Eat healthily. Foods that are highly processed and contain a lot of oils greatly increase the amount of acne on your body. Getting the proper amount of nutrients from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein help your skin to regenerate faster and limit unnecessary oil production. When at all possible, avoid foods that are processed or contain a lot of sugar (think junk foods).
Even if you have amazing willpower—like the willpower of a Girl Scout with a full inventory of Thin Mints under her bed—and never, ever mess with your acne, you can still scar. "Acne scars result from damage to the skin following repeated inflammation from acne cysts," says Judith Hellman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Pimple popping can make the process worse, but acne can cause scarring even without pimple popping."
It starts when greasy secretions from the skin's sebaceous glands (oil glands) plug the tiny openings for hair follicles (plugged pores). If the openings are large, the clogs take the form of blackheads: small, flat spots with dark centers. If the openings stay small, the clogs take the form of whiteheads: small, flesh-colored bumps. Both types of plugged pores can develop into swollen, tender inflammations or pimples or deeper lumps or nodules. Nodules associated with severe cases of acne (cystic acne) are firm swellings below the skin's surface that become inflamed, tender, and sometimes infected.
When you have true scars that have changed the texture of your skin, you’ll need a medical procedure to see improvement. We use a laser specifically approved by the FDA for treating laser scars. Some people try chemical peels, which aren’t very effective. Others try dermabrasion, a technique like a sanding wheel on your skin, but there’s a high risk of permanent scarring. A laser gets much better results without the same risk.
Punch excisions: "This procedure is best for those with icepick scars, which aren't as wide as rolling or boxcar scars," says Dr. Shah. "If you use a punch excision on a scar that's wide at the surface, you're making a bigger punch and trading in one scar for another," she says. "Your dermatologist will numb up the area and use a tiny cookie-cutter like device to cut out the scar, and then sew it closed with a tiny stitch. The stitch is removed in less than a week," says Dr. Bowe. However, Dr. Idriss cautions against this method for those with darker skin or undertones who are prone to hyperpigmentation.
Buying a generic face wash won’t necessarily improve your complexion; for a cleanser to be most effective, you have to pay attention to your skin’s needs and pick the ingredients accordingly. If your skin tends to be oily, choose products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. For sensitive skin, look for cleansers with lactic acid or hydrating ingredients like glycerin, which aren’t as drying as those made for oilier types.
If you really must do something about your pimple beyond washing your face and spot treating, ice or a cold compress can help reduce swelling. Wrap an ice cube or the compress in a soft tissue or cloth and apply it to your zit for 20-30 seconds at a time, a few times a day. In case of an emergency (like, prom), you can also see a dermatologist for a cortisone injection, which can help shrink the cyst down quickly in a day or two.
"I have seen many patients develop a tolerance to prescription acne treatments, and when they stop working, it’s devastating. Treating acne demands a more holistic approach that includes lifestyle, nutrition, and advances in topical skincare. I developed Outsmart Acne™ Clarifying Treatment to be used as part of a whole-person regimen to help skin stay consistently clear."Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD
2. You're OD'ing on spot treatments. Overusing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil and possibly blemishes. Those ingredients can actually make the appearance of your pimples look worse, since the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin if used too often, making the pimple appear even redder and harder to conceal than if you had just left it alone. (Tip via Samantha Wright, a licensed aesthetician and Skinovator at the Dangene Institute.)
Do a Google search for “how to get rid of acne fast" and you'll see plenty of websites telling you to eat better for clear skin. But are there really foods that cause acne, or is that an old wives' tale? Dermatologist Hilary Baldwin, MD, of the Acne Treatment and Research Centre in Morristown, New Jersey, says the answer isn't really simple at all. "The simple answer is, we don't know. So far studies have suggested that high-glycemic index diets (those with lots of white foods like potatoes, pasta, bread, rice and sweets), as well as diets high in skim-milk dairy products and whey protein supplements might be associated with worsening of existing acne but are less likely to cause acne," Baldwin says.
Antibiotics are an acne treatment used to kill acne-causing bacteria. They may be applied directly on the skin (topical) or taken by mouth (oral). Topical antibiotics kill bacteria in the upper portion of your pores, while oral antibiotics can reach to the lower depths of the pores. Antibiotics used for acne treatment include, clindamycin, or tetracyclines like doxycycline or minocycline. These antibiotics are the most effective for treating acne because they both kill bacteria and act as anti-inflammatory agents to calm down the skin.
Can’t use the good stuff: The best medications for clearing acne include topical retinoids like Differin and Retin-A. The strong chemicals that are used in exfoliants can cause severe inflammation and sun irritation when combined with these medications. This means that you will have to choose between facials or proper medications. The choice is yours.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a procedure that treats precancerous cells, in addition to other types of cancer cells. The medical treatment does this with the help of a photosensitizing drug and a light source that activates the applied drug, destroying cancer cells. PDT is approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and Barrett's esophagus. It's used to treat actinic keratosis, as well as acne, rosacea, skin cancer, sun damage, oily skin, wrinkles, warts, psoriasis, and enlarged sebaceous glands.
When it comes to acne scars — especially difficult to treat indented or raised ones — the best offense is a good defense. If you’re still struggling with active acne and want to avoid future scarring, Avram likes this drugstore-staple Neutrogena wash because it contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that he says “exfoliates the skin, softens the appearance of the acne itself, and has some antibacterial properties.”
Some of us are more at risk for acne scars than others, although there is no way to say for sure who will develop scars after acne and who will not. These scars tend to occur more commonly after inflammatory acne, especially when it’s not treated early and aggressively. Other risks include picking squeezing or popping zits. (But whatever you do, never, ever pop a zit in the “danger triangle.”) Genetics can also play a role. “The earlier that acne gets treated, the better,” says Dr. Levine. “If somebody has active acne at 13 or 14, we want to jump on it.” Some scar resurfacing treatments also help keep acne at bay, she says. Dr. Imber adds that Youth Corridor RetinUltimate Transforming Gel applied twice daily can help treat active acne and prevent recurrence. Next, find out how to get rid of acne once and for all.
15. Try the 3-step solution. If you have acne, dermatologists recommend fighting it with a three-step regimen: a salicylic acid cleanser, a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, and a daily moisturizer. Benzoyl peroxide works by fighting the bacteria that causes acne. It causes an exfoliating effect that might cause some slight peeling and can dry out your skin. It's great for mild cases of acne, and you can get it without a prescription — many drugstore acne washes, creams and gels contain benzoyl peroxide. Prescriptions creams that contain higher doses of benzoyl peroxides such can also be prescribed by a doctor for more severe cases. Salicylic acid dries out the skin and helps exfoliate it to make dead skin cells fall away faster. It's good for mild cases of acne, and is available without a prescription. Many drugstore acne creams, washes, and gels contain salicylic acid, but stronger versions are also available in prescription form. It can dry up your skin and cause redness and peeling.
If you wear tight clothing when working out or don heavy equipment for sporting purposes, you may have experienced Acne Mechanica. This type of acne is prevalent among athletes, students, and soldiers, and is directly caused by excessive heat, pressure, and covered skin. It also may be triggered by consistent rubbing of different materials against the skin. This type of acne can be alleviated by changing out of sweaty gear and clothing and showering immediately after a workout. It’s also important to clean gear of acne bacteria and prevent friction by ensuring a comfortably tight fit. If you believe your acne flare up has been caused by a tight or heavy uniform, wearing a clean, cotton t-shirt underneath can help absorb the sweat and keep your skin protected.
A quick primer on light therapy: red light is known to promote circulation and reduce inflammation while blue light targets acne-causing bacteria and makes oil glads produce less sebum. What this mask helped me most with was preventing new breakouts from forming on top of the cluster already invading my chin. It stopped what was previously a never-ending cycle of acne.
If you’ve made a concerted effort with over-the-counter regimens and/or diet and still aren’t seeing results, a dermatologist is absolutely worth it. There are many levels of care: Prescription retinoids (Retin A, Tazorac, Differin et al) and/or topical antibiotics are the mildest, along with blue-light treatments like Isolaze, which kill bacteria and clear pores, with virtually no downtime. Light lasers like Clear and Brilliant can clear pores and treat the red and brown tones left by old acne lesions. “Some patients think they’ve got a severe problem, when they really only have a few pimples, surrounded by red and brown marks from old breakouts,” notes Anolik. Oral antibiotics represent a more aggressive (and unsustainable long-term) solution; birth control pills and hormone-mitigating medications like Spironalactone and Deldactone can get many more-severe patients’ acne under control. Most aggressive is Accutane; while it can be severely drying and can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, it represents a cure for truly-severe acne cases, says Anolik. “Used correctly, it is something of a miracle for people who’ve tried everything and failed,” he says.
Oral antibiotics: Doctors may start treatment with tetracycline (Sumycin) or one of the related "cyclines," such as doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, and others) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin). Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil (Duricef), amoxicillin (Amoxil, DisperMox, Trimox), and the sulfa drugs.