Last Updated on July 31st, 2019
How can you control acne? Is regular visits to the dermatologist and medications the answer? Are home remedies and natural solutions effective? Are there any methods that absolutely, positively always work? The simple fact is, there are as many effective treatments for acne as there are people who have acne, but certain general skin care practices are a good idea for everyone and should be at the top of every acne sufferers to-do list.
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Cleanliness is the foundation for acne freedom. All your efforts to kill acne bacteria on your face will come to no good if you constantly reinfect your skin with dirty washcloths and towels.
In fact, it is probably a good idea not to use washcloths at all, at least not on acne-affected skin. It is never possible to rub acne away. Vigorous rubbing of the skin only damages1 the delicate linings of pores, creating a red ring around a whitehead or blackhead, or puncturing a pimple to let even worse bacteria inside.
Let your cleanser do the work for you, applying a lather of cleanser with your fingertips. But when it comes to lather, more is not necessarily better.
Soaps, shampoos, and detergents that make big bubbles are especially detrimental to dry, normal, and even slightly oily skin. The problem with bubbles is that they break down lipids2, ceramides, and cholesterol in the outermost layer of skin. This irritates the skin3, opening tiny pathways for infection (usually not the organisms that cause acne, however). Inflammation swells the skin, strangling pores and trapping oil and acne bcteria inside.
When you apply a cleanser to your face, it should only form small bubbles. The bubbles don’t get rid of oil and dirt. They just irritate the skin. Even if your cleanser makes no bubbles at all, it may be doing a very good job of cleansing your face.
Tingling skin is almost never a sign of anything good4. A tingling on the lip can be the sign of a cold sore. A tingling at the back of your neck can be a sign you are coming down with a cold or the flu. And tingling after you use a skin care product and rinse it away is a strong indication that the product has worn away an invisible layer of skin.
Certain tingly sensations are easy to recognize. Mint, menthol, “menthyl” chemicals, peppermint, lavender, cinnamon, citrus, and wintergreen usually leave a tingly sensation on the skin. They can irritate the skin5, causing the creation of new whiteheads and blackheads on fair skin, and even causing permanent skin discoloration on dark skin.
The rule for acne products is: If it tingles, take it back. Don’t put any tingling sensation on acne-affected skin.
The old advice for acne sufferers used to be to avoid chocolate. It turns out that dark chocolate really does increase production of pimples6, sometimes by a factor of up to 2000%. (Milk chocolate is not as likely to cause breakouts.) But most other traditional advice about food and acne turns out to have been wrong. Here is nutritional information about acne updated.
Every pleasant activity is just a little stressful. There is no need to try to eliminate all stress from your life if you have acne.
However, if you are an adult who has acne, and you have to deal with unremitting stress in your life, it is highly likely that stress is a major contributing factor in your condition10 and that reducing stress will help clear up your skin. Changing your life to change your skin is not usually practical. But there is a connection between diet and stress that can make skin care easier.
About 80 years ago, acne experts used to think that stress caused constipation, and that avoiding constipation was important for “flushing out toxins” that cause acne. It turns out that the digestive problem that contributes to some forms of acne is not the presence of toxins but the absence of regulatory chemicals made by Lactobacillus bacteria in the colon.
These bacteria, which are found in yogurt and many other fermented foods, interact with the immune system in ways that reduce inflammation throughout the body11, especially in the brain and the skin. Not only does reducing inflammation in the gut reduce inflammation in your skin, it also reduces the inflammation in your brain that keeps stress alive.
A single serving of yogurt a day, preferably eaten as a snack on an empty stomach, can help reduce stress and clear up your skin. If you can’t eat yogurt, take a probiotic supplement. Of course, all other kinds of stress reduction—most of which require a great deal more effort—are likely to help keep acne under control.
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