I had bad acne as a teen. There were days I didn't even want to leave the house because I was too caught up in how awful I thought my skin looked. So I tried what seemed like everything to get rid of it. And because I had such a one-track mind about treating my zits, I definitely did some things that make acne worse, or at least make it last longer than it should.
The problem with acne is that it's so personal. As humans, we tend to be judgmental, and usually, we are most so with ourselves. We can notice things about ourselves that nobody else does. We fixate and stress and want the quickest, easiest fix. But unfortunately, it's these behaviors that often lead to making mistakes when treating acne.
The best thing to do is remember that just about everybody gets zits at some point. And when you do, it's never really as bad as it seems. I know it can be hard, but if you focus on treatment as a process instead of looking for that instant miracle (infomercials make it seem like they exist, but they don't), you won't make these common mistakes.
1. Washing Too Much
Washing your face more than once a day can seriously dry out your skin. And when skin is dry, oil production goes into overdrive. Which means that when you think you're cleaning your skin, you're really causing more oil to be made, which could clog pores, creating even more acne. Using water that is too hot can also have this effect, so make sure to stick to lukewarm temperatures.
Exfoliating more than a few times a week can have the same effect as over-washing, but worse. Physical exfoliators can burst whiteheads if you aren't careful, causing the bacteria to spread around your face. And any kind of exfoliator, if used too aggressively, can cause irritation to already sensitive skin, causing acne to take longer than normal to heal.
3. Incorrectly Popping Pimples
Please, please don't just smash and squeeze willy-nilly. That's the quickest way to spread bacteria and cause scarring. In fact, if you can, it really is best to avoid popping pimples altogether. But if you must, there is a correct way. Using a sterile needle, pierce the pimple from the side and rip upward. Then you can easily drain the contents without scarring yourself in the process. It's also a good idea to steam your face before you pop. This opens up your pores, making it easier for the gunk to slide out (sorry).
4. Using Too Many Products
If your regimen borders on unbearably long, you're doing too many things. Try not to use more than two products targeted towards fighting acne. These products usually contain ingredients that dry out your skin — that's what makes them good at getting rid of zits. But when you stack them? The effects are magnified, and can cause more hurt than help for your troubled skin.
5. Not Sticking to a Regimen Long Enough
Many times, we try a new product thinking — no, knowing — that it'll be The One. We use it before going to bed, then jump up the next morning and race to the mirror to see the miracle that had to have taken place ... only to find that nothing has changed. We keep trying for the rest of the week, but much to our chagrin, our skin stays the same. Or, God forbid, it gets worse. We know a failure when we see it, and start looking for the next miracle product.
Stop it! Stop throwing away your good products before giving them a proper chance! It actually takes at least two weeks for products to start working properly with your skin. And what's more, they usually tend to make skin look worse before it looks better. Yes, that kind of sucks, but if you notice your breakouts are getting worse with a new product, that probably means it's working. The product is making your skin purge all those pent-up breakouts that haven't, well, broken out yet. Of course, if your skin doesn't proceed to actually get better after a purge period (try to give products six to eight weeks to show improvement), it's time to move on.
6. Skipping Moisturizer
No matter how oily your skin is, or how badly you want to dry out those pesky zits, never ever ever skip moisturizer. Acne treatments will dry out skin in addition to pimples, and your skin needs its hydration. Try an oil-free formulation that will feel lighter and won't clog pores. And if you can, pick one with SPF. Since many acne treatments contain ingredients that make the skin sensitive to the sun, it's important to always wear sunscreen while on an acne-fighting regimen. (Of course it's actually best to just always wear sunscreen if you're going outside, period.)
7. Using the Wrong Products
Unfortunately, not every acne treatment will work for everybody. My skin, for instance, doesn't respond to salicylic acid (the most common acne-fighting ingredient, dammit) so it's important to be open to playing trial and error. Take note of what does and doesn't work for you. Don't waste your time and money trying different products that have the same active ingredients.
And remember: Everybody gets zits. I know it can be hard, but try not to stress too much about yours.
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