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.
Many people use beaten egg whites as a facial acne mask. The mask is applied to the face for about 15 minutes, then it is washed off and the skin is GENTLY patted dry with a soft cloth. Eggs have potent healing properties (due to the protein contained within) which makes this a great method for healing and clearing away acne. This is by no means an overnight acne cure, so don't get upset when you find out you have to use this technique for a matter of weeks before the effects begin to show.
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.
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.
Spot treatments are key for treating a pimple ASAP. Benzoyl peroxide is often vilified for being harsh, but when it comes to really zapping a zit, it should be your best friend. Just dab it on the trouble spot to dry it out and kill bacteria. For heavy-duty action, try Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel; for something gentler, we like Arithmetic Acne Control Complex, which has soothing ingredients to counter the drying effects and is made with adult skin in mind.
Although acne remains largely a curse of adolescence, about 20% of all cases occur in adults. Acne commonly starts during puberty between the ages of 10 and 13 and tends to be worse in people with oily skin. Teenage acne usually lasts for five to 10 years, normally going away during the early 20s. It occurs in both sexes, although teenage boys tend to have the most severe cases. Women are more likely than men to have mild to moderate forms into their 30s and beyond.
Cysts, which are also called blind pimples, are the very worst kind of acne. Basically, cysts are made up of sebaceous content (again, a gross combination of oil, dirt, and bacteria) that's trapped beneath the skin and has no way out—so they just live and grow under the skin, causing both a bump and, in some cases, pain. "These take longer to resolve on their own, are less responsive to topical treatments, and over time may lead to scarring," says Dr. Chwalek. Um, no thanks.
Lasers. Your dermatologist can use a laser to remove the outer layer of your skin, contour areas of acne scars, or lighten redness around healed acne lesions. Various types of lasers are used, depending on whether the acne scar is raised or flat. More than one laser treatment may be required and, depending on the laser used, you may need to several days to heal.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not an acne scar, but a red, pink, brown or tan skin discoloration where acne has previously flared up. It will usually disappear on its own in a year or so. Many skin lightening products claim to help reduce the visibility of these acne “scars." Their active ingredient, hydroquinone, works to slow melanin production and can reduce dark brown marks, but melanin isn't the cause of red and pink acne discolorations. A better option is to use the best foundation for acne prone skin you can find to hide the marks until they naturally fade away.
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.
I couldn't just let the worst breakout ever live on without a visit to the dermatologist, so I went to BeautyRx founder Dr. Neal Schultz. He gave me this incredible "Z Stick" spot treatment that contains mild cortisone (the same substance derms use to inject pimples to make them die down in 24 to 48 hours), and Clindamycin, an antibiotic. I applied this every morning and evening to all my spots and it acted like an extra layer of armor against further inflammation. Sadly, it's prescription-only and/or only available through Dr. Schultz's practice in New York—but he's working on making one for consumers.
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).
Avoid getting sunburned. Many medicines used to treat acne can make you more prone to sunburn. Many people think that the sun helps acne, because the redness from sunburn may make acne lesions less visible. But, too much sun can also increase your risk of skin cancer and early aging of the skin. When you're going to be outside, use sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Also, try to stay in the shade as much as you can.
If you really must do something about your pimple beyond washing your face and spot treating, ice or a cold compress can help reduce swelling. Wrap an ice cube or the compress in a soft tissue or cloth and apply it to your zit for 20-30 seconds at a time, a few times a day. In case of an emergency (like, prom), you can also see a dermatologist for a cortisone injection, which can help shrink the cyst down quickly in a day or two.
You’ll also learn how to prepare for your treatment. We’ll give you products to apply before your procedure to prime your skin and avoid pigmentation. You’ll also receive information on pain medication and the downtime you’ll need as you recover. If you decide to take time off work, you can schedule your procedures before a weekend or take a few days off.
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.