The Quiet Cause of Your Acne Breakouts

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June 28, 2017

Why must acne refuse to co-operate and accept one simple cure? Trying to figure out exactly what will keep acne at bay is like playing a frustrating game of guess-and-check with your face--which is a place we’d prefer not to conduct experiments on.

It doesn’t help that there seems to be an ever-growing list of serums, creams, medications, and techniques that all equally claim to be that one solution that finally guides you to clear skin--at least until the next generation of that product hits shelves, of course.

If you’re actively trying to remedy your acne, you most likely understand the importance of creating a routine that relies heavily on making sure everything that touches your skin is hygienic as possible--from how often you wash your pillowcases and towels to the type of water you use. Of course, this makes perfect sense; if you’re trying to rid your skin of bacteria, you wouldn’t wash it every day with dirty water.

Why, then, do so few beauty experts fail to factor in dirty air as a cause for acne?


It could be because “dirty air” sounds ambiguous and intangible, something only people in overcrowded cities deal with on their commutes in traffic. The truth is, some of the dirtiest air can be found in your home, regardless of where you live; in fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors.

Take a deep breath. The air surrounding you right now actually has more to it than you realize — it’s filled with a variety of different factors that determine how healthy it is, from dust, to carbon dioxide, to its levels of humidity, and to its most underestimated ingredient: Chemicals.

The type of chemicals in our air that we’re concerned with are called VOC’s, or volatile organic compounds. It’s very likely your air contains VOCs right now, because they’re almost impossible to avoid--they’re found in very common household items and evaporate easily at room temperature.

Since our skin is constantly in contact with air, it’s almost guaranteed that it also comes in contact with chemicals. VOCs can come in the form of very small particles that will accumulate on your skin throughout the day, like bugs to a windshield on a highway. The particles are then able to enter your pores, clogging them and creating allergic reactions that can lead to inflammation and breakouts.

Many of us don’t realize how easy it is to accidentally introduce chemicals into our air. Luckily, there are a few quick fixes you can make today to help make the air in your home safer for your skin:

The Cause: Redecorating

If you’ve updated the look of your bedroom, living room, or nursery recently, there’s a high chance you accidentally added chemicals to your air. Fresh paint is especially notorious for adding chemicals to your air. VOCs will off-gas from newly painted walls and furniture for months. New furniture--especially pressed wood furniture--will also off-gas chemicals for a while.

The Fix:

If you’re going to paint your walls or furniture, opt for VOC-free paint, or seal your current paint with a non-toxic topcoat. Leftover cans of pain can also be a powerhouse for chemicals--remember to store them in a garage or well-ventilated room.  If you’ve just bought new furniture, try to let it air outside for a while, or look into purchasing antiques in the future.

The Cause: Cleaning

We know that a majority of the trusted cleaning products we use to keep our home germ-free contain chemicals, but many of us assume they’re only dangerous if we accidentally swallow or make direct contact with them. The truth is, most common cleaning products contain VOCs that will linger in your air long after you’ve finished cleaning.

The Fix:

There are plenty of great alternatives to cleaning with chemicals--we broke down our favorites here.

The Cause: Using Products to Make Your Home Smell Good

Burning candles and using air fresheners are effective at making our air smell fresh, but at a cost. When burned, scented candles release a cocktail of chemicals into the air, including benzene. The same is true for air fresheners, which are filed with phthalates, a chemical that is known to cause a variety of health problems.

The Fix:

To safely improve the smell of your home try pure essential oils or opening a few windows.

The Cause: Cooking

If you cook on a gas stove or burn wood in a fireplace, chances are there are chemicals being pumped into your air.

The Fix:

Opening a few windows and running a fan while cooking will help keep the air fresh.

Keep Your Air and Your Skin Healthy

Acne shouldn’t have to be a constant battle against all the wrongs in the word. Instead, we hope you can use your air as a tool to help you keep your skin clean, the same way you would with a face wash. The first place to start is with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair, so you can start getting to the root of the problem. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air and provides personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy.

If you’re interested in learning what’s in the air in your home so you can start taking control of your health, follow the link below.