Last Updated on July 31st, 2019
Don’t know where to start for acne care? This article will tell you the basics anyone who has mild to moderate common acne can use to get rid of acne for good, without expensive skin care products or exotic medical treatments, step by step.
Article Table of Contents
People who have unresolved acne problems tend to fall into two categories. One group doesn’t cleanse skin daily. The other group cleanses skin three times a day or more.
It’s essential to keep dead skin and excess oil from accumulating in pores2. It’s also necessary to remove grit, grime, and makeup that may have accumulated during the day. Cleansing your skin won’t get rid of existing acne, but it can help prevent new blemishes from forming.
It’s also essential to keep your skin from drying out. The very first step in the formation of a whitehead, a blackhead, or a pimple is not accumulation of oil or dirt. It’s drying out of the skin. Tiny flakes of skin fall into a pore, forming a lid over oil and bacteria that would normally drain out to the surface of the skin where they can be washed away. If you are washing your face so often it dries out, or it feels itchy or flaky, you are making acne worse.
You don’t need to rub your skin to get it clean. Just making a lather of cleanser and placing it on your face for 30 seconds to 3 minutes is enough. You don’t need to feel it working—if you think you do because of the tingling sensation, it is probably drying out your skin and setting up new blemishes. Just put cleanser on your skin and rinse away3. If your cleanser isn’t strong enough to get up stubborn makeup, then apply cold cream and blot cold cream and makeup off your skin. But never scrub!
The number one ingredient in your cleanser should be water, and the number two ingredient should be some kind of oil that dissolves the oil in your skin so water can wash it away. Don’t use cleansers that contain alcohol. Cleansers never contain enough alcohol to kill acne bacteria (it takes 46% alcohol to kill bacteria), but they often contain enough alcohol to dry out the skin.
Don’t use bar soap on your skin4. The film soap leaves behind clogs pores that have just been cleaned, and acne bacteria can survive on bar soap until you—or someone else in your household—uses if for cleansing body parts unknown.
Squeezing, picking at, poking, and probing pimples just forces bacteria farther into the skin5. Even a healthy immune system fails to do a good job at getting rid of acne bacteria. That is because they can secrete chemicals that redirect the immune system’s attack on healthy skin. The area of infection just grows larger and larger beneath the skin where skin treatments can’t reach it.
The way to treat pimples is to kill the bacteria with benzoyl peroxide6 or tea tree oil7, or a combination of both, and then allow the skin to heal naturally. Killing acne bacteria just stops the immune system’s misguided efforts at getting rid of them. Pimples still have to heal on their own. Benzoyl peroxide does a better job of getting rid of bacteria, but tea tree oil does a better job of getting rid of inflammation. The only over-the-counter product that contains both ingredients in effective amounts is Serious Skin Care’s Clearzit Acne Medication. Be careful to use it just on pimples, not on healthy skin.
The problem with squeezing blackheads is that you usually miss. All you manage to do is to make a tiny cut in the skin next to the blackhead that gives infection a pathway into the skin. And even if you manage to remove a blackhead with your fingers or with an extraction device, an equally unsightly enlarged pore is left behind.
The way to get rid of blackheads is by using exfoliating products8 that contain salicylic acid, which dissolves the hardened oil that causes blemishes. The first part of the plug of oil in a pore that is dissolved is the “black” in the blackhead. Often you can see immediate improvement in your complexion, just a few minutes after you use a product like Paula’s Choice 2% Beta-Hydroxy Acid Gel for All Skin Types or the much less expensive Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-In-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment. If you leave these products on your skin overnight, they slowly loosen whiteheads and blackheads, giving the skin time to spring back into place so they don’t leave an enlarged pore.
If you have small acne scars (less than 1/4″ or 6 mm deep and less than 1/4″ or 6 mm across), there are several non-surgical, non-medical treatments that help them slowly fade away.
Silicone sheets can be applied to raised acne scars9. Fitting the skin like a bandage, they stretch the skin around a scar so that the collagen fibers holding it in place break down. The skin allows oxygen but not water to travel to the skin so bacteria won’t grow but the skin won’t shrivel like a prune from excessive hydration. It may take as long as 90 days to smooth out a small scar. You can take the silicone sheet off for a few hours at a time for photos or special occasions.
Microdermabrasion wears away the edges of indented scars10. Microdermabrasion is done with a polyethylene microdermabrasion cloth or with a microdermabrasion gel that you rub on your skin. Corundum crystals, used in Exposed Skin Care’s Microderm Scrub11, are less irritating that the aluminum oxide crystals used in most other microdermabrasion products. Getting rid of acne scars is a slow process, but you will usually see results on small scars in 30 days or less.
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