For most people, acne starts in the teens when puberty hits. Hormones activate oil glands to start producing sebum for the first time. While the purpose of sebum is to lubricate the hair and skin, too much can clog pores, causing acne. Bacteria, dirt and dead skin cells can also clog pores. About 80 percent of Americans between the age of 11 and 30 have acne at some point, according to the FDA. The Acne Resource Center reports that about 20 million people have acne bad enough to cause scarring.
Wash your skin every morning using soap and water. In 2008, researchers at the Japan Society of Physiological Anthropology found that study participants who took a morning shower had less oil and moisture on their skin after four hours compared to people who did not shower.
Apply benzoyl peroxide to the areas of skin you most often breakout. Many people have acne hotspots, places where acne is most likely to occur: The forehead, chin, chest and back are areas that can trap a lot of oils. Women also tend to get acne in the same areas at times when their hormones are most active, such as before menstruation, during pregnancy, and stressful periods. If you often have breakouts on your chest, be sure to treat it with benzoyl peroxide when you’re expecting a breakout, or daily if you tend to breakout that often.
Apply a topical alpha hydroxy acid, known as AHA, gel or lotion to existing lesions. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are two AHAs available as topical acne medications. AHAs work by breaking the bonds that keep cells connected. It helps renew collagen and can improve the appearance of acne scars.
Moisturize skin with an oil-free lotion. Acne medications can be very drying.
Wash makeup and acne treatments off around lunchtime or early evening. Residues can lock in oils and clog pores.
Treat your skin with a salicylic pad or astringent. Salicylic acid works differently than benzoyl peroxide. It helps breakdown whiteheads and blackheads. It also slows the cells from shedding inside the hair follicle.
Wash your skin again before bedtime with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide helps prevent new acne from forming.
Exfoliate your skin two or three times a week. Exfoliators have mildly abrasive ingredients that can scrub away dead skin cells and loosen clogged pores.
Moisturize your skin prior to bedtime. With your new acne-treatment routine, you need to be sure you don’t dehydrate your skin too much, as it could cause burning and irritation.
Things You'll Need
Benzoyl peroxide topical medication and wash
Alpha hydroxy acid
Salicylic pads or astringent
Benzoyl peroxide is formulated with 2.5, 5 and 10 percent active ingredient. MayoClinic.com suggests starting with the lowest formulation, then only increasing if you do not see results after a few weeks. Acne.org recommends adding a drop of jojoba oil to your sunscreen to condition your skin and protect it from the sun’s harmful UV rays at the same time. When you have a complicated acne-treatment routine, it can be helpful to purchase a kit rather than each item individually.
Some topical medications will make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to wear sun block or a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher. While it may take up to six weeks before you start seeing dramatic results, if after about one or two weeks you still see no difference at all, consider finding a dermatologist to discuss the possibility of using a prescription acne medication.