Acne in Winter and How To Avoid Breakouts

You may find it strange that you still break out during the colder months. I know that I do (break out, and find it odd). My job allows me the luxury of using the best products available for my skin, and while I take very, very good care of my complexion, some skincare concerns aren’t necessarily about what you put on your skin, but what you put in your body.

Simple Skincare dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer Segal, says that a common misconception for people with acne is that they feel the need to treat their skin harshly. Don’t do it, especially not in winter when processed heat and the cold climate are already drying out your poor face! Gentle is more effective. Dr. Segal urges us breakout folk to limit our touching of the skin and keep our skincare routine simple. Use products with few ingredients and nothing too abrasive (this can spread bacteria, causing more zits!). Try Simple Skincare’s Refreshing Facial Wash Gel; it’s effective at getting rid of dirt and grime, but also won’t over dry. She also suggests the age-old advice of drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day. “Steeping water with teas, fresh fruit (such as lemon or orange) or herbs (such as mint or basil) yields interesting and delicious, caffeine-free warm weather beverages that fill the water quota and won’t aggravate your skin,” says Dr. Segal.

What I’ve noticed about my skin is that if I dry it out, it will actually produce more oil. This happens to be a scientific fact: if you dry out your skin, your oil glands will go into overdrive to compensate. Therefore, it is imperative to always use a moisturizer. I like Simple Skincare’s Vital Vitamin Night Cream because, should my skin get a little t-zone shine, I’m not bothered by it while in my silent slumber. It’s also really important to remember to change your pillowcases every two days. Oils from your hair and face transfer to the pillowcase, then back to your skin. This is a massive nightmare (no pun intended). A quick fix is to change the case of the pillow that you sleep on, not every pillow on your bed. Dr. Segal suggests taking vitamins internally to level out oil production. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (most often found in fish), give the complexion positive oils. I am not a fish lover, so I turn to Flax Seed Oil, which, more or less, has the same effect. I like this one as it has a lemon flavor and goes down a bit easier (apparently, Gwynie gives her kids lemon flaxseed oil too!).

Okay, so let’s assume you know all of this – and you’re putting it into action… but you’re still breaking out. Could it be your diet? Dr. Segal says yes. “Over the years, several clinical studies have examined the relationship between dairy products and acne. Generally speaking, in patients who have a tendency to develop acne, the effects of dairy can make their acne worse. In such cases, dermatologists may recommend a dairy-free and low glycemic load (LGL) diet,” notes Dr. Segal. This is such sad news for me as I LOVE my cheeses, but I’d prefer to have a flawless complexion than a few slices of brie.

I also notice that if I eat a diet high in olive oil (which happens to be a healthy oil for your skin), my face looks more alive. Whereas, if I’m noshing on tofu scramble a few times a week, I not only feel bloated, but my skin looks dull and gets the occasional pimple. Dr. Segal suggests cooking at home and playing around with recipes to see what works and what doesn’t. Personally, I have a major aversion to my kitchen, so you won’t find me fixing up a feast, but even if you are like me and loathe cooking, you can still tell what foods react positively and which ones react negatively with your complexion.

Have any acne-fighting tips? Let us know in the comments below.

*originally posted on 11/20/12

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  1. Jerrell
    November 20, 2012

    I’m so glad I read this! I have combination/oily skin and I never thought about the oils on my pillowcases! I’ve also been trying to give up dairy for health reasons for months, but never even thought about the effects that dairy was having on my skin. That’s an extra incentive to give up my beloved mozzarella cheese!

  2. Danielle
    November 20, 2012

    Coconut oil! Not only does it boost your energy and metabolism but it is a natural way to cleanse your body. I am highly prone to acne and starting eating it almost daily and have had a dramatic decrease in acne :)

  3. beauty banter
    November 27, 2012

    Thanks for that info Danielle! How do you use it?


  4. April
    December 2, 2012

    Coconut oil works for some but not for me. Yes I have tried the pure, non-processed, non-gmo coconut oil and every time I do I break out worse then ever. I head some people try it on their face – I’ve done that as well and it was a disaster. I’ve cut out dairy and gluten and follow a modified vegan diet and that seems to be the only thing that has worked. I’m not sure why this is, I just wanted to contribute and say that it’s really not for everyone and beware.

  5. Marrissa
    January 27, 2013

    Your skin looks dull and breaks out when you eat tofu because tofu is derived from soy, one of the most common and powerful causes of acne, yet no one seems to realize it . Soy not only raises your hormone levels , but it also contains biotin , while biotin is fabulous for your hair, its not so fab for your skin because biotin stimulates keratin production which practically defines what most (not all) acne is. My tips fore clear skin in the winter are keep hydrated (which you stated above), drink lots of water and use a hydrating serum ( I love Skinceuticals B5 serum) , and a Vitamin C & E serum :)

  6. Sheela Anderson
    March 4, 2013

    Hey Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic post. I love the tip about the pillowcases, is is one of those simple, easy ,yet ,often overlooked ones.

    I mean, I change my pillowcases regularly but never that often. Will try it out and see if it helps me.


  7. Paul Cox
    March 4, 2013

    Excellent article and very informative. The one little tip that I stick to is regarding exercise as I like to keep myself fairly fit and acne does affect this slightly.1 little tip I have is to wear natural fabrics that allow the skin to breathe, and loose garments are less likely to cause friction

  8. Tabitha
    March 11, 2013

    I have very oily skin, I have breakouts all the time due to poor diet. But one thing I have recently discovered is something called shea butter, you may use it any time of day, it prevents breakouts on the body, as well as vanishing any trouble marks such as: stretch marks, acne scars, sun burn, etc.

  9. Cure Acne Scarring
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  10. michelle
    December 16, 2013

    Simple is full of surfactants, parabens etc. Just bad. Do your research.

  11. Beauty Training Centre
    January 23, 2014

    Great article. Drinking water for me is the number one choice to help get clear skin. With regards to Coconut Oil – try Oil Pulling with this. It really helps. Take a tablespoon of Coconut Oil and swish around your mouth each morning on an empty stomach. Try it, the result will speak for themselves.

  12. Bella
    July 20, 2014

    Go to a doctor, and get the proper medication for it.
    Serious acne cannot be cured only by cleansing/moisturising/vitamin-taking/water-drinking/positive thinking/horroscope-reading.

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