Sometimes, your gynecologist can share insight into your acne, especially when it comes to deciding if birth control could help your breakouts. The FDA approves of Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Yaz to combat acne, but the trick is to be patient, as it can take up to four months to start seeing results. "This plan of attack works best when paired with whatever topical treatments you’re already using to treat your acne, like Proactiv, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, etc," advises dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
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.
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.
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.
In order to treat acne marks and scars, it's helpful to learn how to distinguish between the two. "What many people don’t realize is that a dark or pink mark on the skin is not actually an acne scar. Inflammation in the skin often leaves behind a stain as part of the natural healing process. The inflammation revs up pigment production, creating the mark that fades on its own over several weeks to months," says dermatologist and 2018 Acne Awards judge Dr. Joshua Zeichner. Unlike scars, these are smooth to the touch (AKA, not raised or indented), and signify that there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin.
Oral contraceptives: Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which are low in estrogen to promote safety, have little effect on acne one way or the other. Some contraceptive pills have been shown to have modest effectiveness in treating acne. Those that have been U.S. FDA approved for treating acne are Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz. Most dermatologists work together with primary care physicians or gynecologists when recommending these medications.
Blackheads are, essentially, open comedones. "Comedone refers to plugging of the follicular opening," explains NYC dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, M.D., referring to hair follicles that technically cover your entire face and body (hi, peach fuzz). "Every hair follicle appears in a sebaceous gland." So a blackhead is the mixture of dead cells, bacteria, and grime that builds up and hardens in the follicular opening—but it's open to the world, which is why blackheads are so easy (read: tempting) to push out.
Treat Acne As Soon As It Develops: The best thing you can do is get acne under control as soon as possible. Begin treating it right away, and see your doctor immediately if your acne isn't getting any better with over-the-counter acne treatments. Quick treatment helps to keep breakouts to a minimum and prevents acne from developing into a more severe form. Prevent pimples and you'll prevent scarring.
Rhinophyma is a consequence of non-treated and sometimes retreatment-resistant rosacea due to granulomatous infiltration of the skin within the nose. If severe, the nose will be severely enlarged. It is characterized by enlarged pores and thickened skin. Papules on the nose and related rosacea in the surrounding areas of the face are often observed. It is more common in men.
We've all heard the foods that allegedly cause acne—chocolate, fried foods, pizza, caffeine, nuts. But Dr. Schultz reminds us that in large, statistically significant studies, these have not been proven to cause zits, but there are always exceptions. "If you break out when you eat chocolate, don't eat chocolate." Same with dairy, which again, has been shown in some cases to have an effect but no concrete cause-and-effect relationship exists.
Get at least eight hours of sleep. Sleeping kills two birds with one stone, as it helps to relax your body as well as detoxify it. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, chances are your skin hasn’t had the time or ability to renew its skin cells. Regulate your sleep cycle by going to bed at a consistent time every night and sleeping for a minimum of eight hours at least.
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.
Bacteria. Excess sebum clogs the openings to hair follicles -- especially those on the face, neck, chest, and back. Bacteria grow in these clogged follicles. This makes blackheads or whiteheads, also known as ''comedones,'' form on the skin's surface. Sometimes, this clogging causes the follicle wall to break under the pressure of this buildup. When this happens, sebum leaks into nearby tissues and forms a pustule or a papule -- this is called inflammatory acne. Larger, tender pustules are called nodules.
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.
So if popping pimples doesn't cause scarring, what does? Long-lasting scars typically turn up after a recurring bout with cystic acne. Cystic acne is a breakout that burrows deep into the skin. These red, painful nodules occur when clogged pores are filled with pus and bacteria, which causes inflammation. Cystic breakouts are often tied to an internal fluctuation of hormones like testosterone (that's why they're common during puberty, monthly menstruation, and perimenopause). "If there is a cyst in the skin, it's going to cause a scar the longer it sits there because pus or bacteria deeper inside the pores cause surrounding inflammation," says Dr. Karolak. And as a result, the inflammation affects the collagen production as well as the fat stores under the skin, creating a visible scar on the surface.
Treatments like radiofrequency microneedling, lasers, and fillers can be effective to treat acne scars, but they can run you hundreds of dollars per treatment. And Hellman says you'll need six to eight treatments and a good amount of time before seeing results. "The process takes a good part of a year," she says. (Her office does offer some package options to help offset some of the cost.)
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.
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.
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.
5. You're scrubbing your skin too hard. A lot of people with acne think that the more you scrub your skin with a washcloth, rough exfoliants (like crushed apricot seeds), or cleansing brushes, the smoother your skin will be, but in reality, the problem will only inevitably get worse. What happens when you do that is you scrub the active acne and the blemish bacteria gets spread across the skin, worsening the condition.
A healthy diet can only prevent 90% of your acne. The other 10% of your acne has to do with external factors. External factors are cleanser, cream, lotion and moisturizer that you apply to your face. During the course of my acne treatment with my doctor, 4 main ingredients appeared on all my topical prescriptions. You should look for these ingredients in your external acne treatment products. They are as follows:
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.
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.
Dermarolling: Those little needle rollers you've been seeing all over social media? Turns out, they're good for more than just a cute Instagram video. "Microneedling works by creating a small 'injury' to the skin, which in turn can increase collagen and elastin production, improving scars and fine wrinkles and reducing hyperpigmentation," explains dermatologist and founder of Curology, David Lortscher, MD. Use the microneedler a few times a week as a part of your nighttime routine after cleansing and before toning. "It’s particularly important to pay attention to sterility, and remember that overdoing can damage the skin and incite inflammation, so proceed with caution if you are considering home treatments. Consider a consultation with a dermatologist to explore in-office options," says Dr. Lortscher.
16. Know this quick fix. If you wake up the day before school starts with a big honking zit, your doc may be able to help. If you can swing it, your best bet is to head to the dermatologist. "There is an almost immediate fix, and that's an injection with a dilute strength of cortisone done by your dermatologist," says Dr. Robin Evans, a dermatologist at SoCo Dermatology in Connecticut. "It's quick and easy, with minimal discomfort, and it usually goes down within a day." This isn't an easy or cheap option, obvi, but when it's an emergency — like, you have a huge whitehead on the tip of your nose the day before senior portraits — it might be worth it.
"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.
Unfortunately, if you have a scar on the skin then it will for lifelong but the good news is that you can reduce its size, color and appearance on the skin by lightening them up to the point of undetectable. In general, there are 5 types of acne scars like an ice pick, boxcar, rolling, hyperpigmentation, and keloid scars. So, consult your dermatologist for proper treatment.
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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.
There are a number of mild chemical peels available over the counter, but acne scar removal requires a stronger peel typically administered by a doctor or dermatologist. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels are slightly stronger than alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels and may be used for acne scar treatment. The strongest type, phenol peels, may cause significant swelling and require up to two weeks of recovery time at home. Neither are recommended for people with active severe acne.
6. You're a make out bandit and your boyfriend has a beard. Sure, some dudes look hot with a beard (i.e. Ryan Gosling in The Notebook) or even a five o'clock shadow, but your BF's facial hair isn't doing your pretty face any favors when it comes to breakouts. So what gives? Well, as you and your guy hook up, your smooth face rubs against his hairy one, creating friction, which causes his prickly hair to stimulate oil production on your face, causing blemishes and even beard burn. (Tip via Jeanine Downie, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey.)
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Comedo (whiteheads or blackheads) or papules. The comedo is the basic acne lesion, which is a plugged pore. If the plugged pore stays under the skin, it's called a closed comedo and forms a white bump or whitehead. Blackheads are comedos that open up and appear blackish on the surface of the skin. This black color is not due to dirt, but because the air reacts with the excess oil.
Acne treatment that you apply to the skin: Most acne treatments are applied to the skin. Your dermatologist may call this topical treatment. There are many topical acne treatments. Some topicals help kill the bacteria. Others work on reducing the oil. The topical medicine may contain a retinoid, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid. Your dermatologist will determine what you need.
Isotretinoin: Accutane was the original brand name; there are now several generic versions in common use, including Sotret, Claravis, and Amnesteem. Isotretinoin is an excellent treatment for severe, scarring, persistent acne and has been used on millions of patients since it was introduced in Europe in 1971 and in the U.S. in 1982. It should be used for people with severe acne, chiefly of the cystic variety, that has been unresponsive to conventional therapies like those listed above. If taken in sufficient dosage, it should eliminate the need to continue the use of prescription drugs in most patients. The drug has many potential serious side effects and requires a number of unique controls before it is prescribed. This means that isotretinoin is not a good choice for people whose acne is not that severe but who are frustrated and want "something that will knock acne out once and for all." In order to use the drug, the prescribing physician, the patient, and the supplying pharmacy must be enrolled in the online "iPLEDGE PROGRAM." Used properly, isotretinoin is safe and produces few side effects beyond dry lips and occasional muscle aches. This drug is prescribed for five to six months at a dosage that has a high likelihood of preventing the return of acne. Fasting blood tests are monitored monthly to check liver function and the level of triglycerides, substances related to cholesterol, which often rise a bit during treatment but rarely to the point at which treatment has to be modified or stopped.