Among the already massive skin-care industry, acne-fighting products make up an industry of their own -- pimple-focused products ranging from spot treatments to exfoliating cleansers line the shelves of virtually any neighborhood drugstore. Among these options, you'll find astringents designed to cut through the oil that causes acne; while they're not essential to every skin-care regimen, astringents are worth a closer look if you're coping with pesky zits.
Astringents in Action
At the most basic level, an excess production of oil on the skin -- which in turn leads to plugged pores and pimples -- causes acne. Astringents, applied as topical skin-care solutions, cause skin tissue and pores to contract; this dries up excess oil secretions and limits pore blockage. Together, these actions help unclog the pores, leading to the shrinkage of pimples.
Plenty of Choices
Salicylic acid -- a derivative of willow-tree bark -- commonly lends itself to off-the-shelf acne-fighting astringents. When it comes to acne, this substance also reduces swelling and redness and sloughs off dead skin cells, promoting skin regeneration. Other astringents include anti-inflammatory chamomile, which also kills bacteria, another key cause of acne. Witch hazel and the chamomile-derivative azulene also serve as gentle astringents for the skin. In the past, many astringents contained alcohol, but modern products typically steer clear of its potentially harsh effects.
Off-the-shelf acne astringents typically come in the form of a potent-smelling liquid. To apply the astringent, lightly moisten a cotton swab or cotton pad and apply the liquid only to the areas of your face affected by acne -- do not apply astringents too near the eyes or mouth. Apply the astringent once daily after showering or washing your face with an acne-targeting cleanser and follow it up with light application of an oil-free moisturizer.
Things to Consider
Brown University recommends astringents only for those who have oily skin. If you have naturally dry skin, astringents may make it even dryer. For dry skin, gentler astringents with natural ingredients -- such as tea extracts, lemon, papaya or pomegranate -- serve as the best choice. Via Sharecare, Dr. Mehmet Oz warns that, in some cases, harsh astringents can irritate the skin and lead to further breakouts -- as such, always consult your dermatologist before making significant changes to your skin-care regimen, especially if you suffer from acne.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Astringent
- MedlinePlus: Salicylic Acid Topical
- AcnEase from Herborium: The Best Natural Astringent for Acne-Prone Skin
- BuyObagiProducts.com: What Is an Astringent?
- Brown University Health Education: Acne
- Sharecare: What Should I Know About Using an Astringent if I Have Acne?