Retinol is a vitamin A derivative, which the skin absorbs and converts to retinoic acid. Retin-A is the prescription form. "Topical retinoids are fortunately one of the most effective treatments for acne, and also happens to be a highly effective antiaging ingredient, because of its collagen-building properties," Dr. Tzu notes. The biggest downside is they're harsh and can sometimes be too much for sensitive skin. For an elegant OTC option, try Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution.
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.
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. 

Sunscreen: "Sun exposure during an active breakout can lead to darkening of inflammatory lesions, prolonging their appearance on your skin and making them harder to fade over time," says Dr. Shereene Idriss from Union Square Dermatology, which means it's important to lather on the sunscreen daily — even when it's cloudy. And don't worry about breaking out from a pore-clogging sunscreen; the latest formulas are more innovative and acne-friendly than ever. Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a top derm-approved favorite. It contains niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.
Common acne, known medically as Acne Vulgaris, is generally caused by hormonal changes in the body, and its onset usually can be found in teenage years when puberty rears its head. Acne is directly attributed to the rise of androgen hormone levels. The production of these hormones rise when a child begins puberty, and is the reason much acne is prevalent in adolescence. As androgen levels rise, the oil glands sitting directly underneath the skin enlarge and produce increased levels of oil, also known as sebum. When pores are filled with excessive sebum, it can cause surrounding skin cells’ walls to rupture and create a breeding ground of P. acnes bacteria. As the sebum attempts to push out of the pore, it can attach to this infectious bacteria and dead skin cells, causing a blockage that begins the formation of a pimple. According to Medical News Today, dermatologists purport that almost three quarters of 11 to 30-year-olds will deal with acne at some point, but acne breakouts can continue on into adulthood, and have been observed in patients in their fifties.
Steroids have long been known to cause acne. These drugs are generally taken without a prescription in order to gain muscle, but there are instances in which women are prescribed steroids for rare conditions. Steroids cause hormonal changes, and as the androgen hormones increase, so too does oil production. The more sebum, the greater chance of clogged pores. Steroids might also accelerate the growth of P. acnes, which can make pimples and inflammation worse.
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.
Rolling scars can look like little saucers, giving the skin a wavy texture. Lasers that resurface the skin are Dr. Karolak's top treatment pick for this type of scar, and Dr. Sobel agrees. "Many scars can be improved with lasers such as the matrix CO2, which remove the outer layers of skin, burning away the scar tissue and stimulate new collagen production," he says. "Non-ablative lasers such as the Fraxel can help activate the production of collagen without damaging the surface of the skin." Keep in mind, that these laser treatments can take a bit of recovery time and require multiple treatments to see results. For a quicker solution, your dermatologist can plump the bowl-like scar with fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, or Bellafill.
Oil-free soaps or washes won’t clog your pores or cause blackheads, acne, and whiteheads. Choose products that are labeled "oil free," "nonacnegenic” (which means it won’t cause acne) or "noncomedogenic” (which means it won’t clog your pores). Some also have ingredients recommended by dermatologists, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Make sure your washcloths are soft -- you can use one made for babies -- and use a clean one every time, too.
Steroids have long been known to cause acne. These drugs are generally taken without a prescription in order to gain muscle, but there are instances in which women are prescribed steroids for rare conditions. Steroids cause hormonal changes, and as the androgen hormones increase, so too does oil production. The more sebum, the greater chance of clogged pores. Steroids might also accelerate the growth of P. acnes, which can make pimples and inflammation worse.
"Retinoids work over time by continuously increasing cell turnover which in turn helps fade hyperpigmentation," says Dr. Idriss. Dr. Shah agrees, noting that Retin-A helps with acne marks by causing your skin cells to "divide more rapidly and pushing out cells with discolored pigments." Since retinoids make your skin super-sensitive to the sun, it's best to not only wear SPF, but to also apply a treatment like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream before you go to bed.
"Overwashing your face can make acne worse," Dr. Kazin explains. Cleansing more than twice a day is too much and can just dry out skin, "which can cause [it] to produce more oil to overcompensate." Your Clarisonic addiction may not be helping either. "It helps remove all makeup and helps your cleanser work better, but I worry about the coarse ones. It's almost like giving yourself microdermabrasion twice a day, which can cause a breakout," says Dr. Kazin. Dr. Schultz seconds that: "Anything that rubs skin will, to a small extent, promote acne." That includes a grainy or gritty cleanser, too. Try these two gentle face washes instead: Phace Bioactive Detoxifying Gel Cleanser or Frank Body Creamy Face Cleanser.

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. 
Acne removal: Your dermatologist may perform a procedure called “drainage and extraction” to remove a large acne cyst. This procedure helps when the cyst does not respond to medicine. It also helps ease the pain and the chance that the cyst will leave a scar. If you absolutely have to get rid of a cyst quickly, your dermatologist may inject the cyst with medicine.
The nose is typically one of the first facial areas affected in rosacea. It can become red and bumpy and develop noticeable dilated small blood vessels. Left untreated, advanced stages of rosacea can cause a disfiguring nose condition called rhinophyma (ryno-fy-ma), literally growth of the nose, characterized by a bulbous, enlarged red nose and puffy cheeks (like the classic comedian W.C. Fields). There may also be thick bumps on the lower half of the nose and the nearby cheek areas. Rhinophyma occurs mainly in men. Severe rhinophyma can require surgical correction and repair.

The nose is typically one of the first facial areas affected in rosacea. It can become red and bumpy and develop noticeable dilated small blood vessels. Left untreated, advanced stages of rosacea can cause a disfiguring nose condition called rhinophyma (ryno-fy-ma), literally growth of the nose, characterized by a bulbous, enlarged red nose and puffy cheeks (like the classic comedian W.C. Fields). There may also be thick bumps on the lower half of the nose and the nearby cheek areas. Rhinophyma occurs mainly in men. Severe rhinophyma can require surgical correction and repair.
Inflammatory Acne: Inflammatory acne is red bumps and pustules, not whiteheads, blackheads and comedones. It does not necessarily start as them, either. It arises on its own. Whiteheads, blackheads or comedones that become inflamed can be painful and unsightly. Persistent inflammatory acne may require treatment by a physician or dermatologist, in addition to over-the-counter acne remedies.
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.
×