Most people find themselves suffering from an acne outbreak at some point, 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.
Method 1 of 3: Treating at Home
Wash your face twice daily with a pH balanced cleanser of 5&1/2.  The first step to getting clear skin is to set up a regimented cleansing routine to restore the skin’s acid mantle and thus discourage acne vulgaris growth. Buckle down and force yourself to wash your face with a pH balanced cleanser of 5.5  when you wake up in the morning and before going to bed at night. As tired or busy as you may be, taking the extra few minutes to cleanse your skin, this will reduce your acne significantly.
- If you have acne on other parts of your body such as your shoulders, back, and chest, give these areas a scrubbing twice daily as well.
- If you wear makeup, never go to bed without washing it all off. Sleeping with makeup on is a surefire way to increase your pimple-count and make getting rid of your acne even more difficult. Use an oil-free makeup remover prior to washing with your regular cleanser to make sure all traces have been removed.
- Wash your face using oils. Known as the Oil Cleansing Method(OCM), this is a popular method of cleansing in Asia, and is a growing trend. OCM is an alternative cleansing method that is gentler for skin, and of interest for sensitive skin types.
- Look into oils such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and emu oil.
Exfoliate your face. Exfoliates are mild scrubbing products that work to slough (to get rid of) off dead skin cells that build up and cause acne. Exfoliation can be chemical or physical.
- For a gentler approach, use a chemical exfoliator, an AHA or BHA at a pH between 3 and 4 to slough off skin. A chemical exfoliation unglues dead skin.
- A BHA product often cited includes salicylic acid, it must be between a pH between 3 and 4 to work. A BHA works to slough (to get rid of) off dead skin cells and encourage new skin growth. As a result, you may experience dry skin and scaliness around your acne, but this will dissipate over time as your skin begins to regenerate faster. Use this in a cleanser or spot treatment daily on the acne-affected areas of your skin.
- Aspirin tablets, which contain salicylic acid, a BHA can be ground up and mixed with water and then put on your zits to reduce redness and swelling.
- Rub a light layer of honey into your skin, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Honey has a variable pH from 3 to 6, but at a pH between 3 and 4, it contains AHA’s that will exfoliate skin.
- For physical exfoliation, consider purchasing a konjac sponge. It is gentle enough for usage upon your face.
- For physical exfoliation, consider using oatmeal as an exfoliate. Mix oatmeal with honey and rub it onto your face for 2-3 minutes, and gently rinse away the residue with warm water.
Apply essential oils to active pimples. Neem oil and tea tree oil are thought to have antimicrobial properties that can kill acne-causing bacteria. Dab a drop of diluted version of tea tree oil or neem oil on each spot, or wet a cotton swab and wipe it over problem areas. 
- Tea tree oil is an antibacterial agent that can help clear out the microbes clogging your skin. Avoid using undiluted tea tree oil — it’ll burn your skin, and worsen acne. Read the warning label on the bottle.
Use products with benzoyl peroxide. You can use benzoyl peroxide in the form of either a soap or lotion over your acne-prone areas. This product works to clean off dead skin and help your skin to regenerate new, clean cells faster. Look for products that contain 3% or less of benzoyl peroxide to avoid irritating your skin.
Use sulfur-containing clay masks. Although we don’t know exactly why sulfur works as a great acne-killer, we do know that it does work. Look for products that contain sulfur to clear up your acne, seemingly by reducing oil production.
Use a toner after cleansing. After you wash your face, exfoliate, or apply a face mask, apply a toner to the entirety of your face. Toners work to tighten pores making it less likely that dirt and oil will become trapped in them. Buy acne toners at a local drugstore, or use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar dabbed on with a cotton ball. Don’t rinse toners after application – allow them to stay on your skin.
Always apply a moisturizer. Oily skin produces acne, and if your skin is very dry your body will compensate by creating sebum. To prevent this from happening, use a gentle moisturizer after you wash your face every morning and evening. Apply moisturizer post toner application.
Use a retinoid. As a Retinoid is a prescription medication in the U.S., be cautious of the side affects before usage. Retinoid cleansers contain high levels of vitamin A, which help to clean out clogged pores and dissolve away grime. You can get a prescription for one from your doctor. Trademarked OTC retinoid-like products are ineffective.
Find products containing azelaic acid. Azelaic acid is an antibacterial that also helps to reduce redness and inflammation and is found naturally in wheat and barley. If your acne tends to leave dark marks on your skin, try a product that uses azelaic acid to clean your pores and reduce acne-produced dark spots.
Use a sheet or face mask. Sheet or Face masks contain compounds that soothe your skin and kill bacteria. Using a sheet or face mask 2-3 times a week for 15-20 minutes to dry out your skin and clean out your pores. Buy face masks from your local beauty supply or drugstore, or make your own at home.
- Create a blend of cucumbers and oatmeal. The cucumbers help to reduce redness and fight off dark spots while the oatmeal soften and soothes irritated skin. Blend the two together in a food processor until it forms a paste, and then apply it to your skin for 15-20 minutes before washing off with warm water.
Method 2 of 3: Treating at a Dermatologist’s or Spa
Get a facial. These are available at most spas, and involve the use of several different cleansers, masks, and extraction tools to reduce acne on your face. If you don’t feel comfortable with having an esthetician work on your face, visit your dermatologist for a more medically-oriented facial.
Get a facial peel. A facial peel is a specialized gel containing acid that dissolves dead skin and bacteria cells. Getting these on a regular basis can greatly reduce acne over time in addition to your regular skincare regimen.
Try microdermabrasion. This is a process by which your skin is “sanded” away to produce new skin growth. Getting microdermabrasion treatments once a week over several months is the most effective route to take, as each treatment only affects the outermost layer of skin.
Get a laser treatment. That’s right – use layers to kill off your acne. Many dermatologists now offer a treatment in which they use lasers to fire strong blasts of light to kill overactive oil-producing glands beneath your skin. This process can be painful, but has been shown to cut down acne 50% on average.
Try a light treatment. Unlike painful laser treatments, light treatments use milder pulses of light fired off by a specialized wand to help kill bacteria. Certain colors of light (including red, green, and blue) have shown to have a positive effect on killing acne. Ask your dermatologist if getting a light treatment is a good choice for you.
Use prescription drugs. Certain medications can be prescribed by your dermatologist to help with particularly bad cases of acne, but should be used with caution. As with all medications, there may be unwanted side-effects in a small portion of the population.
- Going on a specialized form of birth control (for women) can help to regulate hormones which may be producing your bad acne. Ask your dermatologist if this seems like a good option for you to take.
- In particularly troublesome cases of acne, a specialized drug known as accutane can be prescribed. This is an incredibly intense retinoid treatment that has shown to almost completely remove all acne in users. However, it has the most serious side-effects of any acne-fighting drug and should be used with extreme caution.
Method 3 of 3: Treating Acne with Lifestyle Changes
Exercise regularly. Exercising does a number of things to help reduce your acne. It releases endorphins which lower stress levels and therefore reduce oil-production, and also makes you sweat which cleans out dead skin cells. Try exercising on a daily basis for a minimum of thirty minutes to help reduce your acne not only on your face, but also on your chest, shoulders, and back.
Don’t touch your face. This is incredibly difficult, as people are prone to touching their faces on a regular basis. Be careful about scratching your face, resting your face on your hands, and picking at pimples. Never pop your zits or squeeze at pesky blackheads, as this only introduces more bacteria to your skin and will make your acne worse.
Shower often. Although you may want to keep your water bill down, showering regularly helps to keep oil production low, kill bacteria, and rinse away dead skin cells. Wash your entire body with a mild cleanser and use shampoos that limit oil production in your hair. Be sure to always shower after exercising to remove the dead skin cells your body has sloughed off through sweating.
Eat healthily. Foods that are highly processed and contain a lot of oils greatly increase the amount of acne on your body. Getting the proper amount of nutrients from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein help your skin to regenerate faster and limit unnecessary oil production. When at all possible, avoid foods that are processed or contain a lot of sugar (think junk foods).
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.
Drink lots of water. Although we’ve all heard to drink eight glasses of water a day, there isn’t a set amount on how much water you should consume. Water helps to detoxify your body and purify your skin, so make sure you drink water often throughout the day.
Relax your body and mind. High stress levels lead to increased sebum production, so do your mind and your skin a favor by giving yourself some time to relax. Try taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, or practicing yoga and watch your skin transform in response.
Wash your fabrics. Any fabric that comes into contact with your skin on a regular basis – clothes, towels, pillowcases, and sheets – should be washed at least once a week to remove oil and bacteria that build up over time. Use a gentle cleanser for sensitive skin to help solve your acne problem.
Use oil-free makeup. If you wear makeup, you may be stuck in a vicious cycle of covering up acne while simultaneously causing it with your cover-up usage. Find acne-fighting oil-free mineral makeup to help prevent worsening your acne while simply trying to hide it. Power foundations are also recommended. When possible, avoid wearing makeup at all though as it clogs your pores over the course of the day.
- Regularly clean makeup brushes to prevent bacterial growth.
- Wear sunscreen everyday and do not tan. Ultraviolet Radiation is the number one cause of premature aging. It also leads to Skin Cancer in high enough doses. Treat the sun like the death ray that it is. Exposing your skin to harmful UVA and UVB rays damages skin and prolongs post inflammatory erythema(PIE)–red acne marks, as the sunlight stimulates pigment-producing cells.
- Not only can the sun prolong PIE appearance, it can lead to premature aging including sun spots, fine lines and wrinkles. UV damage is DNA damage. Sunscreen is an anti-aging must for all ages young and old–preventing future skin cancer. It is the fountain of youth in a bottle. Prevention is better than treatment. Their is no such thing as safe tanning but their is sun damage.
- Therefore, it is very important that you wear sunscreen everyday, with an SPF of 30.Of note, after SPF 30, there are decreasing marginal returns in UVB protection. The % of UVB protection as a function of SPF Value is a log graph and plateaus after SPF 30. Therefore, there is not much difference in protection between SPF 40 and 50. Sunscreens with a SPF 100 are banned in some countries.
- For UVA protection, a sunscreen with a high UVA protection of PA+++ or higher of PA++++ as recommended, especially to treat PIE. PPD is the UVA equivalent of SPF; use a sunscreen with a minimum of PPD20. The PA+ system has a + that corresponds to a tier of PPD protection. Of note, different countries use different PA systems. Japan, and Taiwan changed their PA system to a 4+ tier system while Korea uses a 3+ tier system.
- When out in the sun for long periods of time, stick to the shade as much as possible and wear a wide-brimmed hat and light, long-sleeved clothing. Wear sunglasses, especially those that have less melanin in their eyes. Consider carrying a parasol. In Asia, they are a popular fashionable accessory.
- Avoid toothpaste, lemons, and baking soda. If used without care, some experiences suggest they may cause irritation or chemical burns on your face.
- Toothpaste, lemons, baking soda, and salt are touted as common convention to treat acne or improve appearance of discoloration but they will damage skin instead. Avoid using any of these ingredients.
- Avoid apricot scrubs and plastic microbeads as the former will cause microtears and the latter contributes to environmental pollution and bioaccumulation up the food chain.
- Apricot Scrubs are a cult product but the walnut shells are too sharp to exfoliate skin, and will cause microtears–contributing to photoaging.
- Plastic microbeads are in the process of being considered banned in several states as they pollute waterways and are swallowed by fish.
- Don’t use too many acne treatments at once; as, if one of them is successful, you won’t know which one it was. Instead, use single products at a time and work your way through different methods until you find one that sticks.
- Try to have patience. It might seem like the acne appeared overnight, but most treatments won’t disappear overnight. With persistence, though, you’ll eventually get clear skin.
- Practice smart marketing awareness of natural ingredients: You would not put naturally occurring mercury or poison ivy on your skin, so be cautious of ingredients that are marketed as “natural,” home remedies, or are trademarked. Natural does not equate to safe skin treatment! Do however use ingredients scientifically proven to treat skin.
- Wear sunscreen if you apply topical acne treatments like salicylic acid. These chemicals fight acne, but they also make your skin more sun-sensitive.
- If you are pregnant (and pregnant women often get acne) consult your doctor before using any over-the-counter product.
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