The best way to fix them: Since they're more closely related to bacteria than your hormones or a lack of exfoliation, papular pustules require a different plan of attack entirely. "Inflammatory acne types really respond to antibiotics, either topical or systemic," says Dr. Hale. These, of course, require a trip to your dermatologist. To tide you over, you could also try applying hydrocortisone cream, which temporarily takes down redness and swelling. But in the long run, it won't do much to make these disappear completely or keep them from popping up again.
While over-the-counter products don’t treat the hormonal component of acne, salicylic acid—a.k.a. willow bark, a.k.a. what aspirin is made of—addresses all other aspects involved in a breakout. “It works,” says Anolik, who recommends using salicylic acid-based products in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide preparations that target acne bacteria with greater strength. Benzoyl peroxide can definitely cause dryness and irritation; if you decide not to use it, know that you’ve got to be even more vigilant about the bacteria on your skin, so cleanse and treat more often. Tea-tree oil preparations like Tammy Fender’s Clarifying Dermagel ($72, goop.com) help. Burt’s Bees Natural Solutions Acne Spot Treatment ($10, burtsbees.com) combines tea tree and salicylic acid for powerful (yet easy on skin) results.
2. You're OD'ing on spot treatments. Overusing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil and possibly blemishes. Those ingredients can actually make the appearance of your pimples look worse, since the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin if used too often, making the pimple appear even redder and harder to conceal than if you had just left it alone. (Tip via Samantha Wright, a licensed aesthetician and Skinovator at the Dangene Institute.)
Most people find themselves suffering from an acne outbreak at some point usually during their adolescence when they go through puberty. Whether it's due to hormones or stress. Contrary to popular belief, pimples don't necessarily mean your skin is dirty or unclean — in fact, over-cleansing can irritate your skin even more. However, hormones aren't uncontrollable, and there are simple changes you can make to eliminate your breakouts. You can have your glowing, healthy, and pimple-free skin back in no time.
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.
Laser treatment may cause some discomfort. While most patients are able to endure the procedure, ice packs and topical anesthetic cream can help alleviate the discomfort. Multiple treatments are typically necessary, and most insurances do not cover the procedure. Doctors recommend treatments in three- to six-week intervals; during this time, sun avoidance is necessary. Review risk, benefits, and alternatives with a physician prior to treatment. Combine laser treatments with photodynamic therapy (light-activated chemical using Levulan) for more noticeable results.
"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.
Whether you’re 47 or 17, male or female, whether your breakouts are once a month or multiple times a week, the reason everyday, noncystic acne comes back and back is frustratingly simple: Human error. The minute a breakout clears, suddenly, you’re a person with clear skin—one who no longer needs to be quite so vigilant with their skincare routine. But the only way to keep skin blemish-free on any sort of long-term basis is to constantly treat it as an active, broken-out complexion. The right products make a serious difference, but the key is unwavering consistency.
What you can do differently: Wipe your face, chest, and back down before you work out with facial wipes, like Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, to remove your makeup. Then, if you don't have time to shower immediately after the gym, use another fresh facial wipe to clear away any sweat and bacteria on your skin to minimize the chance of new pimples popping up.
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.
There are several low-level light devices designed as at-home acne remedies on the market — but do they really work? Some, like the Zeno electronic "zit-zapper" are FDA-approved as acne remedies, but reviews with these products are typically mixed. Even the best acne treatment won't work for everyone, as the severity of the acne, types of acne and quality of the device are all factors. Ask your dermatologist for a recommendation if you're considering purchasing an at-home light device to treat your acne.
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).
90. If you’re going to pop a pimple at home, do it the right way. Sterilize your hands and a small needle with rubbing alcohol, then gently puncture the whitehead of the pimple, just enough to break the skin. Using a clean cotton swab, press on either side of the pimple until it’s drained. Cover with a bandage to keep the area clean while it’s healing.
It is a myth that women get acne because they don't wash enough. Too much washing or scrubbing the skin harshly can make acne worse. And washing away surface oils doesn't do much to prevent or cure acne, because it forms under the skin. The best way to clean the face is to gently wash it twice a day with a mild soap or cleanser. Be careful to remove make-up without harsh scrubbing.
The redness in rosacea, often aggravated by flushing, may cause small blood vessels in the face to enlarge (dilate) permanently and become more visible through the skin, appearing like tiny red lines (called telangiectasias). Continual or repeated episodes of flushing and blushing may promote inflammation, causing small red bumps, or papules, that often resemble teenage acne. Acne rosacea and adult acne are other names for rosacea. One of the most unpleasant aspects of rosacea is the overgrowth of dermal tissues producing a "phymatous" change in the skin. This appears as a thickening and permanent swelling of the facial tissues. A bulbous nose called rhinophyma is an example of this change.
If you have body acne, taking a shower as soon as possible after working out is also key. It turns out that standing around in tight, sweaty workout clothes puts you at the greatest risk for body acne and rashes. “The whole idea is that the bacteria that live on the skin can get trapped in the hair follicles and cause inflammation,” says dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale. “The more you work out in the heat the more likely this is.” Dr. Levin agrees that showering right after a workout is your best defense against body acne. But in a pinch, body wipes like the Yuni Shower Sheets will do the trick.
Those big, painful zits will leave a scar if you pick and prod at them—"the only way to reduce it quickly is to drain it, and that's not a DIY deal," Dr. Schultz warns. The reason they're painful is because quick expansion stretches the nerves. "Drinking good red wine is often helpful [to numb the pain]," he jokes. Take Advil, apply a warm or cold compress (whichever feels better to you), and go see your derm. "Cortisone shots are the true 'spot treatments' for painful cystic acne lesions," Dr. Tzu says.
Birth controls can affect hormone levels, and some women may be finding that their birth control is causing acne due to increases in sebum production. This rise in sebum can affect the skin, clogging up pores and leading to acne. According to The Huffington Post, birth control pills that contain androgen-based progestin have been indicated as the most likely offender.
Moderation and regularity are good things, but not everyone can sleep eight hours, eat three healthy meals per day, and drink plenty of water a day. Probably the most useful lifestyle changes one can make is to never to pick or squeeze pimples. Playing with or popping pimples, no matter how careful and clean one is, nearly always makes bumps stay redder and bumpier longer. People often refer to redness as "scarring," but fortunately, it usually isn't permanent. It's just a mark that takes months to fade if left entirely alone.