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How to treat acne

Board-certified dermatologist offers skin care advice to help you get the best results from your acne treatment

ROSEMONT, Ill. (November 17, 2022) — Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. As your body’s largest organ, it’s important to take good care of your skin. In recognition of National Healthy Skin Month in November, a board-certified dermatologist from the American Academy of Dermatology offers tips to help treat acne.

“If you’re treating your acne but still seeing breakouts, it can be frustrating,” said board-certified dermatologist Sandy Johnson, MD, FAAD, who is in private practice in Arkansas. “Fortunately, there are some self-care tips to help manage your acne at home during treatment.”

To get the best results from your acne treatment, Dr. Johnson recommends these tips:

  • Keep your skin clean. Gently wash your face up to twice daily and after sweating. Choose a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser. Apply it with your fingertips, as scrubbing with washcloths, sponges, and other tools can irritate your skin.

  • Choose the right skin care. Use gentle skin care products and ones that say “alcohol-free” on the label. Avoid products that can irritate your skin, such as toners and exfoliants. These products can dry your skin and make acne appear worse.

  • Shampoo regularly. The oil from your hair can cause acne on your forehead. If you have oily hair, shampoo more frequently and keep your hair away from your face.

  • Stick to your treatment. Trying new acne treatments too often can irritate your skin and cause breakouts. Give your treatment time to work. It may take several weeks to a few months before you see a difference.

  • Keep your hands off. Touching your face throughout the day can cause acne to flare. While it can be tempting to pick, pop, or squeeze your acne, doing so will make the acne take longer to clear and increase your risk for scarring and dark spots called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

  • Stay out of the sun and tanning beds. Along with increasing your risk for skin cancer, tanning damages your skin and can worsen acne. Some acne medications can also make your skin very sensitive to damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds. Protect your skin by avoiding tanning (indoors and out), seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing when outdoors. Look for a sunscreen that says “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores.” For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (or UPF) number on the label.

“Acne takes time to clear,” said Dr. Johnson. “If you keep seeing breakouts after following these tips, talk to a board-certified dermatologist, who can diagnose what is causing your acne and provide guidance on how to best treat existing acne, prevent new breakouts from forming, and reduce your chance of developing scars.”

These tips are demonstrated in “6 at home tips from dermatologists,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Your Dermatologist Knows” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Angela Panateri, apanateri@aad.org

Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

Acne Resource Center

Acne: Tips for Managing

10 Skin Care Habits That Can Worsen Acne

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.