How to Avoid Acne: A Few Quick Tips

Many people struggle with acne during different stages of their lives, and patients usually have lots of questions:

What helps?

What works? 

What is the difference between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid?

When it comes to skin care, we're not usually ones for hard and fast rules. Everyone has unique skin types, skin tones, lifestyles, and genetic histories that make it impossible to offerin one-size-fits-all advice. 

However, as a practicing dermatologist, I want to share some easy recommendations that have been proven by science and clinical experience.

Keep your face clean: Whether or not you have acne, it's important to wash your face twice a day to remove impurities, dead cells, and extra oil from the skin's surface. Washing more than twice daily is not necessarily better; it may do more harm than good. Use warm, not hot, water and a facial cleanser with Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide. Using a harsh soap (like deodorant body soap) can hurt inflamed skin and cause more irritation.

Wash your pillowcases! Keep your pillows and sheets clean. The same goes for hats and other items that touch your acne-prone skin. Dead skin cells, bacteria, and dirt will build up on these surfaces and can clog your pores.

Try an over-the-counter acne product. You might not need a prescription to treat your acne. Try a product with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, which can curb bacteria and dry your skin.

Use a moisturizer after cleansing. Worried that moisturizer will make your acne worse? Think again—it can actually help improve your skin. If the skin surface is dry and dehydrated, the oil glands tend to overproduce oil, and this can make acne worse. Hydrating the skin's surface can re-balance oil glands and help control acne and improve healing. Use a moisturizer that is lightweight and won’t clog your pores.

Take off make-up when you are working out: When makeup covers the pores, that barrier doesn't allow the sweat to make it to the surface of the skin, which can lead to clogged pores. The trapped debris and bacteria are a perfect breeding ground for acne bumps, breakouts and acne.

Wash your face post-workout: After a sweaty workout, cleanse your face to help keep your pores clear and remove excess oils. Try keeping cleansing pads in your gym bag or locker for those times you need an on-the-go wash.

Look for Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid: Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are very reliable over-the-counter products. When used correctly and appropriately, these treatments will cleanse your pores and clear your skin of  whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Not all acne can be treated using these methods, so speak with a dermatologist about your options. We recommend using VU Skin System’s Active Skin Cleanser with 10% benzoyl peroxide and Foaming Facial Cleanser with salicylic acid. Both of these products are effective and affordable.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, benzoyl peroxide is the most effective over-the-counter acne treatment. It gets inside your pores to kill bacteria, remove mixtures of oil and dead skin cells, and is fast acting. Although you will see results in as early as five days, this solution can cause irritation, dryness, and redness of the skin. In addition, it can bleach darker fabrics. Apply the lotion, wash, or gel after putting on your favorite sweater and rinse your hands thoroughly. In extreme cases, if benzoyl peroxide is overused, it can cause dark spots. We advise to use this product in moderation after trying other soaps or washes and avoid sun exposure.

Benzoyl peroxide comes in various strengths from 2.25%-10%. Gently rub the cleanser into the skin for 10-20 seconds. Work into a full lather and rinse thoroughly and then pat dry. If your complexion hasn’t improved after a week, you may increase the strength or use the same product twice a day if redness or irritation doesn’t occur. Benzoyl Peroxide can be drying, so look for a cleanser that has micronized molecules ... these chemicals increase efficacy. 

Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid derived from willow bark to soothe and calm skin. It exfoliates your skin by removing dead skin cells inside your pores and the surrounding area. Salicylic acid is also an anti-inflammatory that reduces redness because it contains salicin, which is found in aspirin. This treatment takes much longer than benzoyl peroxide, but is best for sensitive skin. You will see results in up to four weeks.

Happy Cleansing!

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