If you’re anything like me, you have no idea what skincare products to buy so you just grab whatever product in the grocery store aisle that says “for blank skin type” or instantly buy whatever is being advertised on instagram because those before and after photos just look so good. Well let this be your short crash course into the derm world.

So what really is ACNE?

Did you know there are multiple types of acne? Me neither. Typically acne is broken up into non-inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne. Non-inflammatory is the typical whiteheads and blackheads that you spend all your time picking at in the mirror. This can typically be treated with hygiene and over the counter products. Inflammatory acne includes pustules, nodules and cysts (I will save you to do your own quick google search on those if you want to see those images). This may need prescription medications to be treated. So how do I prevent acne and how do I treat it?

  • Wash your face! And by this I mean wash your face twice a day using mild, non-fragrance soaps or cleansers to remove oil and dirt. If you have more combination or dry skin try to avoid soaps as these are more drying than cleansers. Some great products are Cerave and Cetaphil because they are mild cleansers without a bunch of added ingredients. When washing your face also use single, gentle, continuous strokes on each side of your face from your midline out to your ears to minimize irritation or damage.
  • Makeup. Let’s be real here. Makeup can be a vicious circle because we all know when we have a zit we shove a bunch of concealer and foundation over top of it and try to clog up our pores even more. So at least pick some makeup that is best to avoid acne. Look for oil-free/noncomedogenic makeup products and avoid water-based products.
  • Shaving. Try to shave in your acne prone areas as infrequent as possible and avoid nicking lesions. If you do need to shave make sure you use strokes in the direction of hair growth and shave each area only once.
  • Moisturizers. If you have oily skin typically try to avoid using much for moisturizers. Keep in mind that the order of least oily to oiliest is gels < lotions < creams < ointments. So if you have oily skin stay with gels or maybe a light lotion and if you have dry skin you can use lotions or creams.

Now if just washing your face and doing the steps above is not enough you can look into further acne products. For more mild non-inflammatory acne there is a variety of over the counter products you can purchase, but for more moderate-to-severe or inflammatory acne you may need to see a doctor to get prescription topical or oral acne products.

Over the counter products:

  • Salicylic/Azelaic acid. This is found in MANY acne products and can be applied two times daily. It is pretty mild for acne products.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. This topical can be applied to your face one to three times daily. There are multiple strengths, but I suggest starting with the weakest strength once daily and then increasing frequency before you go up strengths to decrease your risk of making your skin super dry and flaky. Panoxyl is also a benzoyl peroxide wash you can use in the shower to get other acne prone areas. A quick tip about this product is it can bleach or stain fabrics, hair, clothing, furniture, so make sure to wash your hands well after applying!
  • Retinoids. Many retinoids are prescription topicals such as tretinoin (Retin-A), but there is also an over the counter adapalene gel (Differin gel). This should be put on 20-30 minutes after washing your face before bedtime. Since Differin gel is a gel it is more drying than some other products, so you can also use a lotion about 15 minutes after applying to prevent dryness. Another tip is to make sure to use sunscreen when you are outside (which you should anyways) because adapalene can increase your sensitivity to the sun and from personal experience you really don’t want a bright red painful face (sunburns from acne medications are not the same as your typical sunburns!!!!). Also if you find this to be too drying you can drop down to only applying this 2-3 times per week and then increase as tolerated. Symptoms of dryness can be flaky skin or burning especially when sweating.

You can use a combination of the products above, but start with one and slowly add on. Acne medications can take weeks to months to make a difference so make sure you give it a little time to work before adding more to your daily skincare regimen. If after trying out some of the over the counter products above and you are still having difficulty controlling your acne feel free to ask your pharmacist or go to the doctor to talk about prescription options. Prescription products include:

  • Topical antibiotics
  • Dapsone
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Spironolactone

I hope this gave you a little more knowledge to help solve your acne problems (and maskne problems due to the COVID-19 rules). Please comment below or DM us on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook for more skincare questions!

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