Surprising reasons why men get acne

Published: January 19, 2016


Did you recently discover that you’ve got more pimples and acne than your 16-year-old cousin? Isn’t that just unfair? You’ve outgrown the adolescent voice and gained a tonne of muscle, so why is your face retaining a case of teenage bad skin? The rampant adolescent hormones might be history, but there are some surprising explanations as to why your skin still resembles that of a high-school kid. As compiled from Men’s Fitness and Men’s Health magazines, the following practices might be to blame.

You’re scarfing down dairy

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that boys who had two or more servings of milk a day were the most likely to develope acne. Researchers believe this applies to older men, too. “Milk contains many biological products apart from protein and nutrients, like insulin growth factor-1, which is similar to insulin and alpha reduced sex hormones,” explains study author Clement Adebamowo, a professor at the University of Maryland. “These molecules are designed to enhance the growth and development of the calves, which can cause a biological response in the person who drinks it,” he says. Outcome: increased sebum production –  an oily substance that clogs pores. Just one cup of milk can cause breakouts, says dermatologist Adnan Nasir. If you break out frequently, ditch milk for about two months and see if it makes a difference, he recommends.

You’re a carb king

Researchers gave young men a face cleanser and assigned them to one of two 12-week diets — either an eating plan high in carbohydrates or one high in protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Though both groups saw a decrease in the number of breakouts and pimples, the high-protein subjects had double the drop, resulting in their faces becoming noticeably clearer than before. Researchers believe increased insulin can cause inflammation in the skin, leading to breakouts. “Processed foods could be another factor,” says Alan Aragon, Men’s Health nutrition advisor. Want some solid advice for blemish free skin, guys? Lay low on the sugar and switch to healthy grains and legumes, such as mum’s daal.

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Your diet omits omega-3s

A 250 mg supplement of EPA — the kind of omega-3 found in fish and nuts — in fact, reduced the number and occurrence of pimples, states a study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease. The total lesion count among five people dropped from 63 to 40 after 2 months, presumably because of reduced inflammation. “Inflammatory chemicals increase the production of sebum,” says study co-author and independent researcher Alan Logan. Omega-3s are probably the only nutrients that prevent the production of the icky sebum, which is known to cause acne. If you’re not getting enough of this miraculous nutrient through your diet, grab fish-oil supplements to do the job.

You’re a stress magnet

Do you get tense at the drop of a hat? Or are you recently going through a major life change, like moving cities or a divorce looming over your head? Research indicates that stress hormones actually worsen already existing acne and promote the outburst of more. Certain steroid hormones, like glucocorticoids and adrenal androgens, are released during times of stress, and are known to cause breakouts by activating oil glands and clogging your pores, according to researchers at the Stanford University. Another Stanford study even discovered that college students had more acne during exams, when they reported more stress.

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You have excessive exposure to sunlight

“Over several years, sun exposure may increase your skin’s oil production, which clogs pores,” says Dr Nasir. Research suggests that just five to 10 years of living in a sunny climate as an adult can make you more susceptible to acne and other skin problems. We’re not telling you not to hang out with your friends every Sunday but make sure to lather on sunscreen — affirmative, men require it as well. Another catch: choose your sunblock wisely. “The actual sunscreen doesn’t clog pores,” says Dr Nasir. “It’s the liquid it’s dissolved in.” Choose sunscreen which is dissolved in alcohol instead of plant oils like palm oil. “The alcohol will evaporate and only the protection is left behind,” he recommends.

Your phone is grimey

Here is something to ponder on: you touch your dusty keyboard at work, then send a text message, maybe bite your nails or shake hands with a person you just met and then make a call, holding your cell phone against your cheek. It should come across as no surprise that your smartphone is a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. Each time you put your phone to your face, you risk those germs seeping into your pores, causing pimples. This type of acne is called acne mechanica  in which rubbing against external objects causes breakouts. “I see a lot of patients whose acne is worse on one cheek than the other,” says Seemal Desai, a professor of dermatology at the University of Texas. Lucky for you, there’s a fix: wipe your smartphone screen with alcohol or sanitiser every single day, without fail, to eliminate the bacteria. Also, try to opt for headphones when you make a call.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2016.

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