Last Updated on August 7th, 2019
When it comes to acne, prevention is always better than treatment. Here are ten tips on how to stop acne before it starts, especially the formation of nodules and cysts.
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Tens of millions of people who have acne follow the outdated advice to “dry out” skin to prevent blemishes. While it would seem to make good sense to remove the oil that can cause clogged pores3, the reality is that using alcohol or harsh detergent soaps to get oil off and out of the skin causes an extremely undesirable reaction: The skin repairs itself by producing even more oil.
And all that extra oil feeds acne bacteria. Alcohol-soaked blemish treatment pads and sudsy soap may make your skin feel clean temporarily, but over the long run they make acne much worse, especially on dry skin.
Milk chocolate does not always make skin break out. Dark chocolate often stimulates production of pimples4, sometimes as many as 75 to 80 new pimples after eating just three bars. If you are a teen or in your early 20’s, and especially if you are male, it is a good idea to avoid chocolate altogether. If you have to eat chocolate, eat milk chocolate, not dark chocolate.
Many people have sudden breakouts, especially across the cheeks of the face and on the nose, when they come into a warm room from outdoors on a cold day. Or their faces may break out when they drink hot chocolate or eat spicy foods. Heating the skin or stimulating the peripheral nerves of the face can cause sudden relaxation of blood vessels in the skin, an action designed to cool the skin. If the walls of these capillaries are weak, red bumps and purple streaks can appear, often in minutes. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed case of rosacea, you may experience acne-like reddening of the skin when it is warmed too suddenly.
Rubbing bar soap across your skin anywhere on your body forces soap film into pores, causing them to clog, but certain soaps are worse than others. Any soap that contains a botanical essence, an herb extract, an essential oil, or a fragrance or perfume can irritate the skin, which increases the production of sebum and clogs pores even more. It’s best to apply a lather of cleanser to the face or a body wash to the rest of the body, allowing the product to cleanse the skin without any rubbing. Then rinse it off with warm water and pat dry.
Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause pimples. It takes about 48 hours to work. This does not actually heal pimples, but it stops the release of messenger molecules that generate new inflammation from the immune system. Clearing up pimples usually takes about a week if you have rapidly growing teenaged skin, or about two weeks if you are in your 20’s or older.
The reason it is important to start with a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide is to make sure you don’t have an unusual, unfavorable skin reaction. Nearly everyone who uses 5% benzoyl peroxide or higher gets some kind of disagreeable side effect5 from the product, such as itching, peeling, or redness. Some people just can’t use benzoyl peroxide at all. Be sure to use the lowest strength product you can exactly as directed, not leaving it on the skin longer than suggested by the manufacturer.
Microdermabrasion is a process that loosens the skin around pores to help these open up or stay open. You can do microdermabrasion with special coarse plastic cloths. Always use a clean cloth, since you don’t want to put germs and oil right back on your skin. Or you can do microdermabrasion with products that contain coconut fibers or microscopic polyethylene beads. These products don’t usually produce dramatic results, but using them several times a week usually makes a noticeable difference after a few weeks6, removing whiteheads and blackheads. Don’t do microdermabrasion on active pimples, nodules, or cysts.
Dry skin usually responds well to alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, or fruit acids. Oily skin usually responds well to the only beta-hydroxy acid used in skin care, salicylic acid. For a product to work, however, it must contain the right hydroxy acid in the right concentration at the right pH7, and the best products also contain neutralizing solutions that keep the peel from burning the skin. Check out reviews of specific products elsewhere on this site to choose the best peel for your skin.
Most people of Black or Hispanic heritage develop mild to moderate acne vulgaris (common acne) only in their late teens or early 20’s if at all. But Blacks and Hispanics are especially vulnerable to developing cystic acne8. In cystic acne healthy but discolored skin grows over pockets of acne infection. To prevent cystic acne, it is essential to treat the pimple before it is covered with healthy skin. Since males with brown or black skin tones are also more likely to get their hair cut in bald fades or to shave their heads, it is very important to check the top and back of the head for acne of the scalp. Early treatment, with the mildest possible strength of benzoyl peroxide, can prevent permanent scars.
Asian skin is especially sensitive to detergents. This is true of skin all over the body, not just the face. Anything that makes big bubbles or a tingling foam can irritate the skin and leave lingering brown spots. Asian skin has to be cleansed with mild, alcohol-free cleansers that make a lather of small, flat bubbles rather than a lather of big soap bubbles. While detergents will not usually cause Asian skin to break out, they will cause any existing acne to leave brown spots when it has healed.
Many expensive products that really do stop acne don’t stop acne any faster than products that cost a lot less. It is usually a good idea to start with a complete acne care system, like Exposed Skin Care. You’ll save money and time, and products come with a money-back guarantee.
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