8 proven strategies to prevent and treat acne

October 9, 2015

Blackheads, pimples and acne in general are all a rite of passage for 90 percent of teenagers, but they also haunt adults. If you're prone to acne, these strategies can help prevent flare-ups, whether you're 14 or 44.

8 proven strategies to prevent and treat acne

1. Open your pores

  • Ingredients called alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids prevent pores from clogging with the gunky mix of skin cells and excess oil.
  • Some even act as gentle chemical peels to unblock pores that are already clogged.

2. Stop bacteria

  • Benzoyl peroxide, an inexpensive drugstore remedy, is proven to fight acne's top culprit, the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.
  • It works even on strains of P. acnes that are resistant to antibiotics for acne, such as tetracycline and erythromycin.
  • Higher strengths of benzoyl peroxide are more likely to cause redness, irritation and even peeling.
  • Start with a low dose and move up until you're happy with the results.

3. Consult a dermatologist

  • Ask a dermatologist about prescription-strength creams and washes containing vitamin A derivatives.
  • These products can speed the shedding of dead skin cells so they can't clog your pores. They may also cool inflammation, easing redness and swelling.
  • Research suggests that retinoids may clear up 70 percent of blemishes.

4. Help sensitive skin

  • A gentler alternative to irritating retonoid creams is azelaic acid.
  • In one study, an alcohol-free azeleic acid gel reduced blemishes by 70 percent after four months.
  • Azelaic acid is not commercially available in Canada, but can be bought from a reputable online pharmacy, or compounded by your pharmacist.

5. Use a combo cream

  • Combination creams are more effective than using an antibiotic cream alone.
  • Your doctor can prescribe a combo cream that contains both an antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide.
  • Another good duo: benzoyl peroxide plus an alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid or some types of retinoids.
  • Benzoyl peroxide can inactivate tretinoin, so don't use the two together.

6. Try light therapy

  • Light therapy works by killing bacteria and possibly reducing oil production. There are many types, including combined blue-red light therapy and pulsed-dye lasers.
  • In one study, 85 percent of people who had four sessions of light therapy over eight weeks saw acne improve by at least 50 percent. 20 percent of study volunteers had a 90 percent improvement.
  • Results can last up to three months.

7. Go with the pill

  • For women whose acne persists after trying many treatments, oral contraceptives could help.
  • They can clear up skin by changing the hormone balance in your body in a way that reduces the production of oil.
  • It's recommended only for women age 35 and younger who have healthy blood pressure levels, don't smoke and don't get migraines.

8. Cut refined carbs

  • One of 43 young men with acne involved a diet of foods that have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. After 12 weeks, 23 percent had fewer blemishes.
  • Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, and choose whole-grain products when you eat pasta.

Everything from genetics to stress to hormones can cause acne and ratchet up inflammation. But there are steps you can take to help your skin resist bacteria, and look clearer in the process.

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