Acne: the bane of teenagers and adults alike. Nobody likes having an ugly blemish on their skin, and they always seem to pop up at the worst times! While you’re more prone to acne in your teenage years with excess hormones coursing through your veins, they can happen at any stage of life. Acne has plagued me for years, but I’ve finally got it under control. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot, so today, I’ll share my top tips for preventing acne:
Stop touching your face!
Acne occurs when your hair follicles get jammed up with oil, dead skin, bacteria, and other gunk. Gross! But it makes sense. While you can only do so much about your skin producing excess oil (more on that later), one easy way to avoid excess gunk getting into your follicles is to avoid touching your face more than necessary. Unless you just washed your hands, your digits are likely covered in all kinds of nasty invisible stuff that your face doesn’t want. This habit can take a while to build, I’m still guilty of it, but the more you can be conscious of it, the less you’ll touch your face!
Wash Your Face Daily
Whether you touch your face or not, stuff builds up on your skin throughout the day. Be it from the debris in the air, face masks, or just your skin’s natural oil production, left unchecked this buildup is sure to cause acne. Washing your face daily is the easiest way to wipe the slate clean. Some of us might be inclined to use the same soap we scrub our butt with; I implore you to use a dedicated facewash. Not only is it more sanitary, but it won’t leave your face feeling dried out like Im-Ho-Tep after a two millennium-long slumber. I’m partial to Schaf’s face wash, but Crown Shaving Co and Truefitt and Hill also make excellent alternatives. I wash my face before bed to remove the day’s built-up gunk and prevent overnight breakouts.
Washing is only half the battle. If you leave your face un-moisturized after washing, it freaks out and produces excess oil as a defence mechanism. I used to wonder why my forehead got super greasy every afternoon - turns out I wasn’t moisturizing after my morning shower, and it was making too much oil. Following your face wash immediately with a quality face moisturizer is the way to go. Again, the stuff made for the rest of your body is way too heavy and can clog up the works, so stick to face cream. Schaf returns as my personal favourite. It’s relatively thick, so I just use a tiny amount and dilute it 50/50 with water. In harsh, dry winters, I’ll use it straight-up if needed. Once again, Crown and Truefitt and Hill also have excellent alternatives.
Scrub, but not too often.
The instinct of many guys, myself included, is often to aggressively scrub away dirt and oil in the pursuit of clean skin. Heavy scrubs are a double-edged sword when it comes to skincare. Used sparingly, a scrub can remove dead skin and other debris, but used excessively (too aggressively or too often), it can create micro-abrasions that get infected and create more acne. If you’re going to use a face scrub, like this one from Schaf, use it weekly at most and be gentle. I’ve found the mildly abrasive texture of a konjac sponge to be plenty scrubby for my skin, and gentle enough that I can use it daily!
Now that I’m a master of skincare, most of the acne I get comes from ingrown hairs due to shaving. Ingrowns happen when the hair becomes trapped under the skin, leading to infection. Before, during, and following the shave, there are a few essential tricks that will eliminate ingrowns hairs, and with them, the last of your acne!
Preparation. Lathering up with a shaving brush and using a preshave oil helps your stubble to stand up straight, making it less likely to get pushed under the skin.
One sharp blade. When you shave with a multi-blade razor, each blade pushes the hair farther under the skin, increasing the likelihood that it’ll become ingrown. Sharp blades also make a difference, as they cut the hair cleanly, rather than pulling it under the skin the way dull razors do.
Don’t shave too close. This one is controversial, and you’ll need to decide your preference. Razor companies have sold us on the idea of a perfectly smooth, stubble-free shave. I’ll admit it’s quite a satisfying feeling that can become addictive, but chasing that glassy-smooth shave isn’t great for your skin. If you have tougher skin, you'll likely be fine, but if you have sensitive skin or are prone to ingrowns, try not shaving against the grain. Instead, make two passes with the grain, or make your second pass perpendicular to the grain. Your shave won’t be as close, but it’ll be much more comfortable and get far fewer ingrown hairs.
After-care. Once you’re done scraping the hair off your face, consider disinfecting it. While this can be drying, an alcohol-based aftershave will dispel any residual bacteria, making infection much less likely. Follow with an aftershave balm to prevent dryness, but ensure not to use an oily balm to avoid clogging your follicles. It will be tempting to feel up your face and admire your shave like the guy in the Gillette commercial, but remember step one: don’t touch your face!
If worst comes to worst, we sell an excellent locally-made ingrown hair serum filled with natural ingredients that break up the infection and clear it up much quicker than usual. It works great on acne too!
If you can gradually work these habits into your daily routine, I guarantee you’ll reduce the amount of acne you experience. That said, if it seems out of control, a dermatologist is always the best resource for this sort of thing. If you just need help finding some good skincare products, check out our selection and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it!
A famed cocktologist and axe man, Nathan opened the first Kent of Inglewood store in Calgary, and now spends his days writing most of what you are reading here and teaching straight razor shaving classes. Ask him about his world-famous Three Cherry Manhattan. In his spare time Nathan can be found sharpening his axe, making fermented foods, or practicing his amateur butchering hobby. He doesn't slur his words, he speaks in cursive.