Skin Deep

As school nears, tame acne by avoiding these products and limiting stress

To keep your skin smooth — and avoid acne — stay away from certain dairy products, foods with high sugar content and certain hair products.
To keep your skin smooth — and avoid acne — stay away from certain dairy products, foods with high sugar content and certain hair products.

Acne is a common problem for many teens and young adults headed back to school in the fall. To treat and prevent breakouts, knowing which ingredients and lifestyle habits to avoid is just as important as using the right skincare regimen for acne-prone skin.

Dairy and sugar

If you struggle with acne, you don’t want to start your first day of school off with a bowl of sugary cereal and milk.

The latest studies have demonstrated a link between dairy and acne. Researchers believe that dairy consumption increases the levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factors in humans, leading to increased sebum production in the skin.

Specifically, low-fat and skim milk are more likely to cause acne than whole milk. We are still investigating further as to why this is the case. Current evidence suggests that the process used to reduce fat in milk might increase the insulin-promoting elements of milk and therefore increase the likelihood of acne development.

Sugar has also been linked with acne, as it triggers inflammation. Acne is a sensitive skin sub-type, with underlying inflammation as a barrier to skin health. Limiting sugar intake can help to keep inflammation under control and help you maintain clear, healthy skin.

Certain hair care products

Leave-in hair conditioners often contain isopropyl myristate, a smoothing ingredient that causes acne. I recommend avoiding this ingredient and washing your hair before bed so that acne-causing hair conditioning ingredients don’t get on your pillow onto your face.

Coconut oil is also found in many hair products. Because it can clog pores, this ingredient is best to avoid in both hair and skin care products. I prefer argan oil instead.

Interestingly, coconut extract actually improves acne, as the lauric acid in the coconut kills acne-causing bacteria.


The stress of starting school can cause acne, so try to manage stress by exercising, getting enough sleep and practicing deep breathing techniques.

When our bodies are stressed, a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is released. CRH binds to sebaceous glands and causes your skin to produce more sebum, or oil. Increased oil production can clog pores and lead to breakouts.


Maintain a clear, healthy complexion that’s ready for back-to-school season by avoiding dairy and sugar, avoiding products with acne-causing ingredients and keeping stress in check.

If you do end up with a pimple, try not to pick at it. Otherwise, it might leave a scar behind. Instead, talk to a board-certified dermatologist about the proper skincare regimen for acne-prone skin.

For more information about treating and preventing acne be sure to follow Baumann Cosmetic on YouTube, or follow @BaumannCosmetic on Instagram or Facebook.