Best used for treating hyperpigmentation, these products — packed with glycolic acid — promote cellular turnover to remove the top layers of the skin revealing a brighter, fresh complexion, says New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "Glycolic acid is the smallest acid in size," she says. (This means it can get deep into the skin.) "It is very effective in breaking down skin cells and removing dead particles," says Engleman. "It boosts collagen production and elastin production with the removal of waste and dead skin cells." Bottom line: By removing these dead cells, healthy, glow-y skin is revealed.
The best way to fix them: Since they're more closely related to bacteria than your hormones or a lack of exfoliation, papular pustules require a different plan of attack entirely. "Inflammatory acne types really respond to antibiotics, either topical or systemic," says Dr. Hale. These, of course, require a trip to your dermatologist. To tide you over, you could also try applying hydrocortisone cream, which temporarily takes down redness and swelling. But in the long run, it won't do much to make these disappear completely or keep them from popping up again.
Scrubbing your face daily with grainy cleansers and exfoliating products can do more harm than good. When done too often, it can cause redness, inflammation, and irritation. “Exfoliating a pimple can pull away healthy skin cells and create an open wound and higher risk for scarring,” says Jessica Weiser, MD, from New York Dermatology Group. “Exfoliation should be done with caution, and not more than 2-3 times a week maximum.”
Steroids have long been known to cause acne. These drugs are generally taken without a prescription in order to gain muscle, but there are instances in which women are prescribed steroids for rare conditions. Steroids cause hormonal changes, and as the androgen hormones increase, so too does oil production. The more sebum, the greater chance of clogged pores. Steroids might also accelerate the growth of P. acnes, which can make pimples and inflammation worse.
The superhero mineral can help combat bacteria that lead to breakouts, calm inflammation, and get that oil production under control, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. To get your fill, eat a steak for lunch, pop some pumpkin seeds for a snack, then slurp down some oysters during happy hour.
Topical (external) applications: Antibacterial cleansers come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions that are applied to the affected area. The active ingredients that kill surface bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and resorcinol. Some brands promoted on the Internet and cable TV (such as ProActiv) are much more costly than identical and sometimes more potent products one can buy in the drugstore.