Over-the-counter retinol or vitamin A can also help. Anolik says retinols can be incredibly effective, especially higher-strength prescription retinoids: “They’re the gold standard in acne and aging treatments.” The prescription versions, from Tazorac to Differin, are usually covered by insurance in the case of acne. Vitamin C can also treat pores and exfoliate; Tammy Fender’s System ($165, tammyfender.com) comes with a vitamin C toner.
For women who break out mainly around their menstrual cycle, some birth control pills can help. Research shows that these pills can clear acne by slowing down overactive oil glands in the skin. Sometimes, birth control pills are used along with a drug called spironolactone to treat acne in adult females. This medication lowers levels of the hormone androgen in the body. Androgen stimulates the skin's oil glands. Side effects of this drug include irregular menstruation, breast tenderness, headache and fatigue. Spironolactone is not appropriate therapy for all patients.
Rena Levi is known for her sensitivity towards clients with severe acne and problem skin. In 1968 she moved from Israel to the U.S. and studied with Christine Valmy at the European Esthetic Skincare Institute. In 1975, she opened the Rena Levi Skin Care Salon in New York City. In 1980, she moved to Albuquerque, NM, where she managed the skin care center for Eleganza Salon and further developed and refined her practice. It was there that she became well known for her ability to treat what many considered impossible skin, while also teaching budding estheticians and skin practitioners at the same time, including the then-president of the New Mexico Board of Cosmetology. Here, Levi shares with us one of her most popular facial protocol treatments for treating clients with moderate to severe acne.
As mentioned above, genetics are thought to play a major role in your susceptibility to acne. However, using the best acne products and taking good care of your skin can help you prevent worsening acne and scars later in life. Check out these other known acne causes and aggravators and see how to prevent acne by cutting some of these out of your life:
Scarring from severe cystic acne can have harmful effects on a person's self esteem, happiness and mental health. Thankfully, there are many different acne scar treatment options available, ranging from chemical peels and skin fillers to dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these are all safe and effective acne scar treatment methods. However, Baldwin says it's important to first clarify what you mean by 'scar.' “Many people point to red or brown spots leftover from old zits and call them scars," she says. “These are marks, not scars and they'll fade with time. Scars have textural changes and are not flush with the surface of the skin. There are several types of acne scars – innies and outies. Outies can be injected with corticosteroids and flattened. Innies can be either deep and narrow or broad, sloping and relatively shallow. Deep and narrow scars need to be cut out, but broader sloping scars can be made better by fillers, laser resurfacing and dermabrasion."

Sometimes it seems like pimples sprout up overnight, but the process of pimple formation is a bit more complex. So what are the most common causes of pimples? A variety of factors can result in an acne blemish. Pimples can develop on anyone at any age, but tend to be most common amongst teens. Why do teenagers get the brunt of breakouts? Hormone fluctuations. When hormone levels increase, the sebaceous glands found within the skin’s hair follicles produce an excess of sebum. Sebum is a waxy substance that the body produce to keep the skin soft and moisturized. However, when hormonal changes cause an increase in sebum production, the pores can become clogged. This sticky substance can collect dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria, forming a plug in the follicle. Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and pustules all begin the same way. Preventing pimples means discovering the reasons you’re breaking out and doing all you can to combat these factors. There is no single answer to the age old question of how to get rid of pimples.


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.
To get rid of acne scars fast, apply diluted lemon juice to your scars so they lighten up and aren't as noticeable. You can also make a paste with 1 part baking soda and 2 parts water and use it to exfoliate your face, which can reduce the appearance of acne scars. For more stubborn acne scars, apply an over-the-counter cortisone cream to the scars to help them heal faster.
Isotretinoin (previously known as Accutane) is the most effective form of acne therapy and the only one that can actually result in a cure for your acne. After finishing a course 80% of people never see acne again. It works so well because it unclogs pores, kills bacteria, reduces oil production and reduces inflammation. It is taken as a daily pill. Isotretinoin has numerous rare and potential side effects that has made it a controversial choice, but for patients with severe acne there is often no other option. Patients taking isotretinoin must also be on highly effective birth control as the drug can cause birth defects. Isotretinoin can only be taken under close medical supervision.

You may have been told that what you eat affects your skin and that it can be the cause of pimples and outbreaks, but the debate about diet playing a role in acne frequency still rages on. Many dermatologists will vehemently dismiss the claims that food and acne are linked, as so much of the research surrounding this aspect of skin care has been inconclusive. Studies either yielded weak results, or were flawed with too few subjects or lack of control groups. 

This lightweight, all-over acne treatment clears acne with two percent salicylic acid—the highest percentage allowed. It also contains retinol, which helps smooth the look of skin texture and even the look of skin tone while a blend of soothing ingredients helps balance the skin’s microbiome. This hydrating formula also contains sodium PCA and sodium hyaluronate, which moisturize skin and help offset dryness that could be caused by salicylic acid and/or retinol.

“After sweating, immediately use an exfoliating cleanser to help keep your pores clear and remove excess oil,” says Dr. Zein Obagi of ZO Skin Health. Try keeping Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads in your gym bag or locker for those times you need an on-the-go cleanse. These will remove any leftover dirt while treating your skin with acne-fighting salicylic acid.


Glycolic Acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid and an exfoliating ingredient that targets both acne and wrinkles at the same time. "The same way it helps acne, it helps wrinkles—by removing dead cells on surface. If you have effective exfoliation, you're stimulating collagen and hyaluronic acid," Dr. Schultz explains. This will help improve skin's texture and reduce fine lines and wrinkles while also clearing up breakouts.
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.
Because I'm constantly testing out new products, I don't often end up with "empties" (as in, products so good you've emptied out the bottle). However, I loved Sunday Riley's Good Genes so much I literally twisted the pump off and stuck my finger in it to try and get every last bit. The magic potion's main ingredient is lactic acid, which exfoliates away dead skin cells — key for clearing pores, fading scars, and revealing fresh skin on the surface.
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.
A benzoyl peroxide cream (2.5 percent strength) is a good choice for adolescents experiencing red or inflamed breakouts that aren't getting better with medicated cleansers. Benzoyl peroxide is a very common and inexpensive acne treatment cream that can be found over-the-counter in the skin care aisle. Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause pimples and is highly successful in treating mild cases of acne.

Another study focused in on dairy. In 2005, an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology took on milk and milk products. By examining the diets of 47,355 women, researchers observed a significant connection between milk and dairy intake and breakouts. Some researchers believe this is caused by high levels of hormones found in our milk products. Much of the milk consumed is produced by pregnant cows, who pump out progesterone, IGF-1, and other compounds that are then passed into the milk. We may also be subject to Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). These hormones can signal the oil glands to start producing more sebum, which can affect acne. Unfortunately, switching to organic milk doesn’t seem to make a difference, and neither do skim milk options. In fact, skim milk has been observed to worsen the skin, which researches have attributed to lower levels of estrogen and different processing activities. Milk is also known to contain a number of vitamins, some good and some not so beneficial to your skin. Research has shown a correlation between acne and vitamin A in milk. 
You’re a typical hormonal-acne patient if, well past puberty, you’re breaking out around your period, usually in the jawline area, says Anolik. A consistent routine is key—as is enduring a waiting period of two to three months for said routine to work, he continues: “Even powerful prescription treatments can take a few months to really clear things up, and that’s our biggest challenge. People who get frustrated and don’t stick to their treatments get stuck in a cycle of trying and quitting too early, and feeling like nothing works.”
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.
The SUPERMUD® Clearing Treatment was developed to address common skin concerns, which include blemishes, redness, scars, razor bumps, and in-grown hair. The potent mud formula supports skin’s natural oil balance, while a proprietary blend of six acids (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, pyruvic acid, and tartaric acid) works to help minimize pores and create clearer skin. Activated-X charcoal lifts away dirt and other skin congestions, resulting in a refined, healthy-looking complexion.

While you’re waiting on all those active ingredients to kick in, Tzu says it’s best to use “makeup or foundation with a green tint to neutralize the redness.” She likes the Clinique Redness Solutions line, designed to color-correct red marks or spots. While this foundation includes SPF, it’s still best to layer over a dedicated sunscreen for maximum protection.


A U.K. survey found that on average single men only change their sheets four times a year. And while we certainly hope you are swapping out your linens much more frequently, dirty pillowcases can lead to clogged pores. Nasty as is sounds, bacteria can build up on your bed and your face rubs around on it for a good eight hours a night. Well, that just can’t be good. If your skin is oily, change those sheets (or at least your pillowcases) twice a week. It might be a pain, but isn’t a clear complexion worth it?
A recent study has found a difference between strains of acne bacteria, which could have a significant impact on acne treatment down the road. This study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that these strains play a role in the severity and frequency of developing pimples. One particular strain of P. acnes was found among study participants that exhibited few symptoms of acne. Researchers came to the conclusion that this “good” strain of bacteria features a natural defense mechanism that fights back bacteria which might infect the cell. Researchers are hopeful that this discovery will help dermatologists better and more accurately prescribe effective acne treatment in the future, and reduce the severity of acne by ridding the skin of bad acne bacteria while preserving the good. 

Laser resurfacing involves directing concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin. This procedure may be used to reduce wrinkles, blemished, or acne scars. There are two types of lasers commonly used in laser resurfacing: carbon dioxide and erbium. Treated areas heal in 10-21 days. Possible complications include milia, hyperpigmentation, and swelling.
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