People may tell you that eating French fries, chocolate, or pizza causes acne. But there is no proven link between diet and acne. Even intense stress does not cause acne, although it can make it worse.
The truth? Changing hormones cause acne, which is why so many young people get it during puberty or right before their periods. These hormones stimulate the glands in your pores to make more oil, which can clog your pores. Luckily there are some good acne treatments available today. You don't have to suffer like your parents did. Here's what you need to know about getting rid of acne.
Start With Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments
The main ingredients to look for in acne products are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. “Products that contain salicylic acid unplug the pores and those with benzoyl peroxide are mild anti-inflammatories and also kill or stop bacteria from growing,” says Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, who teaches dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
(If you are a person of color, you may need to eliminate or limit benzoyl peroxide because it can decolorize the skin. It’s best to use it under a dermatologist’s supervision.)
Don't overdo it. “Using any more than two acne products is just going to dry you out and make it worse," says New York dermatologist Amy Wechsler says. Avoid skin care products with alcohol, which can irritate your skin, causing outbreaks. And never pick, scratch, pop, or squeeze blemishes. It can make acne worse, and lead to skin infections that may leave scars.
Do Daily Facial Care
Wechsler suggests this three-minute routine:
1. Gently wash your face twice a day.
Use your fingertips (not a washcloth) and lukewarm water. Use a gentle non-soap cleanser one time and a 2 1/2% benzoyl peroxide wash the other time.
2. Do spot treatment.
Dot problem areas with a 2% salicylic acid product after you wash your face with cleanser. Skip this step when you use a benzoyl peroxide wash.
3. Apply moisturizer.
Use one that says “oil free,” “nonacnegenic,” or “non-comedogenic.” (That goes for makeup and sunscreen, too.) For daytime, use one with a minimum SPF of 30.
It's also important to wash your hair daily if it's oily, and avoid oily gels. You want to keep oil off your face. Plus, you need to take care during sports. Wash your face after you’ve been exercising. Anything that holds sweat on your skin -- like a baseball cap or a helmet -- can make acne worse. So wipe down your helmet chinstraps with alcohol after use. If you have pimples on your body, take off your sweaty clothes right after sports and jump in the shower.