Alcohol-based toners have been an anti-acne step since forever, but are so harsh and drying on skin that they can cause skin to produce even more oil, and they can irritate; as with benzoyl peroxide or any other irritant, they can further inflame a case of acne. But dabbing skin with witch hazel or non-alcohol toner (we love S.W. Basics’ toner with witch hazel and raw apple cider vinegar, $9.99, swbasicsofbk.com) can serve as a mild exfoliant, to unclog pores and deposit ingredients like tea tree oil or salicylic acid. Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing pads from Desert Essence ($7.99, desertessence.com) are particularly brilliant, combining both ingredients.
Some people swear by the disinfecting power of tea tree oil for acne treatment. It can be applied either full strength or slightly diluted with water directly onto pimples. Use a small amount on a clean cotton swab or cotton pad and dab on the affected areas immediately after cleansing. Because tea tree oil can be drying, you might choose to use both tea tree oil and coconut oil for acne as part of your clear skin regimen.
If you're experience hormonal acne every single month—and it's don't-want-to-leave-the-house bad—it's worth visiting your doctor to rule out polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that can lead to infertility, anxiety, and depression. Birth control medications, which help regulate hormone levels, are effective in preventing these kinds of breakouts, says Dr. Hale, who's also a fan of DIY remedies when it comes to how to get rid of acne. Home remedies like crushed aspirin application are among her top treatment choices. "You're basically applying pure salicylic acid to it," she explains.
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).
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.
Exfoliating cleansers and masks: A variety of mild scrubs, exfoliants, and masks can be used. These products may contain salicylic acid in a concentration that makes it a very mild peeling agent. These products remove the outer layer of the skin and thus open pores. Products containing glycolic or alpha hydroxy acids are also gentle skin exfoliants.