Depending on the type and severity of your acne, you may have a couple pimples every now and then or a lifelong battle with breakouts. The first thing to do when treating acne is to understand what type you have.1
Blackheads occur when pores clog with excess oil (sebum), bacteria, and dead skin. If that pore closes, a whitehead develops, which looks like a small white-or flesh-colored bump. A blackhead that goes deeper into the skin and causes inflammation is called a papule (or pimple). The papule becomes a pustule when it fills with yellowish fluid (pus).
Cysts and nodules can cause permanent scars as they heal because they’ve pushed deep into the skin. These conditions should be treated by a dermatologist. Take heart, though; almost all acne can be cleared.
Contrary to popular belief, washing your face often is not helpful. Since moisture is good for the skin, stripping it away during washing causes oil glands to produce more sebum. “You really want to use gentle skin care when dealing with acne,” says Jeffrey Zwerner, MD, senior medical director of dermatology at Teladoc Health. Instead, cleanse your face only twice a day (and after you’ve been sweating) with a mild, fragrance-free cleanser. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips, and use your hands to rinse it off with lukewarm (never hot) water. Here are some other tips:
Many foods in your fridge and pantry—apple cider vinegar, avocado, cinnamon, honey, oatmeal, turmeric—have antibacterial, exfoliating, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing properties, which make them ideal for homemade skin care. The witch hazel and tea tree oil in your medicine cabinet can be used too. Here are a couple recipes to get you started.
After cleansing, you might want to use a toner to calm your skin and help reduce redness. The amount of water you’ll use in this spritzer depends on whether your skin is sensitive, dry, normal, or oily.
These skin-nurturing concoctions can be used once or twice a week. The honey in them makes them very sticky, so wear a headband to keep your hair away from your face. Cleanse your face before applying the mask. After removing it with lukewarm water, pat your skin dry and finish with a light, oil-free moisturizer.
Mix 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon baking soda into a paste. Gently apply it to and around the affected area. Rinse off after 10 minutes.
“Acne is like a rash on your face that just won’t quit and is almost impossible to hide,” Dr. Zwerner says. You can’t just scrub it away (scrubbing actually makes it worse). Early treatment of a breakout can help prevent acne from progressing. But treatments need time to work. In general, give it one to two months to be effective. And whatever you do, don’t squeeze or pop a pimple! It may not be as visible by popping it, but you risk causing scar tissue or even infection.
If you’ve been dealing with acne for a while but it’s just not under control, Teladoc can help. Use the app to schedule an online visit with one of our U.S.-licensed dermatologists. Within two days you’ll have a customized skincare treatment plan to help clear up your condition and keep it cleared up.
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