Rena Levi is known for her sensitivity towards clients with severe acne and problem skin. In 1968 she moved from Israel to the U.S. and studied with Christine Valmy at the European Esthetic Skincare Institute. In 1975, she opened the Rena Levi Skin Care Salon in New York City. In 1980, she moved to Albuquerque, NM, where she managed the skin care center for Eleganza Salon and further developed and refined her practice. It was there that she became well known for her ability to treat what many considered impossible skin, while also teaching budding estheticians and skin practitioners at the same time, including the then-president of the New Mexico Board of Cosmetology. Here, Levi shares with us one of her most popular facial protocol treatments for treating clients with moderate to severe acne.
Topical treatments on their own may not be enough to give you clear skin, especially in those with complicated, inflammatory cystic acne. There are several acne medication options approved for use by the FDA, but which one is best for you is a question for your dermatologist and/or general practitioner. Baldwin says if you have insurance and you have acne, a prescription may be the best step because "it makes no sense to try to handle the condition yourself or to use over the counter products that are always less effective than prescriptions meds." Here are a few of the acne medications you'll want to ask about:
Bacteria. Excess sebum clogs the openings to hair follicles -- especially those on the face, neck, chest, and back. Bacteria grow in these clogged follicles. This makes blackheads or whiteheads, also known as ''comedones,'' form on the skin's surface. Sometimes, this clogging causes the follicle wall to break under the pressure of this buildup. When this happens, sebum leaks into nearby tissues and forms a pustule or a papule -- this is called inflammatory acne. Larger, tender pustules are called nodules.
The "juice" from the Aloe Vera plant helps to reduce the visibility of acne spots and acne scars. More specifically speaking, it helps to heal the skin, to protect it, and and to make it softer and smoother. In addition to actively treating and getting rid of acne breakouts, aloe vera is also an outstanding preventative measure too. There's a reason that aloe vera is recommended for treating all sorts of skin conditions -- it WORKS!
Contrary to popular belief, acne isn't caused by a harmful diet, poor hygiene, or an uncontrolled sex drive. The simple truth is that heredity and hormones are behind most forms of acne. Swearing off chocolate or scrubbing your face 10 times a day won't change your predisposition to this unsightly, sometimes painful, and often embarrassing skin problem.
As far as pimple scars on the nose are concerned, this oil is the most beneficial in healing of the hypertrophic scars that are generally raised and red, such as those we get after a burn injury or a surgery. Raised acne scars too are however not very uncommon. So if you have the raised acne scars, you can effectively use tea tree oil to get rid of them.
Rosacea may affect the eyes. Not everyone with rosacea has eye problems. A complication of advanced rosacea, known as ocular rosacea, affects the eyes. About half of all people with rosacea report feeling burning, dryness, and irritation of the tissue lining of the eyes (conjunctivitis). These individuals may also experience redness of the eyelids and light sensitivity. Often the eye symptoms may go completely unnoticed and not be a major concern for the individual. Many times, the physician or ophthalmologist may be the first one to notice the eye symptoms. Untreated, ocular rosacea may cause a serious complication that can damage the cornea permanently damaging vision, called rosacea keratitis. An ophthalmologist can assist in a proper eye evaluation and prescribe rosacea eyedrops. Oral antibiotics may be useful to treat skin and eye rosacea.

Fractional laser treatment is less invasive than ablative laser treatment, as it targets only a fraction of the skin at a time. Fractional lasers penetrate the top skin layers, where its light energy stimulates collagen production and resurfaces the top layer of the epidermis. Treatments typically last between 15 and 45 minutes and effects become visible in 1 to 3 weeks.
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. 
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.

A game changer in the skincare industry, the Acne Pad delivers medical-grade glycolic acid that retextures the surface of the skin to reveal what Cane + Austin likes to call that "glycolic glow"—all just with one product. After years of treating thousands of patients with glycolic acid, Dr. Austin knew he had to share this miracle ingredient with everyone. While in development, Dr. Austin shared the pre-production samples in Ziploc bags and gave to friends and family to try. He knew he had something special when a friend had to choose between being on time for her flight, or running back to get more of "those pads". She missed her flight. Cane + Austin had a cult following before even being distributed in stores.


Lowering stress levels can have an immediate beneficial effect on the appearance and frequency of acne breakouts. It’s important to maintain a regular exercise routine, get enough sleep every night, and practice stress control methods. Meditation has been shown to alleviate the effects of various skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and could have a positive effect on the symptoms of acne.

3. You're eating spicy foods. Spicy foods often contain tomatoes and peppers, which contain acidic lycopene that can be an irritant to some people, throwing off their skin's pH levels and triggering breakouts. However, it isn't just spicy foods that can irritate your skin. Some people have an aversion to dairy, bread, or other types of foods — how your skin reacts to what you eat just depends on your own personal make-up. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
This treatment is performed by dermatologists and combines two different technologies — microneedling and radio frequency — for big results in eliminating acne scars. First, a topical numbing gel is applied. Then the doctor uses the microneedling device to penetrate the skin and, simultaneously, radiofrequency is delivered right to the dermis. Downtime is usually around 24 hours and then you can resume wearing makeup to cover any lasting redness.

Genetics can also have an effect on acne breakouts, and may be the reason some people are acne-prone while others are not. One of the top cited studies took a look at 458 pairs of identical twins and 1099 pairs of fraternal twins to study acne prevalence. They found that genes explained a significant 81 percent of the difference in acne prevalence, while the other 19 percent was explained by non-shared environmental factors. 
Medications prescribed for mental illnesses can have the unfortunate side effect of causing acne. Some antidepressants have been purported to trigger acne breakouts, including brands like Wellbutrin and Lexapro. Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often prescribed lithium to help handle their condition. Unfortunately, lithium can cause acne breakouts. Often the benefits of these types of drugs outweigh the negative onset of acne, but it’s important to look into various options to determine what might have the minimal amount of side effects.
What you can do differently: For starters, stop going to tanning beds. Period. And if you are in the sun, make sure to slather on a titanium dioxide- or zinc-based sunscreen (these are natural sun protectants and their formulations usually contain fewer chemicals, so they won't break you out as easily), and wear a sun hat or ball cap to shield your facial skin from harsh rays.
As the name suggests, ice pick scars are very deep acne scars that look like the skin has been punctured with… an ice pick. When the body produces too little collagen in response to an injury, depressed scars such as ice picks can form. “Ice pick scars represent the result of infected sebaceous gland openings on the skin. They are usually the most difficult to correct,” says New York City plastic surgeon Gerald Imber, MD.
Strat beauty editor Rio Viera-Newton mentioned this paraben- and fragrance-free concealer in her post on makeup for broken-out skin. “This has helped me conceal even the worst of the worst,” she wrote. Designed for buildable coverage, it will also work on masking those acne marks until they gradually fade away, and the gentle formula means it won’t cause additional irritation.

Many people use beaten egg whites as a facial acne mask. The mask is applied to the face for about 15 minutes, then it is washed off and the skin is GENTLY patted dry with a soft cloth. Eggs have potent healing properties (due to the protein contained within) which makes this a great method for healing and clearing away acne. This is by no means an overnight acne cure, so don't get upset when you find out you have to use this technique for a matter of weeks before the effects begin to show.


The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
It's a myth that tanning clears up your skin. UV rays put you at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkles. Don't lie in the sun or use a tanning booth. Also, some commonly prescribed acne medications, including retinoids that go on your skin, can make you more sensitive to damage from UV rays. So always wear sunscreen and limit how much sun you get.
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.
Doctors can treat telangiectasias with a small electric needle, a laser, intense pulsed light, or minor surgery to close off the dilated blood vessels. Usually, multiple treatments are required for best results, and only a portion of the blood vessels improve with each treatment. Not everyone responds the same to these types of treatments, and a physician can help someone decide which treatment is best for his or her skin type, condition, and size of blood vessels.
Rosacea, although distinct from acne, does have some similarities. Unlike common acne, rosacea occurs most often in adults (30-50 years of age). Unlike acne vulgaris, rosacea is devoid of blackheads and characteristically does not resolve after puberty. Rosacea strikes both sexes and potentially all ages. It tends to be more frequent in women but more severe in men. It is very uncommon in children, and it is less frequent in people with dark skin.
Treatments like radiofrequency microneedling, lasers, and fillers can be effective to treat acne scars, but they can run you hundreds of dollars per treatment. And Hellman says you'll need six to eight treatments and a good amount of time before seeing results. "The process takes a good part of a year," she says. (Her office does offer some package options to help offset some of the cost.)
Old marks still sticking around take patience and consistency to treat. One way to even out skin tone over time is with regular exfoliating. "[Exfoliating] is important in treating acne scars at home as it lifts dead skin and allows new skin to grow and proliferate," Dr. Moy explains. This exfoliator contains papaya enzymes to break down dead skin cells and microderm crystals to buff away acne scars. Aloe vera, coconut, and vitamins E and B nourish the skin simultaneously.
Severe acne. Severe acne consists of deep cysts, redness, swelling, extreme damage to the skin and scarring. You should see a dermatologist to care for this type of acne. Scarring can be prevented with appropriate treatments. Your dermatologist can prescribe oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Large inflamed cysts can be treated with an injection of a drug that lessens the redness, swelling, and irritation, and promotes healing.
If you decrease overall inflammation in your body, you will decrease the inflammation in post pimple regions. Therefore, incorporate the anti-inflammatory lifestyle habits such as: drink plenty of water (10-12 cups a day), completely eliminate sugar and processed foods, stabilize your blood sugar with anti-inflammatory/low glycemic index diet, manage stress, meditate, do yoga, take supplements such as fish oil, zinc, vit C and B complex.

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.


"I have terrible cystic acne but I don't want to take prescription medication!" she whines. Puh-leeze! You are given treatment, have access to products other than cleansers, but won't use them. This is a ridiculous article. I cleared my skin with soap, water, alcohol, and a complete dietary adjustment. Zero sugar, starch, breads, oils, fried and processed foods. I eat broccoli, greens (lots of greens), steamed and poached veggies, broiled or canned salmon, tofu, quinoa, brown rice, half a lemon a day over food or in unsweetened green tea, and blueberries. Someone else mentioned the sugar/insulin/hormonal imbalance link. You have to take responsibility for your lifestyle, as well as your treatment.
9. You're not releasing pent-up stress properly. Stress triggers acne and acne results in more stress, so it's a very vicious cycle. Basically, when you're under pressure, your skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone that then increases oil production and clogs pores. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
11. You're wearing a lot of hats or constantly touching your face. Anything that can trap sweat and bacteria against your skin and clog your pores, like the lining of a tight hat, can cause zits to crop up. Also, touching your face or resting your chin in your hand while you're sitting at your desk can transfer bacteria from your hand onto your face and brew blemishes. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
Treating acne requires patience and perseverance. Any of the treatments listed above may take two or three months to start working (even isotretinoin). Unless there are side effects such as excessive dryness or allergy, it is important to give each regimen or drug enough time to work before giving up on it and moving on to other methods. Using modern methods, doctors can help clear up the skin of just about everyone.
×