Think back to the 3 basic causes of acne, and you can understand why the focus of both home treatment and prescription therapy is to: (1) unclog pores; (2) kill bacteria; and (3) minimize oil. But first a word about . . . .
Lifestyle: Everyone knows that moderation and regularity are good things, but not everyone can sleep 8 hours, eat three good meals, and drink 8 glasses of water a day. Relax! You can still control your acne if school or work make your routine frantic and unpredictable. Probably the most useful lifestyle change you can make is to apply hot compresses to pustules and cysts, or get facials (see below), and NEVER, EVER PICK, THANK YOU. When you pick or squeeze a pimple, the skin always feels bumpier and stays redder longer than if you leave them alone, however hard that may be to do. The redness, by the way, is not scarring in the permanent sense. It's just a mark that takes months to fade.
Cleansing and Skin Care: Despite what you read in popular style and fashion magazines, there is no magic product or regimen that is right for every person and situation.
Mild cleansers: Washing once or twice a day with a mild cleansing bar or liquid (for example, Dove, Neutrogena, Basis, Purpose, and Cetaphil are all inexpensive and popular) will keep the skin clean and minimize sensitivity and irritation.
Exfoliating cleansers and masques: A variety of mild scrubs, exfoliants, and masques can be used. These products contain either fine granules or salicylic acid in a concentration that makes it a very mild peeling agent. These products remove the outer layer of the skin, and thus open pores.
Retinol: Not to be confused with the prescription medication, Retin-A, this derivative of Vitamin A can help promote skin peeling.
Antibacterial cleansers: The most popular ingredient in over- the-counter antibacterial cleansers is benzoyl peroxide.
Topical (external) applications: These products come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions, which are applied to the affected area. The active ingredients that kill surface bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and resorcinol.
Benzoyl peroxide causes red and scaly allergic skin in a small number of people, which goes away as soon as you stop using it. Keep in mind that benzoyl peroxide is a BLEACH, so don't let products containing benzoyl peroxide get on your good colored clothes, shirts, or towels!
Oil is normal. You can't stop your oil glands from producing it, unless you mess with your hormones or metabolism in ways you shouldn't want to. (Even Accutane -- see below -- only slows down oil glands for a while. They come back to life later.) What you can do is to get rid of oil on the surface of the skin, and reduce that embarrassing shine.
Use a gentle astringent/toner to wipe away oil. (There are many brands available in pharmacies, as well as from manufacturers of cosmetic lines.)
Products containing glycolic acid or one of the other alpha-hydroxy acids are also mildly helpful in clearing the skin by causing the superficial layer of the skin to peel (exfoliate).
Masques containing sulfur and other ingredients draw out facial oil.
Antibacterial pads containing benzoyl peroxide have the additional benefit of helping you wipe away oil.
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