Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

How to Get Rid of Acne Blemishes

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Whiteheads and blackheads  are an unfortunate reality for most of us. They mark our otherwise beautiful complexions and cause great self-consciousness, especially for teens.

Acne is a more serious condition (more so than your average zit) that can leave long-term scarring and discoloration. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

However, there are remedies you can use to fade existing acne scars and prevent future ones. Phew 🤗. While there are topical treatments and complete acne systems you should consider, there are also some small lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

This article discusses how to get rid of acne scars safely, and how to prevent future acne breakouts. We discuss systematic skincare routines, modern light treatments, and which foods and products to avoid.

What Causes Acne?

Hormonal changes during adolescence, the menstrual cycle, or pregnancy are often the underlying cause of acne. But what happens at a microscopic level when a zit forms? Here goes:

Every pore in the skin is located on top of a follicle containing sebaceous glands. These tiny glands produce sebum, the skin’s lubricating oil that keeps the skin from becoming tight and wrinkly. Sebum also carries dead skin cells up to the surface, creating a mix of dead cells and oil. This combination, along with bacteria, waits to emerge at the opening of the pore. These bacteria in small numbers actually help maintain the health of the pore, by breaking down sticky sebum into less viscous fatty acids. When the opening of the pore is clear, this mixture is free to flow.

However, the dead cells can sometimes clump together and clog the pore, triggering inflammation, and sparking the nervous system to respond to stress hormones. One way the skin deals with stress is by creating even more sebum. The combination of clumped skin cells and extra sebum can clog the pore, sealing acne bacteria inside.

Why Do We Get Dark Spots And Discoloration?

Our skin naturally heals acne as a response to the trauma caused. However, when the body heals an acne spot, it tends to send a large amount of melanin (the pigment that gives us color) to the site of the zit. The antioxidants in melanin put the brakes on inflammation induced by the immune system, healing acne faster. However, this cluster of melanin leads to red, purple, brown, or black spots. While everyone’s skin contains melanin, black, Asian, and Hispanic people have more melanin, meaning they tend to get darker, more prominent hyperpigmentation after acne clears.

Here’s how to treat acne and help fade acne scarring and dark spots:

1. Cleanse And Exfoliate To Maintain Clean Skin, But Be Smart About It.

A skin-friendly cleanser should be a part of everyone’s daily skincare routine, whether they have acne or perfectly clear skin. However, the purpose of cleansing your skin is not to get rid of acne. You can’t rub, scrub, or wash your pimples away, unfortunately.

The purpose of cleansing is to simply keep dead skin from building up in pores and forming clumps that trap acne bacteria and oil beneath them.

Cleansers can also act as a gentle exfoliant to remove hardened oils. However, make sure to check with your doctor before you use a medicated cleanser that contains alpha-hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur as chemical exfoliants, as these can be irritating and harmful. Beta-hydroxy acids, particularly salicylic acid, are OK.

When it comes to tools, stick to a soft washcloth or simply your hands. Don’t use rough washcloths, alcohol-soaked pads, or sponges on your face as these can cause irritation that increases the production of oil, creating new acne.

2. Avoid Processed Food.

The old, outdated advice to acne sufferers was to avoid greasy foods and chocolate. This isn’t completely wrong, as certain kinds of cooking oil increase the production of inflammatory hormones in the skin. The worst are soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil used to make crunchy, salty packaged snacks.

When it comes to chocolate, some people are very sensitive to it and some not at all. Surprisingly, it is a chemical called theobromine in chocolate that is the culprit, not the fat. Therefore, milk chocolate is less likely to make skin break out than dark chocolate. Either way, it’s smart to keep your chocolate intake down when trying to avoid pimples. Eating just 2 oz/56 grams of dark chocolate every week is usually safe, (good luck!🍫).

3. Learn What Triggers Acne On Certain Parts Of The Face.

Different parts of the face have different acne triggers. For example, blackheads and whiteheads at the hairline could be triggered by oily residue after you use shampoo, volumizer, or hair conditioner. Be sure to rinse from front to back and try to keep hair off your forehead.

Interestingly, small red pimples on your nose and cheeks that pop out when the temperature changes may not be due to clogged pores at all, they could be rosacea. If you have rosacea, you need to avoid changes in temperature, as well as perfumes and cleansers that contain skin-irritating ingredients. It may also help to use cosmetics that contain an ingredient known as azelaic acid.

Up to 80% of cases of chin acne are really a reaction to the sudsing agent used in toothpaste and mouthwash, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Simply switching to brands of toothpaste and mouthwash that do not contain SLS can help fight chin pimples.

Acne along the jawline, especially in adult females is often caused by hormonal fluctuations or high levels of androgens. This can turn into painful cystic acne that leave scars, so it’s best to talk to your doctor about hormone-regulating medication options.

4. When In Doubt, Moisturize.

Many people believe that because whiteheads and blackheads are essentially hardened skin oils, it’s a good idea to dry out the skin. Big mistake.

Drying out the skin just creates tiny flakes of dried skin that clog pores, ultimately causing zits. If shiny skin is bothering you, find a mattifying foundation and powder, but don’t deprive your face of moisture, whatever you do!

Everyone needs moisturizer, regardless of whether they suffer from acne or not, but there are factors to keep in mind. Watch out for alcohol-based “moisturizers” as they actually dry out your skin (as counter-intuitive as it sounds), forcing it to repair itself by producing more oil. Look for a 🌊water-based moisturizer with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, as these soften and hydrate the skin (soft skin lets pores drain).

Alpha-hydroxy acid moisturizers can be great for fading acne scars and preventing future acne as they exfoliate, brighten, boost collagen, and increase cell turnover, ultimately reducing acne scars. Always do a patch test on a small patch of skin to ensure acid-based products agree with your skin type.

5. Consider Light Treatment.

Sunlight contains UV rays that can damage the skin and darken acne scars. Acne treatment lamps, however, use visible blue light to kill acne bacteria and visible red light to help shrink the sebaceous glands to release oil into pores. A blue and red light lamp is a little costly upfront, at around US $100 to $200, but it pays for itself in just a few months as you save money on further acne treatments.

However, be careful to use the lamp as directed. More is certainly not better in this regard. Your objective is not to heat or dry out the skin, just to kill bacteria (which you can’t feel) and to shrink oil-producing glands (for which you won’t notice any difference for several days to several weeks). Be patient, good things take time.

6. Look Into Chemical Treatments Such As Benzoyl Peroxide.

The term “chemical peel” may sound daunting for many people, and fair enough. However, chemical treatments can be more effective and safer for the skin than many products claiming to be “natural”. Take benzoyl peroxide, the popular product that kills acne bacteria and effectively treats and prevents further breakouts with a low risk of side effects.

When the bacteria die, the immune system no longer needs to keep trying to get rid of them by generating inflammation, and pimples have a chance to heal. Benzoyl peroxide is best used as a spot treatment for pimples in 10% strength, but if you have 20 or more pimples on your face you may get better results by treating your entire face with a milder, 2.5% to 5%, benzoyl peroxide product.

7. Try A Vitamin C Serum To Fade Dark Spots.

Vitamin C skincare products have become highly popular in recent years. This is because Vitamin C has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and also boosts collagen production. Increased collagen makes the skin bouncier, younger, and more supple, reducing signs of aging (couldn’t hurt, right?).

Vitamin C is a known skin-brightener because it impedes the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase, helping to fade that annoying dark spot that just won’t budge, resulting in a more even tone. Plus, the anti-inflammatory action helps to reduce inflammation caused by acne, and therefore, helps to reduce the visible signs of acne, such as dark spots.

8. Consider Medical Treatments For Acne Scars.

When considering how to get rid of acne scars on the face, it depends on the severity of your scars (face and body).

For those with very severe hyperpigmentation and pitting, medical measures to treat acne scarring can be very effective long-term, despite being costly.

Microdermabrasion is used for flat acne pitting scars (not the very deep pits), by removing the top layer of skin, revealing newer layers underneath. Tiny crystal particles exfoliate the top layers, triggering skin cells to renew and repair more quickly, replacing scarred skin with new, even-toned cells. You must talk to your doctor and/or dermatologist to approach this method, and beware of the financial commitment.

9. Take A Systematic Approach To Skin Care.

The market is saturated with cleansers, moisturizers, and treatments all promising to clear and prevent acne. It can be costly and time-consuming to wade through them to find the ones that work for you. An easier and more effective option is to try Exposed Skincare, as you will receive an entire acne-treatment system in one kit, with a one-year money-back guarantee.

Exposed Skincare takes a scientific approach to treating acne, with the right balance of salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and azelaic acid. This fusion helps to shrink spots and works to derail the acne-forming process. What makes Exposed Skincare different is that it is also very nourishing, restoring moisture and leaving you feeling comfortable, not tight or dry. This leads to reduced acne breakouts, therefore, fewer dark spots and reduced risk of serious acne scarring.

Popular acne systems that get a lot of media coverage aren’t always the best. For example, Proactiv is an extremely well-known product, but it may not be worth the investment. Proactiv reviews show that it can cause uncomfortable dryness, while others have had lengthy battles with expensive auto-billing. Don’t be fooled by flashy advertising and pretty celebrities!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I get rid of blemishes on my face?

Acne scars are a frustrating side-effect of an already unpleasant condition, so it’s completely understandable to want to banish them. Of course, the best way to prevent acne scars is to try your best to prevent acne. Start with a reputable acne skincare system to cleanse, tone, hydrate, and treat the skin. If you see no improvements, consult your doctor or dermatologist.

2. Do acne marks go away?

Acne scars come in different forms. You may have hyperpigmentation (dark spots) that are red, purple, black, or brown depending on your ethnicity and melanin levels. Or, you may have pitting, which looks like tiny holes or gouges on the face.

Hyperpigmentation acne scars do fade over time, but it can take a while to see any change, which is why dark spot products such as vitamin C serums are a smart idea. In terms of gouged acne scars, collagen products can work to add more structure and fullness to the site of the acne scars.

At the end of the day, you can always use concealer and foundation to even your skin tone and cover acne scars that are taking their time to fade.

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Nithya Reply

Hi, I would like to know whether using a Cetaphil Cleansing Lotion daily would harm the skin? Regards Nithya

October 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm Reply
sasha Reply

a cetaphil cleansing lotion will DEFINATELY not harm the skin. it is not a soap, so there are basically no harmful chemicals in it and you should be fine:)

September 1, 2016 at 1:39 am Reply