of the body to another. This can lead to clogged pores and in turn, an outbreak of acne.
2. Don’t eat acne triggers
When experiencing acne, Gronich tells her clients to eliminate certain foods known to exacerbate the issue. “When breaking out, remove all dietary triggers like dairy and whey protein immediately,” she says.
Studies show a correlation between drinking cow’s milk and acne breakouts, according to The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Whey and casein are the proteins in milk that stimulate growth in calves and humans when we drink them. Within this protein, a hormone called IGF-1 is released, which is known to trigger breakouts. When it comes to food, consider eating a low-glycemic diet, and the AAD says it may lead to fewer pimples.
When it comes to a clear complexion, though, you can’t underestimate the power of the gut-acne connection. There are a few things you can do to support better gut health and digestion, which means less inflammation, and as a result, less potential acne: “Take digestive enzymes, apple cider vinegar, hot lemon water before meals, and make sure to not drink cold water when eating,” Gronich says.
In particular, “cold liquid actually slows down the entire digestive system by constricting blood flow to the stomach and intestines and slowing enzyme secretion, which in turns can cause lymphatic stagnation and a slower metabolism,” Ayurveda expert Martha Soffer previously told Well+Good.
3. Don’t take an excessive amount of vitamins
Internal well-being is just as important, if not more important, than what you put on your skin when it comes to acne. But Gronich warns that it’s possible to go overboard with supplements, which is why she recommends a less-is-more approach.
“Avoid high amounts of vitamin D, B12, biotin, and zinc,” she says. “The reason being is when we overdo it, we can trigger testosterone—which causes hormonal acne.” Studies find that, in the case of vitamin D, this only happens when people already have a deficiency—same with zinc, though more research is needed, and testosterone increases with B12 supplementation were small in premenopausal women.
For similar reasons, Gronich also urges limiting your intake of the adaptogen ashwagandha as it may also raise testosterone levels. Bear in mind, most studies about the affect of vitamins and supplements on testosterone levels are conducted on men like SO much health research in general.
In particular, biotin, touted for its ability to help hair, skin, and nails stay healthy, is important to consume mindfully, according to Gronich. “The problem with hair, skin, and nail vitamins, in general, is they rely on a ton of biotin which is very problematic if you are acne prone,” she shared in an Instagram reel. Instead, she suggests incorporating liquid silica.
And while you’re reviewing the contents of your medicine cabinet, make sure to give your beauty and skin products a once over too. “The main things that affect acne are pore-clogging ingredients,” she says.