Oral contraceptives: Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which are low in estrogen to promote safety, have little effect on acne one way or the other. Some contraceptive pills have been shown to have modest effectiveness in treating acne. Those that have been U.S. FDA approved for treating acne are Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz. Most dermatologists work together with primary care physicians or gynecologists when recommending these medications.


A recent study has found a difference between strains of acne bacteria, which could have a significant impact on acne treatment down the road. This study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that these strains play a role in the severity and frequency of developing pimples. One particular strain of P. acnes was found among study participants that exhibited few symptoms of acne. Researchers came to the conclusion that this “good” strain of bacteria features a natural defense mechanism that fights back bacteria which might infect the cell. Researchers are hopeful that this discovery will help dermatologists better and more accurately prescribe effective acne treatment in the future, and reduce the severity of acne by ridding the skin of bad acne bacteria while preserving the good. 
12. Step away from your hands. You know how you rest your face on your hand while you're studying? That might be the reason for those blemishes on your cheek or jaw. You're constantly touching things that have germs—anything from your phone to your locker—so putting your hands on your face for a long period of time can cause dirt and bacteria from anything you touch to get into your pores.
This article was medically reviewed by Hilary Baldwin, MD. Baldwin, medical director of the Acne Treatment Research Center, is a board-certified dermatologist with nearly 25 years of experience. Her area of expertise and interest are acne, rosacea and keloid scars. Baldwin received her BA and MA in biology from Boston University. She became a research assistant at Harvard University before attending Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed a medical internship at Yale New Haven Hospital before becoming a resident and chief resident in dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

Light treatments: Recent years have brought reports of success in treating acne using special lights and similar devices, alone or in conjunction with photosensitizing dyes. It appears that these treatments are safe and can be effective, but it is not clear that their success is lasting. At this point, laser treatment of acne is best thought of as an adjunct to conventional therapy, rather than as a substitute.
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.
Use retinoid skin products. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives which are used in a wide array of skin care products treating fine lines and wrinkles, skin discoloration, and acne. Retinoids boost collagen production and speed up cell turnover, making them a great choice for targeting acne scars. These creams can be a little on the pricey side, but they are highly recommended by dermatologists for their fast, effective results.
This is Dr. Schultz's number-one piece of advice. "Exfoliation is the most important thing you can do on a regular basis to be fighting acne both in terms of preventing it and treating it." His go-to ingredient? Glycolic acid. While a glycolic cleanser will help, a treatment that really soaks into your skin is what will give you the results you want. Try BeautyRx Advanced 10% Exfoliating Pads or Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum.
5. You're scrubbing your skin too hard. A lot of people with acne think that the more you scrub your skin with a washcloth, rough exfoliants (like crushed apricot seeds), or cleansing brushes, the smoother your skin will be, but in reality, the problem will only inevitably get worse. What happens when you do that is you scrub the active acne and the blemish bacteria gets spread across the skin, worsening the condition.
The process involves first removing makeup with an emollient formula—I use her Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk, which looks and feels like lotion—on dry skin for 30 seconds, then rinsing and follow with another cleanser. Rouleau's AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser has been my lifesaver, it's a blend of salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids, plus jojoba beads for physical exfoliation. It sloughs away residue and oil and targets pimples, blackheads, and leftover scarring. I always followed this with Rouleau's Balancing Skin Tonic before applying any other layers.
If you have body acne, taking a shower as soon as possible after working out is also key. It turns out that standing around in tight, sweaty workout clothes puts you at the greatest risk for body acne and rashes. “The whole idea is that the bacteria that live on the skin can get trapped in the hair follicles and cause inflammation,” says dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale. “The more you work out in the heat the more likely this is.” Dr. Levin agrees that showering right after a workout is your best defense against body acne. But in a pinch, body wipes like the Yuni Shower Sheets will do the trick.
Acne scars are most often the product of an inflamed lesion, such as a papule, pustule, or cyst. Inflamed blemishes occur when the follicle, or pore, becomes engorged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. The pore swells, causing a break in the follicle wall. If the rupture occurs near the skin's surface, the lesion is usually minor and heals quickly. More serious lesions arise when there is a deep break in the follicle wall. The infected material spills out into the dermis and destroys healthy skin tissue.

The Center for Young Women’s Health (CYWH) is a collaboration between the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and the Division of Gynecology at Boston Children’s Hospital. The Center is an educational entity that exists to provide teen girls and young women with carefully researched health information, health education programs, and conferences.

Toning. After you wash and exfoliate you should apply a toner to the face that will help tighten the pores so oil and dirt cannot become trapped and create a home for harmful bacteria. Toners designed for acne sufferers are readily available at drugstores, but you can also apply products like apple cider vinegar or witch hazel. Apply toners with cotton balls and allow them to sit on the skin rather than rinsing them away.


Sometimes, your gynecologist can share insight into your acne, especially when it comes to deciding if birth control could help your breakouts. The FDA approves of Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Yaz to combat acne, but the trick is to be patient, as it can take up to four months to start seeing results. "This plan of attack works best when paired with whatever topical treatments you’re already using to treat your acne, like Proactiv, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, etc," advises dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
20. Know your options. Benzoyl peroxide products are great at fighting pimples, but can be drying to your skin, so use them only once a day (or every other day). If it's drying out or irritating your skin, switch out your cleanser for a gentle formula. (Keep up your regular acne spot treatment, but use just a dab!) It will clear away dirt and oil without stripping your skin of moisture. Salicylic acid (in creams, gels, astringents, or masks) dries less than benzoyl peroxide, so it can be used with more-drying cleansers.
Since there is some overlap between acne and rosacea, some of the medications may be similar. Acne and rosacea have in common several possible treatments, including (but not limited to) oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics, sulfa-based face washes, isotretinoin, and many others. It is important to seek a physician's advice before using random over-the-counter acne medications since they can actually irritate skin that is prone to rosacea. Overall, rosacea skin tends to be more sensitive and easily irritated than that of common acne.

Light treatments: Recent years have brought reports of success in treating acne using special lights and similar devices, alone or in conjunction with photosensitizing dyes. It appears that these treatments are safe and can be effective, but it is not clear that their success is lasting. At this point, laser treatment of acne is best thought of as an adjunct to conventional therapy, rather than as a substitute.
×