Topical (external) applications: Antibacterial cleansers come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions that are applied to the affected area. The active ingredients that kill surface bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and resorcinol. Some brands promoted on the Internet and cable TV (such as ProActiv) are much more costly than identical and sometimes more potent products one can buy in the drugstore.
Unfortunately, sometimes our workout routines can have a negative effect on our skin and be a cause of acne. One of the top perpetrators of gym-related skin conditions is dirty workout equipment. Whether it’s a yoga mat, weights, or handle bars on a cardio machine, shared gym equipment is filled with bacteria and dirt. When this comes into the contact with the skin and sits on the surface, it can cause skin irritation. If you don’t shower immediately after working out, the mixture of sweat, body oils, and bacteria can remain heavy on the surface of your skin, settling back into your pores and causing the onset of pimples.
Acne scars take many different forms. You might see tiny pockmarks, a swollen keloid, or a discolored area on the skin. And just like the types of scars vary, there isn't a one-size-fits-all fix. Your dermatologist can use a combination of treatments including lasers, chemical peels, or fillers to minimize the spots. "Once there is scarring you can't get the skin back to the way it was before," says Dr. Karolak. "But we can get it to look significantly better, so that [clients] feel more comfortable in social environments."
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."
Photodynamic therapy is a new acne treatment. It begins with light microdermabrasion. This is used to remove dead skin cells on the face's surface. Then, an acid is put on the skin for 30 to 60 minutes. After this period, the acid is taken off. Lastly, the skin is treated with a laser. This treatment is still being researched, but seems to give positive long-term results.
You can find it in many drugstore products—just take a peek at the label. Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. likes the Benzac line. "It's active ingredients are salicylic acid and East Indian Sandalwood oil—salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that serves as a keratolytic agent (meaning it dissolves keratin). It unclogs pores by penetrating into the pore to dissolve dead skin cell accumulation and aids in shedding of the top layer of skin. East Indian sandalwood oil is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, which is new to the skin care scene. It soothes the skin and fights off inflammation that often accompanies breakouts."
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See Your Doctor If You Get Large, Deep Breakouts or Acne Cysts: While smaller blemishes can still scar the skin, it's the big guys that usually do the damage. Because they extend deeper into the skin, deep nodular breakouts or cystic breakouts are more likely to destroy skin tissue and leave scars. Over-the-counter acne products just won't help these types of breakouts. Get an appointment with a dermatologist. Quick, effective treatment can help lessen the chance of developing deep scars.


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.

Do not—we repeat, do not—even think about attempting to get this out yourself. "With deep zits, there’s no exit strategy, so if you’re pushing on it to try to get rid of it, it could actually leak sebum into the dermis and cause more lesions," explains Dr. Hale. Instead, this is the time to visit your dermatologist for a cortisone injection, which should take care of it in 24 hours. If you're sitting here wondering why doctors don't just shoot all of your zits up with cortisone, that's because that it can actually lead to scarring or even a depression in your skin, especially with smaller zits, says Dr. Chwalek. That's why cortisone shops reserved for the oversize monsters like these.
13. You're still a sun-worshipper. You're probably already aware that lying out in the sun and going to tanning beds cause skin cancer, but if that still hasn't stopped you from hitting the beach without sunscreen or the proper protective gear (aka that chic sun hat), perhaps this will. Contrary to popular belief, the sun isn't healing your acne, it's actually making it worse. What happens is, as your face gets red from the sun, it makes any breakouts you might already have blend in, creating the appearance of clearer skin. But what's really going on is the sun causing your skin to dry out and triggering more oil production, which can lead to more zits.

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.


9. You're not releasing pent-up stress properly. Stress triggers acne and acne results in more stress, so it's a very vicious cycle. Basically, when you're under pressure, your skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone that then increases oil production and clogs pores. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
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.

Don't Squeeze, Pop, or Pick at Pimples: Pass up the temptation to pick or squeeze a pimple. Doing so can force debris deeper into the dermis, spreading an infection to other tissue and worsening inflammation. This is especially true for deep, serious blemishes like nodules and cysts. Remind yourself that popping pimples can extend the healing time and ups the chance of it leaving a permanent scar. Allow the blemish to heal on its own. If you've already picked at a blemish, take steps to help heal it and minimize skin damage.
Some teens who have acne can get help from a doctor or dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin problems). A doctor may treat the acne with prescription medicines. Depending on the person's acne, this might mean using prescription creams that prevent pimples from forming, taking antibiotics to kill the bacteria that help create pimples, or if the acne is severe, taking stronger medicines such as isotretinoin, or even having minor surgery. Some girls find that birth control pills help to clear up their acne.
Back acne (sometimes called “bacne") is a potentially embarrassing and sometimes painful condition where clogged hair follicles on the back cause pimples and blackheads. Back acne can be caused by the same factors as other types of acne: diet, hormones, certain medications, genetics, or any combination thereof. But when you're considering how to get rid of back acne, also remember that most people have their back covered the majority of the day. The clothing we wear matters, and the way in which we wash the skin on our back are key for clear skin, the whole body over. Learn more about common back acne causes, the best acne products for your body, and how to prevent acne on the back from returning in this section.
Avoid creams with vitamin E. Creams with vitamin E may actually do more harm than good. Because it's a vitamin, we're tempted to think that it will be either beneficial or harmless. In fact, one University of Miami study reported that vitamin E treatment had no effect or worsened the appearance of scars in 90% of subjects, with improvement in only 10% of cases.[9]
"Acne scars are very challenging to treat and are even more challenging to treat once they've been given time to age," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska. Although he says the best option is prevention (but if you just can't resist popping your pimples, do it the doctor-approved way!), there are ways to treat acne scars to drastically reduce their appearance.
Sneaky everyday habits could secretly be doing a number on your skin. Even something as seemingly harmless as wearing over-the-ear headphones could be the culprit to breakouts around your temples and jawline. "This is especially the case when you wear them during and after a workout, or if you keep them on for long periods of time," says dermatologist Dr. Debra Luftman. "Sweat and moisture collect on and around the headphones, compressing the skin and therefore encouraging bacteria and yeast to multiply," she says. Gross, but true. Use an anti-bacterial wipe to quickly disinfect your headphones.
Zinc sulfate: This is one of the ultimate minerals for those wondering how to get rid of acne scars. Zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the swelling and redness of your bumps and blemishes. It also promotes faster wound healing, in addition to aiding vitamin A transportation throughout the bloodstream. Find it in your fruits and veggies or listed as an ingredient in a potent product.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that causes chronic inflammation (gastritis) of the inner lining of the stomach, and also is the most common cause of ulcers worldwide. About 50% of people in the world carries or is infected with H. pylori. Common symptoms of H. pylori infection are occasional abdominal discomfort, bloating, belching or burping, and nausea and vomiting. H. pylori infection is difficult to erdicate, and treatment is with two or more antibiotics.
This powerful, medicated cleanser delivers a luxuriously whipped texture and three percent sulfur to address acne and blemishes, draw out impurities, and target congested pores. Honey and rice bran extracts calm redness, while natural oat extract addresses excess sebum. With continued use, this gentle, yet effective daily cleanser leaves skin clearer with visibly minimized pores.
Some of us are more at risk for acne scars than others, although there is no way to say for sure who will develop scars after acne and who will not. These scars tend to occur more commonly after inflammatory acne, especially when it’s not treated early and aggressively. Other risks include picking squeezing or popping zits. (But whatever you do, never, ever pop a zit in the “danger triangle.”) Genetics can also play a role. “The earlier that acne gets treated, the better,” says Dr. Levine. “If somebody has active acne at 13 or 14, we want to jump on it.” Some scar resurfacing treatments also help keep acne at bay, she says. Dr. Imber adds that Youth Corridor RetinUltimate Transforming Gel applied twice daily can help treat active acne and prevent recurrence. Next, find out how to get rid of acne once and for all.
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.
Whether your acne has persisted since your teenage years or has appeared as a new skin problem in later life, consider seeing a dermatologist if you're looking for treatment options. A specialist can help you determine the factors which may be triggering your acne and can help you with prescription medications to help regulate hormones or treat your breakouts without drying or otherwise irritating your aging skin.
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).
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.
Try sipping spearmint tea. According to Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, dermatologist and founder of Epionce Skincare, having two cups a day could reduce acne by 25%! Dr. Levin explains this is because spearmint tea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and reduction in testosterone levels in some limited studies. "While it's unclear how it works, and it's important to note that there are no standardized studies, it is encouraging data that spearmint may have potential as a natural adjunct treatment for hormonal acne," she says.
Remove as much unhealthy stress from your life as possible. Doctors aren't completely sure why, but they do know that there is a link between stress and skin disorders, specifically stress and acne. Somehow, the cells that produce sebum, which is the stuff that ultimately causes acne, become unregulated when a person experiences a lot of stress.[6]
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. 
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