Breaking out after moving to California?
April 19, 2016 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I moved to California a week ago & since I got here I've been breaking out. I never break out. ???

I moved here from Georgia, which is much more humid so I'm surprised that my skin is having this reaction. I never, ever break out so this is all new to me. (I know I'm very lucky, but this sucks.)

A friend suggested that my skin might be overcompensating for dryness of the air by creating more oil. Makes sense! So what do I do?

I'm thinking I need to change my moisturizer, maybe my face wash? Any suggestions or tips?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could be the different water. I often break out when I travel (though I am prone to it). Give it a little time, and don't wash your face too much.
posted by chaiminda at 8:18 AM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

A cross-country move is extremely stressful. I would treat the breakout very gently until it goes away on its own using the products you're used to, for fear of getting into a new-product-new-breakout cycle.
posted by theraflu at 8:18 AM on April 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

It could be stress. Don't change anything just yet. Let it all settle down. Be gentle, and try using bottled water to cleanse your skin (in case it's a change in the water.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:20 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

It could be stress, but you'll only stop experiencing stress when you're dead. If you'd like to stop breaking out before then, try this (necessarily random) suggestion from me:

Get some facewash with 2% salicylic acid (aka benzyl salicylate, often men's post-shave face washes have it).

In the morning, splash your face with lukewarm water, schmear the facewash on, leave it for a couple of minutes while you brush your teeth, and then rinse it off in the shower.

In the evening, use the facewash after your usual cleansing routine. Rinse with 20 splashes of lukewarm water and pat dry.

If that doesn't improve matters within 2 months, ditch it. If things improve but don't clear up completely, find a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide topical solution. Apply it carefully at night, after rinsing the cleanser off. Avoid your hairline and eyebrows, as that stuff bleaches. Importantly DO NOT apply anything else to your skin for 30 minutes. After that you can moisturize.

If you find the benzoyl peroxide irritating, you can moisturize after using the cleanser, leave the moisturizer on for 15 minutes, and then put on the benzoyl peroxide. After 30 minutes, if you want or need to, you can moisturize again.

You may also want to start using the benzoyl peroxide in the morning, if things improve but don't clear up 100% after two months. Unfortunately the 30-minute rule still applies, so it's awkward, but it's the sort of thing that can make the difference.
posted by tel3path at 8:29 AM on April 19, 2016

I am inclined to say the water too, but yes (if you mean southern California) it is so dry right now I woke up in the middle of the night knowing I should get up and clean the humidifier and fill it and plug it in near the bed and the thought of doing so enraged me.

My advice is to make changes in small increments. Before she moved away, I had a very particular curl-only hairdresser who used a filter showerhead and kept a Brita pitcher in the bathroom for washing her face, and that, at least, is a thing you could probably do for only a minor investment.

You're also getting stronger sun here, and it's no joke even if you're only outside just to run errands. If you have a daily sunscreen already, make sure you're using it. If you don't, you need to onboard one (and there's a couple of recent face sunscreen threads in AskMe) but expect that it's probably going to make the breakouts worse before they get better. Wash it off when you're inside and not planning to go out again soon.

Do moisturize, probably twice as often as you were before. You may need to change your whole routine including products, but you should probably give your existing products at least 2 months for everything to settle.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did anything change significantly in your diet? For example, do you normally not eat a lot of nuts but did you eat a lot of them on the way here or after you got here?
posted by OCDan at 8:52 AM on April 19, 2016

I would say water quality. Hard water does bad things to my skin. My home has relatively soft water and showering in hard water makes things go awry.
posted by greta simone at 9:02 AM on April 19, 2016

Something to keep an eye on too: depending on how you moved, like if you flew or drove with overnight stops, you could have picked up an infection because humans are disgusting. If it doesn't settle down in a month (the move + time zone change might also have jacked up your cycle so you get special PMS guests too) and you are breaking out in the same spots over and over or it is deep/cystic acne, go ahead and see even a GP or urgent care.

And in the meantime, use general acne protocols like not re-using washcloth/towel/scrubber/sonic cleaner without disinfection, change pillowcase frequently, and keep your hands off your face unless you are actively washing or applying product (and wash hands before and after).
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

A major cross-country move just a week ago? Blame stress, not CA or the water! Do the bare minimum for your skin until it clears - gentle wash and a sheer sunscreen.
posted by cecic at 9:26 AM on April 19, 2016

Nthing water quality. I travel to California very frequently for friends and family, and my skin is always a disaster by the time I get back.
posted by holborne at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2016

I moved to Los Angeles from more humid New York, and before that I grew up in vastly more humid Louisiana.

A few ideas.

1. Your skin is reacting to the drier air by breaking out more. There's a conventional wisdom that you shouldn't wash your face with harsh detergents, because they suck the oils out of your skin, inspiring your skin to then overcompensate by producing more oil. I'm not sure that's precisely scientific, but it could be a factor.

2. There's something different about the water or maybe some other substance or product you're coming into contact with. More smog? East coast vs. West coast factories churning out slightly different formulations of your face cleanser or laundry soap? An allergen present in the atmosphere that wasn't a factor in Georgia?

Either way, I find that I frequently break out when visiting another part of the country for any length of time. Going between New York and Louisiana, I always thought it was something about the water, but now that I'm in much dryer SoCal, I think it could just be general environmental factors.
posted by Sara C. at 9:37 AM on April 19, 2016

It's very common for people to develop allergies when moving to a new city - the plants, trees, and other allergens are different from one city to the next, and you moved quite a long distance. (Source: my primary care doctor.) I would also say give it some time and see if you get used to the new allergens, but your doctor's office should be able to help you if this is really bothering you. You could even just take some over-the-counter antihistamines - I've found it helpful for skin inflammation.
posted by capricorn at 10:23 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Everyone's allergies have been going crazy around me in So Cal right now because we had a few days of rain and then a few days of wind. Which means allergens bloomed and then got into the air like crazy. So it could be a reaction to one of the million different kinds of pollen whipping through the air.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:55 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Changes in humidity (going from humid to very dry) cause me to break out. Changes in humidity is actually recognized as one of the triggers of seborrheic dermatitis, which is caused in part by the same sorts of flora that exits, usually in equilibrium, on other parts of your skin.

The best thing to do is pop acidophilus supplements.
posted by My Dad at 2:01 PM on April 19, 2016

Anecdata: I grew up in California. Photos from high school show me with tragic levels of acne, really painful cystic pustules. Moved to significantly more humid New York and I have nary a pimple except maybe one on my jaw during my period.

I think the lack of humidity is the problem. Theory: Something about the humidity keeps pores cleaned out. Perhaps try steaming your face?
posted by thereemix at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2016

Humidity helps your skin be more elastic; lower humidity dries out your skin, making it easier to crack. This makes it easier for the microbes that cause acne to bloom.

The same principal is at work in the winter. Cold, dry air makes it easier for the lining of your nose and throat to get damaged, allowing viruses into your system. It's also the cause of air conditioner colds and sick building syndrome.
posted by My Dad at 4:57 PM on April 19, 2016

Are you in LA? It is ridiculously dry right now - my skin feels like it's flaking off. I think it's going to start getting better tomorrow, but this does happen several times a year. I highly recommend buying a humidifier. We also have very hard water, which can be a problem for some people. If your soap and shampoo makes less lather than you are used to and there is white residue on your dishes, fixtures, etc. you have hard water. If so, you might find that using a moisturizing toner with a skin-friendly pH after washing your face helps - it can help balance your skin.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:31 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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