How-to (Beauty)

From at-home to in-office, these new acne-fighting strategies really work.


1. Eliminate the Obvious Culprits

Never use anything heavy or greasy on your hair or face. "This sounds like a no-brainer," says New York dermatologist Pat Wexler. "But I have patients who put pure vitamin E oil on their skin and then wonder why they break out."

2. Do Some Detective Work

Stress, insomnia, going on and off birth-control pills, fertility treatments, and even certain antidepressants can all knock your hormones out of whack and cause breakouts. "Birth-control pills make a huge difference if you tend to break out during your period," says Oakland, California, dermatologist Katie Rodan. "Yaz and Yasmin are especially great for acne."

3. Unplug Pores

Wash your skin twice a day—once more if you've just hit the gym. Gentle exfoliants work wonders—look for salicylic acid, AHAs, or retinoids.

4. Kill Bacteria

Apply an antibacterial agent (benzoyl peroxide, tee tree oil, or sulfur) all over your face, even where you aren't broken out. "Acne affects every oil gland on your face," says San Francisco dermatologist Kathy Fields. "You need to treat the entire zone."

5. Bring Down Inflammation

Irritation always worsens acne; restore the skin's barrier with soothing treatments. To knock out rosacea-related breakouts (associated with blotchy redness across the nose and cheeks), topical prescription medications like Finacea or MetroGel are the most recommended.

6. Pick a Regimen and give it at least Eight Weeks

Designed so you won't overdry your skin or overlap products, regimens contain ingredients that work synergistically for faster results. You may find you break out a bit more at first; all the cleansing and exfoliating brings prior problems to the surface. By eight weeks, you'll have a good gauge of how effective the new routine is.

7. Don't Touch! (Use Spot Treatments Instead)

"Left alone, a pimple usually fades in eight days," says Wexler. "If you pick at it, you're looking at three to four weeks and possible scarring." A dermatologist can remove a pimple in 24 hours with a cortisone injection; at home, reduce swelling with cortisone cream, benzoyl peroxide, ice, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

8. Conceal, Conceal, Conceal

1. Always use a slightly cakey concealer.
2. Yellow-based tones are best—they neutralize redness.
3. Pick up a bit of the concealer with the side of a small, firm brush; keep the brush in a pointed shape.
4. Apply on the pimple first, working your way to the outside.
5. Press—rather than rub—the concealer in place and finish with translucent powder.

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