Acne is a common skin issue that affects millions of people worldwide. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t experienced acne at least once in their lifetimes. When something is such a concern for so many, there will inevitably be a variety of treatment options. Some of course are more effective than others, while others, though powerful, may not necessarily work on every individual’s skin. We’re all different, but there are plenty of options out there that can help get rid of acne. The most important thing, perhaps, is to stay the course, remain diligent and refrain from picking at your blemishes, which will only make them worse. So, yes, you have to be determined if you want to get rid of acne for good. It can be difficult, but clear skin is always worth it.
In this article, you’ll find a variety of ways to get rid of acne, from topical treatments to changes made to your diet and more.
Regulate Your Diet
Your diet can have a major impact on your skin. If you drink a lot of milk or consume a lot of dairy products and also suffer from acne, this dairy-based diet may be a factor in causing breakouts.
Dairy products, particularly milk, contain testosterone precursors, which can increase oil production in the skin. The oilier your skin, the more prone to acne you may be. All milk contains hormones that can exacerbate your acne, regardless of whether it’s organic milk or not. It really is a problem with all types of milk and if you are oily-skinned or acne-prone, it is in your best interest to avoid milk. You can however replace regular milk with other options like nut, soy, rice or oat milk.
Another food item to avoid is chocolate, which has been shown in studies to exacerbate acne in some people. For years the acne-chocolate connection was thought to be a myth, but more recent studies have shown that chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can make acne worse in those with already acne-prone skin.
There are also certain foods that can, believe it or not, improve your acne. These are foods rich in probiotics like kefir, sauerkraut, chica seeds and oats. Probiotics help regulate the bacteria in your gut, keeping a healthy balance. Gut bacteria have a profound impact on skin, and if you have too much bad bacteria versus good bacteria, this can show up on your face and body in the form of inflammation and acne breakouts. Probiotics like the ones mentioned can help keep healthy bacteria thriving, which will in turn help prevent acne lesions from forming.
Try These Topical Treatments
Topical, over-the-counter treatments are plentiful when it comes to acne. Beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid and antibacterial topicals like benzoyl peroxide can be of great help in calming inflammation and unclogging pores.
Salicylic acid is a popular topical found in a variety of over-the-counter acne treatments. It works by sloughing off dead skin cells to unclog pores, which can become infected with P. acnes bacteria and turn into inflamed pimples if left untreated. By unclogging pores, salicylic acid can also help treat and prevent comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).
Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, works by killing the P. acnes acne-causing bacteria. It is best for mild to moderate acne and can be applied directly to the lesion. It can also be drying, so use it in moderation to prevent overdrying of your skin. In fact, overdrying can have the negative effect of causing your skin to produce even more oil.
These two – salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide – are the most popular over-the-counter topical treatments that you can use to treat mild to moderate acne, but there are other types of acids — alpha-hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid — that can also help unclog pores and slough away dead skin cells that get trapped inside pores and mix with oil to form comedones.
Finally, you can try over-the-counter retinoids like retinol, a form of vitamin A, which helps boost cell turnover to unclog pores and peel away the top layers of skin that primarily consist of dead skin cells. Retinol also can simultaneously help with wrinkles and signs of aging or rough texture. Moreover, a combo of retinol and benzoyl peroxide can be an especially effective treatment.
Note: Don’t forget to moisturize with an oil-free, light moisturizer when using these products as they can all be drying for skin, resulting in peeling and flaking. Sometimes too much dryness will make your skin produce more oil and thus more breakouts.
Consider Lasers & LED Therapy
If regulating your diet and trying topical treatments didn’t quite give you the results you wanted, laser treatments like intense pulsed light (IPL) and LED therapy are worth a try.
IPL treatments target the redness characteristic of acne lesions and essentially shrink the pimple in size. In studies, burst-pulse mode has been shown to be more effective than single-pulse. No adverse side effects were noted during these studies, either. As a bonus, IPL treatments can also reduce the appearance of dark spots caused by acne that can linger long after the actual lesions itself is gone. One drawback, however, is that these IPL treatments can be a little on the pricey side, and may not necessarily be covered by insurance, and you will most likely need a series of treatments before you see true results.
LED (light-emitting-diode) therapy harness red and blue light to fight acne lesions like pimples (not blackheads, whiteheads, nodules or cystic acne). Red light fights inflammation while blue light destroys the P. acnes acne-causing bacteria. Both types of light can also help reduce the size of the sebaceous glands so that your skin produces less acne-causing oil. At-home treatments featuring LED therapy are becoming more and more popular, with several different brands making them available for purchase. These can be modestly effective with very little side effects. You can use the at-home treatments in conjunction with other acne-fighting options like retinol, but alternate the days you’re using them to prevent too much photosensitivity. Also, these are not for use on very severe acne that may best benefit from more serious prescription options.
Don’t Overdo It
If you suffer from moderate acne and have lesions pop up often, it may be tempting to try every treatment at once, essentially bombarding your face with an arsenal of treatments. This is not a good idea.
Going overboard with treatments, whether they’re topical or laser, can have the opposite effect that you’re hoping for. It can often exacerbate your acne or leave behind scars that may take a long time to heal. You will want to simplify your overall routine – don’t over-cleanse or over-exfoliate, which can be hard to resist, but instead keep these things to a minimum so as not to overwhelm your skin.
Too much cleansing or exfoliating can anger your skin, resulting in increased oil production, more acne lesions and irritation that can range from uncomfortable to painful. Remember that old adage “keep it simple, stupid,” and relax your treatment methods. Cleansing once a day and exfoliating (for example, with acids like salicylic acid and glycolic acid) about 2-3 times a week should be more than adequate.
References: International Journal of Dermatology, “Dark Chocolate Exacerbates Acne”; Frontiers in Microbiology, “The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis”; Mayo Clinic, “Acne”; Dermatology and Therapy, “Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne”; Indian Journal of Dermatology, “Efficacy of IPL in Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: Comparison of Single- and Burst-Pulse Mode in IPL”;