Many of us have suffered from some form of acne, and continue to do so through adulthood. There are many acne medications available, but many times people don’t want to take them because they have unpleasant side effects. Some medications prescribed by dermatologists are so strong they can only be taken for short periods of time, because prolonged use can damage the body.
Here are ten things you can do at home to reduce and clear up existing acne, and prevent future breakouts. You can consider this your acne prevention checklist. If you do everything on this list, give it a month or so, and your acne has not improved or cleared up, maybe you do need the dermatologist.
|Masks help reduce acne|
- Follow a proper acne-focused skin care regimen. I have discussed the importance of using the correct skin care regimen at home on numerous occasions. You need to cleanse, tone, and use an acne treatment product and a lightweight moisturizer twice a day. All products should be water based, non-irritant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and contain ingredients that help hydrate, exfoliate, soothe. You can also do a clay mask once a week to help absorb excess oil and dry up breakouts.
- Try some dietary changes. Many skin care professionals consider poor nutrition as being responsible for skin disorders such as acne. Eating foods that are fatty, contain too much sugar, too much gluten, and too much yeast can cause or worsen acne. Processed foods full of artificial sweeteners, fillers, binders, colors, and preservatives are also a problem. Dairy is also a prime culprit in causing and worsening acne conditions. Try reducing or eliminating some of these foods from your diet, and replace them with real, whole foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
- Drink enough water. Water helps the skin stay hydrated, which prevents overproduction of the oil glands, helps maintain the skin’s natural barrier layer which protects the body from invaders, and helps the skin naturally slough off dead skin cells. This prevents them from (along with excess oil and debris) accumulating in the pores and causing breakouts.
- Don’t pick at existing acne. I know it is tempting, but picking at blackheads and whiteheads will cause the bacteria to spread, which will just cause more acne. It can also damage the underlying tissue, and open up the skin, which can lead to infection and permanent scarring. Leave this to the professionals. Aestheticians use several techniques to prep the skin for extractions, and also know how to do them safely and effectively.
- Get regular acne facials. The purpose of the acne facial is to deeply cleanse the pores, soothe irritation, and dry up existing acne. This is achieved by means of ozone-infused steam, use of enzymes and gentle alpha- or beta hydroxy acids, some forms of electrotherapy (to loosen up, soften, and help remove debris, oil, and dead skin cells), manual extractions, and masks. A proper home care regimen will be prescribed, which you should follow religiously.
- Avoid products with irritant ingredients. Acne is an inflamed, bacterial infection. You do not want to put products that contain irritant, allergenic, or toxic ingredients onto already irritated skin. It will never heal, and could become permanently scarred.
- Reduce stress. Stress wreaks havoc on the entire immune system. Your skin is a huge part of that immune system. If it is weakened, infections (like acne) are more likely to occur.
- Take probiotics. Probiotics are healthy flora and bacteria that naturally exist in the body, and help the body perform its functions. Consuming foods that contain too much sugar or yeast kill these healthy bacteria. Antibiotics and other medications also kill these beneficial micro-organisms. Probiotics are found in yogurts, but yogurt is dairy, which can worsen acne. You can try a vegan yogurt, or take supplements. Taking a combination of lactobacillus acidophilus, and bifidus helps strengthen the body’s immune system and prevent infection. Ms. B suggests Florajen’s Florajen3 supplement, as well as Allicidin Complex by Premier Research Labs. [7/10/11 Edited to add: Keep in mind that probiotics generally will not work with dairy in your diet.}
- Change pillowcases often. This may seem like common sense, but many people do not change their pillow cases often enough. If you have acne, you should change them every day or two.
- Stop touching your face. Again, common sense, but I see people who have acne on their jawline, chin, and forehead who constantly hold their heads up, and then wonder why they have acne just on those areas. Think about it. Next time you catch yourself holding up your head, slap yourself on the wrist or something.
If you do everything on this list, give it a month or so, and your acne has not improved or cleared up, then maybe it's time to see the dermatologist.
[Edited to add 7/10/11: Even though I said maybe see a dermatologist in that last sentence, the more I learn about acne and its relation to diet, in addition to the results I have experienced firsthand by using the correct skin care products, the more convinced I am that acne can be treated effectively without the dermatologist. Many of the steroids and antibiotics as well as aggressive retinoids like tretinoin and isotretinoin a dermatologist will prescribe may treat the problem in the short term, but will cause other problems in the skin and the body in the long term. It is my opinion that drug therapy should be avoided in the majority of acne cases.
I also no longer recommend daily or regular exfoliation on acneic or otherwise inflamed skin. A cleanser containing enzymes is OK to use on a daily basis, but no scrubs, no microdermabrasion, and no strong acid peels.]