How to prevent acne
Anyone with persistent acne knows how much of a challenge it can be to try to heal your skin. But even as you work to soothe the pimples you have, you can also take steps to prevent new ones from forming, breaking a breakout cycle that often seems relentless.
While there is no failsafe way to rid your skin of acne forever, but you can prevent pimples and help keep your skin clean and as healthy as possible.
1. Keep your face clean
Whether or not you have acne, it is important to gently wash your face twice daily to remove impurities, dead skin cells, and extra oil from your skin’s surface. Wash your face more often than twice daily is not necessarily better, it may make acne worse.
Use warm water, not hot, water and a mild facial cleanser. Using a harsh soap (like deodorant body soap) can hurt already inflamed skin and cause more irritation. Using cleansers that are sulfate-free, fragrance-free, and gentle enough for twice-daily use.
2. Refrain from harsh scrubbing
While some exfoliation can help improve acne, too much can worsen acne. This happens when a person removes too much natural oil from the skin. The skin may compensate by more sebum production, which blocking pores and produces more acne. If a person exfoliates too much, the skin may become irritated, skin dry or feel very tight after washing.
Some people scrub the skin with rough cloth pads or washcloths, exfoliating gloves. This can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, making acne breakouts worse.
Applying a mild cleanser with clean hands or a soft brush for use on the face. Always rinse well, and then dry your face with a clean towel to help prevent acne formation.
3. Know types of your skin
Knowing your skin types can help you determine which products to use and avoid. You can use the following parameters to identify your skin type, but you can also consult a dermatologist to get acne treated.
Dry skin. Your skin often feels flaky and tight.
Oily skin. Your skin tends to look shiny by the end of the day.
Combination skin. You have both dry areas and oily areas. The oily area is usually the T-zone, or your forehead, nose, and chin.
Sensitive skin. Your skin reacts easily to products and is prone to rashes, discoloration, or irritation. You can have sensitive skin along with any of the above skin types.
In general, people with oily skin are more prone to develop acne. Having your skin type information on hand can make it easier to choose an acne regimen that helps you to control acne.
If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin, too many products with active ingredients, like a salicylic acid wash, exfoliating toner, and a retinol cream might damage your skin barrier and make acne worse.
If your skin is on the oilier side, using a moisturizer formulated for dry skin may be too occlusive and lead to developing acne.
4. Use a moisturizer
Moisturizer help skin stay hydrated, which makes a big difference for acne-prone skin. If your skin gets too dry, it will produce oil (sebum) to counterbalance the dryness. And, as noted above, an excess of sebum can cause new pimples.
However, many moisturizers contain oil, synthetic fragrance, or other ingredients that may irritate your skin and cause acne. Be sure to check the ingredient list before purchasing a moisturizer to make sure it is fragrance-free and non comedogenic (oil free moisturizer).
5. Keep your hair clean
If you have oily hair, the excess oil in the hair follicles travels to the skin, it can worsen acne. Regularly washing the hair may reduce acne from developing, especially close to the hairline.
Haircare products such as hair spray, hair wax that contain oil can also causing acne on the head and hairline. Avoiding these products can lower the risk of developing pimples.
6. Use over-the-counter acne treatments
Over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatment can help to treat acne, and sometimes even preventing acne in the first place.
Just know that overusing OTC treatment can sometimes lead to irritation and dryness, so it is important to follow the manufacturer’s usage instructions.
Here is what you should know about the most common active ingredients you will find in OTC acne treatment:
Benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide works best on inflammatory acne, like cysts and pink bumps, because it kills acne-causing bacteria.
Salicylic acid. This ingredient is ideal for blackheads and whiteheads because it works to unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
Sulfur. Sulfur is a natural ingredient that is often gentler than the two mentioned above. It can dry out dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores and absorb excess sebum from oil glands.
If you are not sure which OTC acne treatment might work best for your skin or your specific skin goal, it may be worth connecting with a dermatologist for a prescription strength treatments on your skin condition.
A dermatologist can discuss acne treatments and provide professional skin products recommendations, along with advice on any potential medication interactions to keep in mind. For instance, using a beta hydroxy acid (like salicylic acid) along with retinol can cause excessive dryness and irritate your skin, so you will typically want to avoid mixing products with these ingredients.
7. Use makeup sparingly
While you might feel tempted to use makeup to cover up pimples, know that doing so could clog pores and encourage acne forms.
If you do not want to nix makeup from your daily routine, opt for a foundation or concealer that is non comedogenic and fragrance-free so your skin does not become even more irritated.
Be sure to gently remove all make up and wash your face at the end of your day and especially before going to bed.
8. Keep your hands off your face
Avoid touching your face or propping your cheek or chin on your hands. Not only you can spread bacteria, you can also irritate the already inflamed facial skin. Never pick or pop pimples with your fingers, as it can lead to infection and acne scars.
9. Limit sun exposure
Catching some rays may dry out pimples in the short term, but it can have unwanted skin consequences in the long run. Frequent sun exposure dehydrates skin, which, over time, causes it to produce more oil and block pores.
Wear sunscreen can help protect your skin year-round. Of course, as you might already know, sunscreens tend to be pretty oily. For both sun and pimple protection, opt for a non comedogenic, oil-free sunscreen.
10. Talk to a dermatologist about antibiotics
If OTC acne treatments do not make much difference, a dermatologist can prescribe antibiotics to help reduce inflammation and bacteria on your skin. Antibiotics, which come in both topical and oral forms, work by reducing the amount of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria on your skin, which is prevention methods to prevent breakouts to achieve clearer skin.
Your dermatologist might recommend:
Topical antibiotics like clindamycin (Cleocin) for mild acne.
Oral antibiotics like doxycycline (Vibramycin, Doryx) for severe acne.
Using benzoyl peroxide gel along with your prescribed treatment.
Over the long term, your body can become resistant to antibiotics, which makes these drugs less effective. It is essential to follow the regimen your dermatologist outlines so you can get the most out of your prescribed treatment. Also, make sure to mention any other medications you are taking to avoid any harmful interactions.
11. Eat a healthy diet
Most doctors agree that certain foods, like chocolate, do not cause pimples. Still, it makes sense to avoid greasy food and junk food and add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet.
Avoid dairy products and foods high in processed sugar. These may trigger acne. Eating an overall healthy diet is always good advice, and it may also help your skin stay clearer.
12. Reduce stress
Stress often causes inflammation, which can make breakouts worse. Regular exercise is good for your skin and your health. Physical exercise helps even out your blood sugar (glucose) levels, which keeps your insulin levels from spiking. This can stop acne. Exercise also helps to reduce stress and can lead to better sleep.
13. Try tea tree oil
Tea tree essential oil is a popular natural remedy for pimples. Tea tree oil contains a compound called terpinene-4-ol, which has been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as increase white blood cells to promote healing.
To use tea tree oil for pimples, apply a drop or two to the inflamed area. You can also add a few drops to your daily cleanser or moisturizer.
14. Consider topical retinoids
Topical treatments like retinoids are products containing medicines derived from vitamin A. Dermatologists prescribe them to manage and prevent acne. These treatments help to shed and produce new skin cells faster, which helps to reduce pore-clogging.
Most topical retinoids are only available by prescription, including tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova) and tazarotene (Tazorac). However, some topical retinoids, such as adapalene (Differin), are available over the counter.
The bottom line
Most people get pimples now and then. Prevention efforts can help, but they are not guaranteed. Many factors can cause pimples, including hormones, stress, genetics, and diet. Some medications may even cause acne.
That said, you do have plenty of options for treating and managing pimples. Just know that whatever pimple prevention plan you choose, patience and consistency are key to improvement. A dab of benzoyl peroxide may help shrink a single pimple overnight, but most treatments take several weeks to produce results.