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.
If you have oily or combination skin and are prone to breakouts, you should be using skin-care products labeled "oil-free," "non-comedogenic," or "water-based," Dr. Schultz says. Just one of these will ensure that the lotion you're slathering on isn't going to clog your pores and make matters worse. Try a gel-based moisturizer like Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb; for an SPF option, we like PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF.
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.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is one of the newly available treatments. PDT uses a topical photosensitizer liquid that one applies to the skin and a light to activate the sensitizer. Levulan (aminolevulinic acid) and blue light, commonly used to treat pre-cancers (actinic keratosis) and acne vulgaris, can treat some rosacea patients. The use of PDT in rosacea is off-label, since it is primarily designed for regular acne. PDT works at reducing the inflammation; PDT is performed in a physician's office. The treatment takes anywhere from one to one and a half hours to complete. Strict sun avoidance for approximately one to three days is required after the treatment. Mild discomfort during the treatment and a mild to moderate sunburn appearance after the treatment is common. Some patients have experienced remissions (disease-free periods) of several months to years from these types of treatments. Other patients may not notice significant improvement.
Do a Google search for “how to get rid of acne fast" and you'll see plenty of websites telling you to eat better for clear skin. But are there really foods that cause acne, or is that an old wives' tale? Dermatologist Hilary Baldwin, MD, of the Acne Treatment and Research Centre in Morristown, New Jersey, says the answer isn't really simple at all. "The simple answer is, we don't know. So far studies have suggested that high-glycemic index diets (those with lots of white foods like potatoes, pasta, bread, rice and sweets), as well as diets high in skim-milk dairy products and whey protein supplements might be associated with worsening of existing acne but are less likely to cause acne," Baldwin says.
According to dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, some scars are thick, raised hypertrophic scars that stick out above the skin; others are keloid, which are scars that have over-healed, and manifest as dense, rubbery skin tissue. Then, there are atrophic scars that appear as depressions in the skin — they're the most challenging to treat. The three main categories of atrophic scars are:
Hypo-pigmentation is characterized by the light spots that result from a lack of melanin. With this type of skin damage, melanocytes are depleted from the injured area or lose their ability to produce melanin. This occurs when healthy skin has been replaced with scar tissue. Because scar tissue has a light pink color, it’s more noticeable on people with darker skin tones.
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.
As you go about treating acne, it's important to remember that all acne isn't the same. What works really well for one kind of pimple might not work at all for another. You want to use the type of acne treatment that targets your particular kind of acne. If you use the wrong treatment you might even make your breakouts worse. The first step in how to get rid of acne is understanding what kind of acne you have—read on to learn about blackheads, white heads, small red bumps, hormonal acne and cystic acne, and how to best treat each.
Both Avram and Tzu recommend looking for products with mark-fading hydroquinone. Ambi Fade Cream includes 2 percent hydroquinone, the highest concentration allowed without a prescription. “It also contains soy, which is well known for treating pigmentation issues, and vitamin E which helps with scarring,” says Tzu. While the FDA considers hydroquinone safe, it is banned in Europe and can potentially cause irritation or further discoloration, so remember to patch-test and check with a dermatologist whether it’s right for you.
Regular foundation can help smooth your skin and even out skin tone. Using the best foundation for acne prone skin can also provide much needed emotional boost from looking your best.. After cleansing and moisturizing, use a foundation designed for combination or oily skin to prevent acne. Make sure that it is labeled "non-acnegenic" and "non-comedogenic."
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.
I tried many different products from over-the-counter acne treatments to expensive prescription medications. Price ranged from $5 to over $100. I even have books on “How to Clear Acne in 24 Hours”, “How to Clear Pimples in a Week”, or even “How to Clear Break Outs through Hypnosis”. I was an acne treatment junkie! I would buy anything for a clear complexion.
Breakouts can come and go, but the scars they leave behind can linger for years (or more). You've probably been told, "Don't pop your pimples, or you'll end up with a mark." But recently, I learned that the most common acne scars have nothing to do with your tendency to squeeze zits. "Popping pimples doesn't cause scarring," Mark Karolak, D.O., a board-certified facial plastic surgeon at Reflections Center for Skin and Body, tells SELF. "If it's just a whitehead and blackhead on the surface, it can be popped without creating any scarring."
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.

The best way to fix them: This is where the classic zit treatments come into play. "Topical medications are the best way to treat a lesion like this," says Jennifer Chwalek, M.D., a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC. "Benzoyl peroxide-, salicylic acid-, or sulfur-based products can help to dry it up." She prefers salicylic acid over benzoyl peroxide for these, since the latter can cause irritation, dryness, and even post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (a.k.a. dark spots) in those with darker skin tones. Retinol works well for these, too.


Over-the-Counter Creams and Lotions. Retinoid creams or lotions can help clear your skin and also lessen wrinkles. Products made with sulfur can be good for the occasional spot treatment. Benzoyl peroxide is another acne fighter. Use benzoyl peroxide products only occasionally, because they can dry out your skin, Day says. You could also try a milder benzoyl peroxide product.
Ugh, I know. This is the first piece of advice every dermatologist, esthetician, and nutritionist has told me time and time again, yet I've resisted. I'm aware that dairy is known to cause inflammation and increased sebum production, but I just love cheese (and ice cream, and milk chocolate) so damn much, okay? Because I was at my most desperate, I decided to swallow my cravings and go dairy-free for a very doable three weeks. After just one week into the experiment, my cystic bumps died down significantly, and I cursed everyone for being right.
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.
Some skin advocates suggest foregoing this method. The pH of baking soda is 7.0, which is far too basic for skin's pH. Optimal skin pH occurs between 4.7 and 5.5, which is an inhospitable environment for p. acne (the bacteria responsible for causing most acne). By raising the pH to a more basic level, p. acne is able to survive longer and cause more infection and inflammation. So try this method with care, and stop using it if it's not effective for you.
There are many who recommend that those with acne-prone skin use non-comedogenic ingredients, that is, cosmetics designed to avoid clogging the pores. It’s best to use products that are labeled hypoallergenic and oil free, and some find that makeup products with salicylic acid help the skin remain clear. It’s also important to avoid applying layer upon layer of makeup.
Use a toner after cleansing. After you wash your face, exfoliate, or apply a face mask, apply a toner to the entirety of your face. Toners work to tighten pores making it less likely that dirt and oil will become trapped in them. Buy acne toners at a local drugstore, or use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar dabbed on with a cotton ball. Don’t rinse toners after application - allow them to stay on your skin.
Scars are varied and complex, and learning how to get rid of acne marks requires trial and error. There are a variety of ways to get rid of acne scars and each corner has a different proponent. However, before you go jumping on the bandwagon for the latest cure-all, we suggest breaking down the various treatments methods into their disparate parts.
Many theories about diet and acne abound; Anolik is most convinced by the ones surrounding sugar and dairy. “Dermatologists really didn’t believe in all the dietary restrictions for acne, but studies in the past ten years have convinced us a bit,” he says. “Dairy and high-glycemic foods do seem to play a part.” High-sugar diets are known to feed bacteria; any diet that increases overall inflammation in the body doubtlessly plays a part. Specific diets—from Ayurveda to low-carb to veganism—definitely work for some people.
"Put it this way: It is so common that pimples are meeting wrinkles," dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D., creator of Beauty Rx Skincare, tells SELF. "For the last 10 to 20 years, adult acne has been increasing. It can even go into your 50s, right to menopause." If you had acne as a teen, chances are, you've got oily skin that's prone to breakouts. But even if you didn't, it's still possible you'll end up with adult acne.
Since lemon juice has a pH of 2 and skin's pH is 4.0-7.0, this method needs to be used carefully. If left on too long, or not diluted this can lead to significant chemical burns. Citrus juices also contains a chemical called Bergapten, which binds to DNA and allows UV radiation to damage skin more easily, so you need to watch your sun exposure if you have any citrus juice on your skin. Rinse it off before going into the sun, and wear sunscreen.
If saving babysitting money for a year still won't make a dent in the funds you need to get a fancy laser treatment that will blast away acne scars, don't be discouraged. Thanks to the geniuses behind drugstore brands like La Roche-Posay, there's a new class of products that feature smart technology and better-than-ever ingredients to help treat dark marks and acne scars — at an affordable price. “La-Roche Posay’s Pigmentclar line is unique in the way it combines exfoliating lipohydroxy acid (LHA), phe-resorcinol, and ferulic acid, which are both strong brightening ingredients, all together to form a topical product that’s seriously effective," says dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara.
"Leafy green vegetables and other brightly-colored fruit and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and nutrients dampen inflammation and improve skin quality (studies have shown acne patients have higher oil production and lower antioxidant levels)," says Dr. Weiser. "Limit intake of dairy products, which can contain hormones and antibiotics that can worsen acne breakouts." Other skin-boosting superfoods include eggs, nuts, legumes, and quinoa.
Pimples are raised red spots with a white center that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected with bacteria. Blockages and inflammation that develop deep inside hair follicles produce cystlike lumps beneath the surface of your skin. Other pores in your skin, which are the openings of the sweat glands, aren't usually involved in acne.
×