When it comes to skin care, we're not usually ones for hard and fast rules. Everyone has unique skin types, skin tones, lifestyles, and genetic histories that make it impossible to have a single piece of one-size-fits-all advice. It can take years — and dozens of trips to the dermatologist — to discover how to treat acne effectively on your unique skin. But here at Teen Vogue, we've pretty much made it our life mission to figure out the best tips from the pros to point you in the right direction. They've seen it all and won't recommend it unless it's backed up by experience and science,.
Use oil-free makeup. If you wear makeup, you may be stuck in a vicious cycle of covering up acne while simultaneously causing it with your cover-up usage. Find acne-fighting oil-free mineral makeup to help prevent worsening your acne while simply trying to hide it. Power foundations are also recommended. When possible, avoid wearing make-up at all though as it clogs your pores over the course of the day.
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.
Steroid injections: If you feel a stress pimple rearing its ugly head, a steroid shot can be administered the same day you call your derm because the process is very fast. Not only does it immediately reduce the inflammation of an existing zit, but cortisone can also help thick scars (keloids) appear softer and flatter. "These are specifically for raised scars, however," says Dr. Shah. "It'll help flatten out the scar, but it won't do anything to any discrepancies in the texture."
Facials can be an effective way to get rid of non-inflammatory or comedonal acne (whiteheads and blackheads). Comedones occur when pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Facial exfoliation takes off the top layer of skin, which unclogs pores and helps oil flow naturally through the follicles, thus avoiding future breakouts. Extractions remove the existing comedones, which both helps your appearance and also lessens the likelihood developing a pimple (which occurs when a comedone becomes inflamed).
Lasers. Your dermatologist can use a laser to remove the outer layer of your skin, contour areas of acne scars, or lighten redness around healed acne lesions. Various types of lasers are used, depending on whether the acne scar is raised or flat. More than one laser treatment may be required and, depending on the laser used, you may need to several days to heal.
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.)
So good!...Holy grain...It says to apply to a clean face up to 3 times a day, but I only use it twice because I have to leave my make up on... I swear it takes away the biggest/reddest bumps ever!...I have stubborn acne flairups once a month that get huge and stay for over a week and with this twice a day on clean skin it keeps my blemish small and it goes away in 2 days!!
Moderate to moderately severe acne. This type of acne consists of several whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules that cover from ¼ to ¾ of the face and/or other parts of the body. It can be treated with antibiotic lotions or gels, as well as retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is an altered form of vitamin A. It helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic pill, such as erythromycin. If you take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, antibiotics can affect how well they work. Be sure to use a second method of birth control with the pill, such as a condom. Retinoic acid and antibiotic pills can make the skin sensitive to the sun. So, wear sunscreen and stay in the shade while using them.
Doctors usually diagnose rosacea based on the typical red or blushed facial skin appearance and symptoms of easy facial blushing and flushing. Rosacea is underdiagnosed, and most people with rosacea do not know they have the skin condition. Many people may not associate their intermittent flushing symptoms with a medical condition. The facial redness in rosacea may be transient and come and go very quickly.
7. You smoke. Every time you light up a cigarette, you decrease the amount of oxygen that goes to your face. This not only predisposes you to cancer, and causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin that leads to wrinkles and increased pore size, but the carcinogens in the smoke also irritates your skin and dries it out, triggering your skin to produce more oil and possibly more breakouts. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
Experiment with aloe vera. The sap of the aloe vera plant is a soothing natural substance which can be used to relieve many ailments, from burns to wounds to acne scars. Aloe vera helps to rejuvenate and moisturize the skin, encouraging acne scars to fade. It is possible to buy aloe vera products in the drugstore, but the best thing to do is buy an aloe vera plant and use the sap from a broken leaf. This gel-like sap can be applied directly on the scarring, and there is no need to wash off.
The facialist, Tanya Eubanks, first exfoliates and steams my face. Then she uses her gloved fingers and a medical needle to perform extractions. And it is as painful as it sounds. The worst part is when I hear the noise of the needle pricking each cyst. It sounds like a tiny burst of air, which might not seem bad, but all I can think about is all the gunk coming out each time, and it makes me cringe. By the time she applies a mask to reduce redness, I've lost all feeling in my face.
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When you think about it, consistently reaching for your go-to face towel every day is like reusing a dinner napkin over and over again. Using dirty towels can harbor bacteria, and they can even introduce new bacteria to your skin, which may lead to more pimples. Thankfully, this doesn't mean you need to reach for a new towel every single time you wash your face, according to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at NYU Langone and Mount Sinai Hospital. As long as you're truly washing off all of your makeup, you can stick to switching out your towels on a weekly basis.
17. Less is more. Too many products can irritate and too many steps may tempt you to skip. When it comes to your skin, more is definitely NOT more. In other words, trying a bunch of different remedies at once won't boost your chances of making the zit disappear — more likely, it'll just wreak havoc on your skin and turn a teeny-tiny pimple into a red, blotchy mess.
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.
All three dermatologists suggested that the best solution for boxcar or rolling scars are in-office procedures. Dr. Day, for instance, suggestedEndyMed Intensif, which uses microneedle radio frequency to remodel the skin by delivering heat into the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production. For at-home treatments, however, Dr. Day turns to Olay's DIY microdermabrasion kit. It comes with both a foam head and crystal polisher, which claims to exfoliate 7 times better than a typical scrub and thoroughly cleanses the face to prevent future breakouts.
“After sweating, immediately use an exfoliating cleanser to help keep your pores clear and remove excess oil,” says Dr. Zein Obagi of ZO Skin Health. Try keeping Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads in your gym bag or locker for those times you need an on-the-go cleanse. These will remove any leftover dirt while treating your skin with acne-fighting salicylic acid.
Yes, it’s another pricey SkinCeuticals serum, but dermatologists absolutely love their products for treating acne marks. You’ll get more bang for your buck with the inclusion of glycolic and lactic acids, two alpha-hydroxy acids that Avram says help fade marks by exfoliating the top surface of the skin. Nagler says “vitamin C is helpful as an adjunct in preventing free radical damage, which helps with pigmentation.” It’s also worth investing in a high-quality serum since, according to Nagler, vitamin C isn’t stable — and is therefore less effective — in some other products.
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.