I've been seeing a dermatologist to sort out a multitude of problems with my skin, including both ageing and breakouts. Two sarcastic thumbs up to adult acne at a time when lines are starting to set in my face for good. I thought I'd pass on some tips from Dr. Skin (not their actual name) on how to prevent spots, because as with everything in life (except maybe TV boxset addiction), prevention is better than cure.
1.) Stop touching your face
The average person touches their face a billion and twelve times a day (not actual statistic). Most of the time we do it without realising, we rest our face in our hands, we do subconscious reassuring gestures like stroking our skin and eyebrows and what have you. Then there those who pick at their face all damn day, flicking little bits of it onto the floor on the London Underground - you know who you are (and sir, you disgust me). But every time we touch hand to face we are transferring bacteria and spreading it all around. Our fingertips have natural oil in them, which is good news for forensics people taking fingerprints at crime scenes, but we don't want to be forever transferring oil from fingertips to face pores. It's a simple thing really, but Dr Skin tells me it can make a huge difference, and she only ever touches her own face when she's washing it or putting on makeup - she won't even scratch a face itch!
2.) Stop other things touching your face
This doesn't mean prevent your partner from passionately holding your face before going in for a kiss, or telling your kids to never kiss mummy again. It means just be a bit more sensible about keeping potentially dirty things away from your face. Tie hair back as much as possible, change your pillow cases once or twice a week, wash your makeup brushes religiously (though Dr Skin says brushes are the devil's tools for spreading bacteria, and never uses them), and take your makeup off as soon as you get home rather than waiting for bedtime.
3.) Drink water
When I had a skin assessment at Lancome that involved putting my face into a scary skin analysis machine, the Lancome lady looked at my magnified boat race and said "you drink a lot of water don't you?" It does make a difference in the battles against both ageing and breakouts. Not only does aqua plump the skin cells, it flushes out toxins and reduces your chances of inflammation (which is what spots are). You should never force yourself to drink water if you're not thirsty, so keeping gently 'topped up' by sipping on it can do the trick. An easy way to make sure you get at least two litres a day is to drink a standard 500ml bottle of water and refill it three more times with tap water.
4.) Only use makeup and beauty products in tubes
Dr. Skin is very against anything that comes in a jar and has to be scooped out with fingers. It's clean the first time, she warns, but after that first time the fingers go in it's a cesspool of germs. We should only use things that can be squirted or poured out onto the fingers, the fingers shouldn't go in. This makes sense, but when I think about my Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream, my Makeup Forever Aqua Cream eyeshadow, my Baume de Rose By Terry, and all my Body Shop body butter pots I feel reluctant to bin them. A compromise might be using a little wooden stick like they use on beauty product counters to stop loads of fingers touching the merch. Or use gloves. I'll have to work harder on this one, sorry Dr. Skin.
5.) Avoid dairy and sugar
There will forever be those myths that pizza and chocolate cause spots. But it's not pizza and choc, it's the dairy in them that causes inflammation and leads to breakouts. Refined sugar works in a similar way, plus it also breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin making it hazardous for skin ageing. So, milk chocolate containing both dairy and sugar is one of the worst things you could have for your skin, but it's not actual cocoa that leads to spots. The amazingly disciplined that walk amongst us who have shunned all dairy and refined sugar usually have clear, glowing skin, but this diet is a drastic step to take for most people. If you have a special event coming up at which you really rather hoped you didn't have any spots, avoiding any dairy or sugar for a few days (or as long as you can forsake them) beforehand will dramatically reduce your chances of breaking out.