21 October 2016Last updated

Beauty | Grooming

Is your job causing you acne?

From the daily commute to stress at your desk or failing to cleanse properly after a lunchtime workout – could it be the day job that is causing your breakouts? Louise Emma Clarke investigates

Louise Emma Clarke
27 May 2016 | 12:00 am
  • Source:iStock

There’s no getting out of the day job. From the daily commute, to settling down at your desk, to late nights entertaining clients and schmoozing with colleagues, it’s something that career girls accept as the norm. But alongside feeling burnt out regularly and in need of a holiday, there can be another side effect to a busy career – and it’s all about our skin.

We’re talking about spots and acne – and there is increasing evidence to suggest that our jobs could be the very thing to blame for those breakouts.

Rebecca Treston, Founder of Rebecca Treston Aesthetics at Euromed Clinic Dubai, explains: ‘In the UAE, most people are up from 6am until the early hours, working and playing hard! Stress at work creates high levels of a hormone called cortisone, which can lead to inflammatory acne. And there are other factors that are proven not to be conducive to glowing radiant skin in the UAE, such as pollution and dusty air on the morning commute, and going from scorching hot weather outside into the cold AC for the rest of the working day.’

Other habits make a difference too, such as heading to the gym at lunchtime for a daily workout but being so pushed for time that we rush back to our desks and fail to cleanse skin properly, sitting on our chairs for the rest of the day with pores clogged with sweat, dirt and old make-up. Not to mention the hours we clock up talking on the phone – a phone that spends a good chunk of the day touching our skin, yet one that we very rarely clean with antiseptic.

But short of handing in our notice and becoming ladies of leisure (oh, we can dream), we can’t avoid heading to our workplace every day. So how do we beat the breakouts? Friday offers an action plan.

Lack of sleep

You don’t have a great relationship with your alarm clock – and it isn’t just because it forces you out of bed. Your early mornings could be contributing to skin breakouts – especially if you go to bed late too and are failing to clock up enough hours under the duvet.

Why? Lack of sleep can cause your adrenal glands to overproduce during the day, which leads to excess oil production. Coupled with a slow skin cell turnover, this leads to clogged pores and blemishes on your skin.

And you can expect further problems if you went to bed with make-up on, as doing this even a few times a week can have an adverse effect on your skin. Skin loses more water at night and produces less oil while it repairs itself – and not only will old make-up and dirt clog your pores as you sleep, but it will also hinder this natural cell renewal process.


Action plan: Firstly, make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep every night to help that cell renewal. When 
it comes to cleansing, keep your skincare routine simple, so you have the incentive to get it done. Bioderma Sensibio H20 (Dh99, pharmacies nationwide) is ideal, as you can use it to cleanse skin and remove eye make-up at the same time. Saturate a cotton bud, swipe over skin and eyes, and follow up with moisturiser. You’ll be ready to hit the sack in minutes.

The daily commute

If you travel to work on the metro or bus, it could be the daily commute to your workplace that is the very cause of those breakouts.

‘There are lots of day-to-day activities that can cause breakouts, and sometimes we don’t even know that we’re doing them,’ says top London-based facialist Kate Kerr ( ‘Touching our faces with dirty hands after our morning commute is a big one – think about the bacteria on an escalator handrail, for example. If you touch that and then your face, you can imagine the bacteria you’re transferring to your skin.’


Action plan: Make a habit of carrying antibacterial hand gel in your bag and use it religiously when you reach your desk every morning. Bath & Body Works make a range of hand sanitisers (Dh15 each) that work perfectly for this, with easily absorbed formulas and a range of scents to give you a boost for the day ahead.

Constant Air Con

There’s no escaping air conditioning when you live in the UAE – especially during the summer months. And while this is 
a relief when temperatures outside are scorching, it can be an unexpected trigger for spots and acne.

The problem is that AC is incredibly drying for skin – and when our skin is lacking in moisture, it starts to overproduce natural oil to try and rebalance itself. If you are prone to breakouts, this excess oil will lead to spots and blemishes as pores become blocked with sebum.


Action plan: Does your office have a humidifier? If not, now is the time to request one from the office manager, as this will replace much-needed moisture back into the air and prevent your skin from drying up and producing all that extra oil. Sipping water throughout the day will prevent dehydration, while keeping a pot of moisturiser on your desk to top up the skin’s moisture levels is a must. Elemis Hydra-Balance Day Cream (Dh323, is a great choice, as it contains both hyaluronic acid to lock in essential moisture and meadowsweet extract to regulate oil production.

Daily stress

Numerous studies confirm that the workplace is one of the major causes of stress and anxiety among adults worldwide – and when we’re tense, our brain releases the stress hormone cortisol into our bloodstream.

‘Cortisone acts against our natural hormones, and once levels are low, naturally increases production of acne and leads to other skin problems,’ says Dr Hoda Makkawi, consultant of family medicine at Euromed Clinic Dubai.

Remember when you were anxious about a big night out or party as a teenager and suddenly a spot appeared? Workplace stress has the same effect on us as adults, with sebaceous glands overcompensating by increasing oil production and spots appearing when we feel anxious.


Action plan: If you are struggling with stress-related breakouts, the key is exfoliating to unclog pores. ‘Instead of a gritty scrub exfoliant, which can cause further redness, use a product with lactic acid, which hydrates as it removes dead skin cells,’ says US-based dermatologist Dr Noëlle Sherber (

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser (Dh200) and Murad Acne Spot Treatment (Dh120, both are ideal choices, 
with formulas containing salicylic acid to slough away dead skin cells and banish bacteria.

Lunchtime workouts

Squeezing workouts into your lunchtime? Failing to remove your make-up before you get active and then failing to cleanse properly before you get back to your desk after the session could be another cause of those breakouts.

‘If you exercise without removing your make-up or moisturiser, the sweat combined with the often comedogenic ingredients found 
in these formulas is a recipe for outbreaks,’ says facialist Kate Kerr.


Action plan: We don’t usually advocate using wipes as a cleansing routine, but in the gym changing rooms, they are a quick and effective solution to whipping off that make-up before you hit your workout – plus it’s mess-free, which is important when you throw them into your gym bag. Dermalogica Skin Purifying Wipes (Dh79, are a good choice, promising to cleanse, calm, and soothe skin with one quick swipe.

Talking on the phone

Finally, have you ever noticed finger smears all over the screen of your phone? Those marks are evidence of dirt and bacteria – so imagine what it’s doing to your face when you press it up against your cheek for long periods of time. If you spend a lot of time on your phone during the day, it’s definitely worth considering how this can be transferring bacteria to your skin – but it’s easily remedied.


Action plan: Keep a pack of antibacterial wipes on your desk for wiping over your phone as often you can to avoid breakouts – and while you’re at it, also disinfect computer keypads, which pick up bacteria too. Dettol Antibacterial Wipes (from Dh20, supermarkets nationwide), are a simple and effective choice – and your skin will definitely thank you for it.

Louise Emma Clarke

Louise Emma Clarke