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  • Jennifer Chung

Acne 101: How I Took Charge of My Asian Skin.

Some of us are blessed with flawless complexions, free of acne and blemishes. Others aren’t so lucky and suffer the damages of acne even long after we’ve passed our teenage years. When I was a pre-teen, my family wasn’t yet involved in the cosmetics business and there wasn’t much knowledge passed down to us on skin care. I was the eldest and among many other things, acne was one of the many obstacles I faced alone. My mother often dragged me to sketchy spas with promises of magical anti-acne aids and treatments under the (much dreaded) pimple-popper. Lured by well-marketed skin care companies, my mother even spent hundreds of dollars on a treatment set only to worsen my acne. The years progressed and I took it upon myself to become educated on what acne is because my mother, although she had my best interest at heart, didn’t understand my skin issues. Online research and trips to professional estheticians made me understand that improving my skin’s conditions would take more than a couple of anti-acne products. I ended up changing my lifestyle and mindset in order to take charge of my skin.

Below are the top five lifestyle changes that helped me in my journey to clearer and healthier skin.

1. What you put inside your body will show up on your skin.

I used to drink a gallon of milk a month – with my cereal, chocolate chip cookies, you name it! Throughout my childhood and pre-teen years, I was expected to drink a glass of milk every day to promote strong bones. My parents were convinced milk would help me grow taller. However, milk alone is not enough to enhance your height. Your genetics, lifestyle, posture, exercise, and diet all play a prominent role. Little did I know, my acne flare-ups were a result of my body’s reaction to milk with added hormones.

On one of my first trips to an esthetician, I was asked about my daily diet. She recommended me to avoid consuming dairy products such as milk tea for a few weeks to see how my skin reacts. Sure enough, my skin was less red and had fewer breakouts. It’s going to be tough to cut out certain foods from your diet because let’s face it, most of us are addicted to milk tea, french fries, and highly-processed chips. But if you are willing to take charge of your diet like I did, I promise you’ll be happier with the results. Alternatives to milk are increasingly accessible at grocery stores. These include almond milk and coconut milk (buy organic with no hormones). Contrary to popular belief, soy milk isn’t exactly the healthier substitute to milk because many brands are made with processed soy beans. Please note, not everyone breaks out from consuming dairy products but it’s important to keep an eye on your diet to see what may be the cause to your skin problems. Check out this article by Huffington Post on the best foods for acne prevention. 2.) Exercise your way to clearer skin.

For the longest time, I assumed that sweating and dirty gym towels would cause my breakouts. Exercise actually helps improve your skin for several reasons including opening up your pores and increasing blood flow to nourish your skin. Clogged pores often lead to breakouts so when you’re sweating, your pores are able to open up. Increasing blood flow will allow oxygen and nutrients to circulate throughout the body and help remove toxins from the skin. I recommend signing up for classes at the gym such as cardio kickboxing, heated yoga, or even cycling if you’re not familiar with working out by yourself. It’s important to use a clean gym towel (or bring your own) to avoid spreading bacteria on your skin. Also rinse your face with a good, gentle cleanser right after your workout to rid the skin of all the sweat and impurities released while you were exercising. Most importantly, don’t wear makeup to the gym. I’ve tried it before and it was my skin’s worst nightmare! For more information on what other skin benefits you can achieve through exercising, check out this article by Jillian Michaels. 3.) Manage your stress. (It’s harder said than done, I know.)

It doesn’t help that we have to balance school, work, friends, family, money, and careers – I can go on and on. But the point is, life will be tough and it’s in our best interest to learn how to manage our stress. I didn’t learn overnight how to deal with it but learning to budget and organize my daily routines certainly helped. I won’t go into too much details on how to deal with stress because it’s different for everyone but I’m warning you that stress will lead to skin problems including breakouts. According to Mario Badescu, one of my favorite brands, “Many scientific researches have been able to find a direct link between adult acne and stress.” Your body’s hormones fluctuate when you’re feeling stressed, causing your skin to become more oily. Oily-prone skin is sensitive to acne breakouts. You can’t entirely avoid breakouts from stress but you can keep them to a minimum by keeping your skin in healthy condition. Check out this article for hacks to a less stressful routine. 4.) Sleep earlier and sleep more.

As a teenager, I stayed up late and woke up as early as 6 a.m. to head to school. This caused my body to work overtime and my skin to become imbalanced. If you’re someone who suffers from acne breakouts or dry skin, I suggest setting out more time to get a good night’s rest. When your skin is well-rested, it will be nourished along with your body and brain. Another good habit to include with your night time routine would be to keep your pillow sheets clean since your face may be lying on it throughout the night. Check out this article by Cosmopolitan for more information on the benefits of sleep for the skin.

5). Avoid anything dirty from touching your skin.

Breakouts are annoying enough and you’ll find yourself picking at it every now and then. I wish someone told me when I was younger to avoid touching my face! There are tons of bacteria on your fingertips that can trigger breakouts when it gets in contact with the surface of your skin. Dirty cellphones and pillow cases are also breeding grounds for bacteria. I remind myself to wipe down my phone with rubbing alcohol at least twice a week while washing my pillow cases every two weeks. Other items that touch my face constantly would be makeup brushes which I clean once a week, click here for instructions on how to properly clean them. I also recommend using a separate wash cloth for your face that you switch out every few days so it can help prevent breakouts too! Check out this YouTube Video by DermTV on why touching your face cause acne breakouts.

While these may seem like simple steps to prevent and heal acne, breakouts can be much more complicated than just changing your pillow cases. It’s always important to see a professional for your skin problems such as a dermatologist or an esthetician.

I hope these five tips will give you additional insight on the causes of acne. I’ll be returning to our Acne 101 journey with another article soon. Stay tuned for tips on popular anti-acne products, best places to get treatments, and more!

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Jennifer "Nhu Thy" Chung

Jennifer is a skincare and fashion executive in Silicon Valley. Deeply involved with the Vietnamese-American Community, she is passionate about culture, community and family. She hopes to make the world a beautiful place and to influence and encourage others to dream by sharing her own experiences and goals.

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