Acne is considered a beauty nightmare that is not exclusive to teenagers. It is among the most common of skin diseases that causes pimples, blackheads and whiteheads, as well as acne cysts in the most severe cases. Acne breakouts occur when hair follicles are trapped with a combination of bacteria, oil and dead skin cells. Your first instinct may be to find every topical medication possible to kill the acne. The problem is that this doesn’t always address the underlying problem, and using too many medications can actually worsen the problem. Properly treating and preventing acne requires patience along with smart skincare practices.
1. Gently Cleanse & Moisturize
When you have acne caused by oily skin, your first instinct may be to wash your face multiple times a day. However, it’s best to limit washing your face to just twice a day—over-washing even the oiliest of skin can cause more breakouts. You should also follow the twice-a-day cleansing rule if you have acne accompanied by sensitive or dry skin. Creamy or gel-based cleansers generally work best for breakouts because they wash away makeup, dirt and oil without irritating the skin. Avoid products with scrubbing beads that promise deep pore cleansing because these can make acne worse, and even lead to scarring. Choosing the right cleanser is more important and effective than scrubbing or over-washing.
It’s also important not to neglect moisturizers. The purpose of moisturizing your skin is to seal in water and to prevent over-drying. Blackheads, for example, partially form with dead skin cells that may be left over from excess dryness. Failure to moisturize your skin after cleansing can cause pores to produce more oil and lead to more acne. The key is choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type that will help prevent dryness, without causing breakouts. If you have oily skin, choose a lightweight moisturizer that is non-comedogenic. Sensitive and dry skin might require a heavier moisturizer, but make sure that the product doesn’t contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol and fragrances.
2. Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Options
Regular cleansing and proper moisturizing are both essential to keeping your skin healthy and preventing acne. However, breakouts often require medicated treatments. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the most common over-the-counter treatments available for acne. Salicylic acid containing cleansers and toners can help dry up preexisting acne without scarring. Benzoyl peroxide spot treatments help treat and prevent acne.
When over-the-counter treatments don’t work well enough, a prescription may be needed from a dermatologist. Prescription-strength acne treatments come in the form of topical ointments, as well as oral medications to treat and prevent severe breakouts. Keep in mind that most acne treatments make your skin sensitive to UV-rays, so limit sun exposure during the middle of the day and wear sunscreen before heading outdoors.
3. Lifestyle Remedies for Clear Skin
Lifestyle remedies are essential complements to skincare and acne products. While there is no link between food and acne, cooking greasy foods may clog your pores. Too many carbs that increase blood sugar can also cause spikes in oil production, leading to acne. Remember that no one single food item is responsible for breakouts. In teenagers and pregnant women, for example, acne is likely attributed to hormones rather than certain food choices.
Despite the fact that foods don’t directly cause acne, some research suggests that eating certain foods might decrease the risk of breakouts. Anti-inflammatory foods, such as avocadoes, grapes and salmon, may reduce swelling, which can be an aggravator of acne problems. According to the Huffington Post, nuts may help some acne sufferers who are deficient in selenium, iron, potassium and zinc. Overall, when in doubt, the key to preventing acne with a healthy diet is to choose whole, unprocessed foods.
When it comes to body acne, it may be tempting to hide behind layers of clothing. Still, you should stick with cotton materials and avoid tight clothing. Too tight of clothes, especially those made out of spandex and polyester, encourage further acne formation because the skin cannot breathe.
It’s also important to keep stress under control. While stress isn’t a direct cause of acne, being stressed can make breakouts worse. It’s difficult not to be stressed when suffering from a severe breakout, but staying calm can prove helpful while undergoing acne treatments. Exercise is a perfect de-stressing activity. Don’t be afraid to workout, as doing so actually helps regulates hormones that may contribute to acne.
Above all else, you should never pick or squeeze acne. Doing so can cause acne pimples to spread underneath the skin and up through surrounding pores. When you squeeze blackheads and whiteheads, you also risk enlarging the pore so that it can get clogged again. Picking any type of acne also increases the risk for scars.
When it comes to acne, the first course of action is to clear up existing breakouts with the right cleansers, moisturizers and medicated ointments. Smart skincare and lifestyle habits can prevent future acne problems, but don’t be afraid to talk to a dermatologist if you still suffer from breakouts.