Whether you have adult acne or you’re a teenager with your first bout of breakouts, getting your skin under control can feel like an exasperating journey. We’re here to help end that frustration, armed with the facts about what triggers acne, plus helpful tips for all kinds of blemishes.
Causes of Acne
Acne is most commonly triggered by an imbalance of excess oil production that builds up in the pore lining. When the pore can’t release all the oil being produced, it begins to clog. As the clog mixes with dead skin, it causes a thick, waxy accumulation, which allows the acne-triggering substances to flourish, eventually resulting in a pimple (1,2).
Other factors can contribute to the conditions for acne to thrive, but research shows the effective protocol of a gentle cleanser, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide remains skin’s proven first line of defense against acne (3).
How to Get Rid of Acne Breakouts
Step 1: Wash your face, but don’t overdo it. Many cleansers geared toward acne contain harsh, irritating ingredients that make breakouts more inflamed and leave skin feeling dehydrated. The key is to use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that strikes the right balance between removing excess oil, makeup, and other pore-clogging debris without leaving skin stripped dry (4). Wash once in the morning and again at night.
Step 2: Decongest pores with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a proven exfoliator that not only gets rid of built-up dead skin on the surface but also penetrates deeper to unclog pores to dramatically reduce breakouts (5). It also has natural soothing properties to diminish the redness and irritation that often accompanies blemishes (3). Use an exfoliating solution with salicylic acid once or twice daily depending on the severity of your acne.
Step 3: Apply treatments preventatively. A common mistake is waiting to spot treat a pimple once it has surfaced. A more effective method is to consistently apply acne-fighting formulas to your breakout-prone areas to stop blemishes from forming in the first place. For best results, incorporate an acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide into your daily routine to squelch existing pimples and prevent future breakouts (6).
Keep in mind that sun protection is essential as well. UV damage impedes skin’s ability to heal, which makes breakouts and the marks they leave behind linger longer (7). While old school sunscreens used to feel thick, heavy, and occlusive, today’s best sunscreens for acne-prone skin have non-greasy, featherlight formulas, so you can get the protection you need without the risk of clogging pores.
Acne Treatments for Body
The same principles for acne on the face apply to the body. Make sure to avoid bar soaps that leave a pore-clogging residue on skin which can lead to breakouts on the chest and back (bacne). Instead, opt for a water-soluble body wash that rinses cleanly while whisking impurities away. Follow that up with a salicylic acid acne body spray which allows you to treat hard-to-reach areas like your back.
References for this information:
1. Molecules, August 2016, ePublication
2. Clinical Dermatology, September 2004, pages 360-366
3. StatPearls, January 2020, ePublication
4. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 2011, pages 430-435
5. Experimental Dermatology, July 2019, pages 786-794
6. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, December 2012, pages 357-364
7. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, August 2012, pages 3-17