Nicole Chiarella

What Makes You Break Out? These Culprits Are Sneaky AF

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So one of the insane things about trying to take care of your skin is that it's sort of like walking through a mall where everyone is aggressively trying to sell you snake oil with Verdana-font packaging. Because, apparently, in order to not look like a mountain troll, you need a 24-step-system and complete facial restructuring, or whatever. What makes you break out, anyways? Turns out, it could be something you bought and never thought about it again.

It's interesting that when things go wrong with our skin, our go-to solution is to put more products on. Got a pimple? Here are three spot treatments, applied with the precision of a fighter jet. Dark circles? Apply the smooth cream of a Heffalump who was massaged daily with jojoba oil. Skin looking dull? Literally use this acid to make your face peel off and then hide yourself.

Because I am forever balling on the most meager of budgets, I stumbled on the most holy grail of skincare advice: remove what's breaking you out, instead of covering it in lotion or the golden dandruff flakes of a purebred white stallion.

Seriously. My skin has never looked better than when I've been properly hydrated and taking care of myself. There is an extremely low correlation between high-cost beauty products and clean skin. It's about your overall health and the ingredients you put in and on your body.

Don't believe me? Here's a list of things that made me break out this week. I have since solved these issues, and am now a dead-ringer for Emma Watson.

1. Discounted Rose-oil Toner I Bought At Marshalls

I am truly the weakest link when it comes to 'organic' packaging. Is it green? Does it look like someone plucked this little herbal spray-bottle from underneath a waterfall? Sold. So the punishment fits the crime. This thing gave me a fine layer of bumps all along my t-zone and chest. I've used rose oil before, and it's never broken me out. I finally checked the ingredients, and it's all chemicals. Straight into the trash it goes!

If you have recently incorporated a new product into your routine and you notice breakouts, stop using it immediately. It may be a particular chemical or a combination of them, but a zit-filled reaction to a new moisturizer never bodes well for your skin's health.

2. Shampoo

There's nothing like waking up to an organized breakout right near the hairline to make you question your life's choices. Shampoos are full of sulfates and various chemicals that can wreak havoc on the skins natural pH. Make sure you check that your shampoo is sulfate-free, so that you don't make any new face-friends like I did.

Many conditioners also contain heavy emollients or moisturizers that can cause milia, or tiny bumps, along your hairline. If you're using a hair mask or the like, keep it off your forehead and don't leave it on for longer than instructed.

3. Eating A Family-Sized Bag Of Limon Chips From CVS

My biggest vice right now is to methodically eat my way through a bag of chips while simultaneously telling anyone close by to, and I quote, "Get this bag away from me and my ravenous soul." Anyways, those chips are the equivalent to chugging a large volume of salt and oil. The next morning, my face resembled that of the old crone in Snow White with the warty nose and cavernous, sunken eyes.

While chips haven't been scientifically proven to cause acne, some people experience a connection between high-fat and high-sodium foods and zits. If you suspect your diet is playing a role in your pimple formation, try keeping a meal diary and noting breakouts. If it's really severe and you've tried every cream in the book, an elimination diet to discover what foods are causing acne might be your best bet.

4. General Stress

Some people get sick, some people drink more — my skin just explodes and I flit from one dimly-lit location to another for a few days. Stress is one of the number one reasons for unclear skin. Right now, I'm in grad school, writing my second novel, and generally trying to be a non-trash person, which means that I am constantly late, unprepared, and trying to seem like I have it all together. (Plot twist: I do not.) For the health of your skin, you need to deal with stress in productive ways like communicating and seeking support, exercising, eating healthy, sleeping, calling on our comrades in darkness to lend us their ill-begotten powers. These strategies all work to relieve stress and restore cortisol levels in a way that won't wreck our faces. The thing about stress is that it will resolve itself, and often in really unhealthy ways, if we don't give it an alternative.

So try something new this week. Instead of slathering on some new lotion or potion — remove whatever carcinogens or unhealthy habits you're indulging in. Your wallet and selfies will thank you.

Now get these bag of chips out of my face before I scream.