Acne is an infection of the sebaceous glands found in hair follicles in the skin. The primary job of these glands is to release an oily substance called sebum that helps keep skin stay supple, and protect it from drying out from wind and weather.
However, when sebaceous glands become blocked they can become inflamed and even infected, resulting in the pus often seen in whiteheads, the most frequent evidence of acne.
While anyone can acne at any age, it is most prevalent in teens due to hormonal changes, increased stress, or frequent experimentation with different oil-based makeup and cosmetics.
Below, read about some practical tips for avoiding and getting rid of acne with simple techniques for proper hygiene, and helpful tips on the proper way to "pop" a pimple. For more serious cases, medications and creams can often be use to get rid of acne or keep it from occurring so often.
1. Hands off! One trick to avoiding germs and dirt from reaching your face it to Keep your hands away from your face.
Easier said than done, of course, but when your realize how often your hands come in contact with public stair rails, doorknobs, or counter tops during the day, you become more aware of the risk. If you can't remember to do it, here's a tip: wash your hands frequently so even if you do happen to touch your face during the day you'll be minimizing opportunities for germs or dirt to reach your face.
2. Wash your face, but don't scrub.
Gentle washing - once in the morning and once at night - is the key to getting rid of acne. Frequent, harsh scrubbing with products that promise to get your skin super-clean is doing your face no favors. Remember that sebaceous glands are there to protect and strengthen your skin. Make them work harder and you may even worsen the condition.
It's true. Working up a sweat while at the gym, jogging, or playing sports helps to clear your pores of any dirt, dead skin cells, or oil build up that has accumulated during the day. And here's another helpful hint: daily exercise also helps reduce stress, a condition that signals your sebaceous glands to produce more oil.
4. Choose makeup carefully.
Oil-based makeup is probably a major factor in why teen girls develop acne. Shop around or ask at the cosmetics counter for either water-based or "noncomedegenic" makeup most often recommended by dermatologists. You probably won't often find eye shadows, mascara or lipsticks that are oil-free, but for overall foundation makeup most of the more popular major brands (such as Maybelline) carry a full line of water-based foundations in various shades.
5. Watch what you eat.
Cut down on your consumption of greasy foods, and at least try fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks every once in a while. Hamburgers, french fries, fried chicken, potato chips, cheese puffs, and other junk foods contain lots of fat and oil which can only add to the problem. It also doesn't help when your hands later come in contact with your face (see tip #1).
6. Emergency procedure: how to properly "pop' a pimple.
If you can't stand the thought of leaving the house with a glaring "zit" on your face, there's a right way and a wrong way to get rid of it. Instead of force, use simple tricks to coax it into popping.
First, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid bacteria from reaching your pores. Next, apply a warm washcloth to the area to help open your pores. Most importantly, avoid the impulse to push the pimple into submission, but use your fingers to gently pull away from either side of it. The pimple should pop and release the pus without damage or scarring. To keep the area from getting infected, wash it off using a gentle soap or antiseptic solution.
7. Use benzoyl peroxide.
While there are dozens of acne medications on the market, a key ingredient in most of them is simple benzoyl peroxide which is available in gel or cream form over the counter in drug stores. Since higher doses may cause itchiness or dryness,
look for a 5% solution or less.
8. Serious solutions for serious acne.
See your dermatologist if your acne doesn't clear up after two or three weeks using over the counter acne creams. You may be prescribed a more powerful medication containing either retinoic acid (Retin-A), adapaline (Differin), or even an oral antibiotic to help fight infection.