The One Thing You Should Never Do When Treating Acne

Acne treatment can get confusing. What's the difference between salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide? Should I be using a physical exfoliant, or a chemical exfoliant? Which spot treatment works best for which type of breakout? It's easy to get overwhelmed, but there's one thing to never do when treating acne — and it all comes down to overzealousness.

Of course, it's easy to get a little too trigger-happy when it comes to breakouts — there are so many spot treatments to sample, so many zit-busting cleansers to bring home from the drugstore aisle, and so many exciting pore-clearing masks — but it's important to keep things in measure. After all, one of the biggest mistakes you can make while treating your acne is wrecking your skin by overdosing on the harsh exfoliants and drying out your face with overly-strong astringents.

In fact, as it turns out, plying your skin with harsh acne-busters will only lead to more breakouts, and can be painful besides. As Dr. Diane S. Berson told WebMD, harsh cleansers "can compromise the skin's protective barrier and increase irritation." The same holds true for abrasive scrubs, which actually can cause acne to take longer to heal.

Overwashing can also cause similar problems — as Dr. Rachel Nazarian told Allure, "Washing your face more than twice a day is not going to improve your acne. It'll just strip your natural skin moisturizers and make your acne more inflamed. Put aside those aggressive scrubs and brushes and reach for a gentle, nonfoaming cleanser." She recommends Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser as a great option for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $8.49, drugstore.com

She also warned against over-applying products. "A thin layer of most acne medication is enough to combat acne pimples, and applying more will dry out your skin and leave you too irritated to even continue treatment."

As you can see, acne treatment is something of a balancing act — too much treatment will only seek to irritate your skin even more, while simply leaving it be isn't exactly a helpful option either. That said, heed the advice of the dermatologists referenced above — and treat your skin nice! No matter how much you hate it for breaking out, it doesn't deserve death by salicylic acid.

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