Acne sucks. We all know what it feels like to break out with a chin full of zits before a big meeting or a fun night out. Goodbye, confidence, hello self-consciousness! Luckily, with the right self-care routine, most breakouts can be prevented. Here are our top five tips for preventing pimples (in order of importance):
- First and foremost, you need to apply a leave-on acne treatment product once or twice daily. Leave on treatment products include serums, creams, sprays, and medicated pads. Effective acne-fighting ingredients include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide. Experiment to see which product or combination of products works best for your skin. It’s critically important that you apply the treatment product to the entire area where you get breakouts, not just to active pimples. For example, if you tend to get acne on your face, chin, and neck, then make sure to spread a thin, even layer of the product all over all of these areas even if there are no current breakouts. The biggest mistake that people make is to only spot treat active blemishes. This doesn’t work because spot treating doesn’t prevent new breakouts from forming. With regular application of an acne treatment product over the entire problem area, you can actually stop new pimples from forming.
- Use a gentle cleanser twice daily. Notice that the cleanser is the second most important tip, not the first. Many people believe that they can get clear skin using only a cleanser, but I’m here to tell you that’s not possible. Cleansers are quickly washed off of the skin, leaving little time for active ingredients to be absorbed. But even though cleansing isn’t number one on the list, it’s still very important. Washing your skin removes dirt, oil, makeup, bacteria, and other pollutants that clog pores. Make sure to use a gentle cleanser because leave-on acne treatment products can be drying. Further drying and irritating the skin with a harsh cleanser does nothing to clear the skin and can even be counterproductive, so look for a wash that’s gentle and non-irritating.
- Don’t scrub too hard! Exfoliating the skin is important for stopping pimples, but the best way to do this is with a leave-on acne treatment product that acts as a chemical exfoliant (see tip #1). Exfoliating products such as those listed in tip #1 bust apart oil and dead skin cells, allowing for this grime to exit the pores and be washed away from the surface of the skin. Physically exfoliating the skin (ie harsh scrubbing of the skin with a loofah, brush, or abrasive scrub) is bad news for zits. When you scrub too hard, you inflame blemishes, cause them to get redder and more irritated, and spread breakout-causing bacteria between the pores. Instead, use a soft washcloth and scrub softly in circular motions, and never use abrasive scrubs on acne-prone skin. Aaahhh, much better!
- Avoid heavy makeup and cosmetics with pore-clogging ingredients. Makeup and acne can form a vicious cycle. You feel self-conscious about your skin so you cover your blemishes with makeup, but then the makeup leads to more pimples, so you put on more makeup… and next thing you know, you’re applying a mask of foundation to cover your zits every day. Whenever possible, ditch the makeup and let your skin breath. When you need to wear foundation, be absolutely certain that it’s specially designed for people with acne-prone skin. The foundation should be water-based (as opposed to oil-based) and it’s even better if it contains salicylic acid to help fight breakouts during the day.
- Reduce stress when possible. I used to be a teacher. Every year, like clockwork, my skin would erupt with blemishes before the first day of school. Why? Because of stress, of course! People with acne-prone skin are very likely to get new pimples during times of stress. This happens because stress activates the adrenal glands, causing them to produce extra hormones, including testosterone. An elevation in hormones will cause the skin to breakout, particularly for females, as their bodies are less accustomed to processing high levels of testosterone. Stress also slows down the healing process and causes the immune system to get out of whack, which will delay the healing of existing blemishes. To better deal with stress, adopt a meditation and breathing practice or get regular exercise. Less stress will lead to clearer skin and even more importantly, a happier, more balanced life.