Good (well, great) hygiene is crucial to winning the war on acne and achieving the clear skin you deserve. Here are seven tips that go a long way towards that goal, including which skin cleansers to avoid.
Tip #1: Don’t over-wash. Since dirt is not causing your acne, excessive scrubbing and washing won’t make it go away. Try to limit yourself to two washings per day — anything more than that can leave your healthy skin dry, and your acne-prone areas irritated. Habitual over-washing, even with gentle cleansers, may also stimulate extra oil production, and that translates to more breakouts.
Tip #2: Skip harsh scrubs. It’s okay to exfoliate, but be sure to use a gentle skin cleanser with small, smooth grains. Avoid cleansers with almond or apricot shell fragments. They can irritate or even tear your skin and further aggravate your acne.
Tip #3: Say no to alcohol. If you use a toner, avoid products with high concentrations of isopropyl alcohol, or common rubbing alcohol. Alcohol is a strong astringent and strips the top layer of your skin, causing your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. The result? Dry, red skin — and possibly more blemishes.
Tip #4: Don’t squeeze or pick. Squeezing or picking your blemishes — with fingernails, pins or anything else — can force bacteria deeper into the skin, causing greater inflammation and infection. You’ll also increase the damage to the surrounding skin, so the blemish is more likely to leave a permanent acne scar.
Tip #5: Hands off! P. acnes (the bacteria that causes breakouts) is a normal resident of your skin. It becomes a bad neighbor when it gets trapped inside a hair follicle. Excessive touching of your face, including rubbing or even resting your chin in your hands, can drive bacteria into your pores — where it can begin its dirty work.
Tip #6: Work out, wash off. When you exercise, your movement generates heat. The clothing you wear and the equipment you use can also cause friction. Until you shower off, heat and moisture are trapped against your skin, creating an ideal breeding ground for the spread of bacteria. So whenever you can, shower off and use an acne fighting cleanser immediately after exercising.
Tip #7: Find a regimen and stick with it. Most cases of mild acne can be improved with OTC (over-the-counter) cleansers and spot treatments. This is the stuff that doesn’t require a prescription. There is a wide range of treatments available, and there’s a good chance one of them will work for you. If you start treatment before your acne gets severe, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding physical and emotional problems down the road. But if your acne gets worse or lasts more than a month, see a dermatologist.