Acne Treatment and Prevention

Dealing with acne can be a lifelong struggle that some of us have to deal with well into our fifties. The good news is that we have made great advances in terms of medications and treatments. I’ve come across a few innovative products recently, and wanted to share them—along with a few little-known acne prevention tips—so you (or someone you love) can be on your way to clear skin.

The Acne Basics

Acne is caused by a combination of the following:

  1. Oily skin (Increased sebum)
  2. Bacteria (P. acnes)
  3. Poor exfoliation of the inside of the pore (altered keratinization)

How To Treat Acne

A good acne regimen should consist of one item from each of these three categories:

  1. Salicylic acid
  2. Antibiotic (topical or by mouth) and/or benzoyl peroxide and/or blue light device
  3. Retinoid (Tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, retinol)

Important Facts About Acne

  1. The acne cycle is about 8 weeks so any treatment will take 8 weeks to work.
  2. Preventing future acne is more effective than waiting until you break out.
  3. Using a consistent regimen is important. Many people are noncompliant, and your anti-acne products aren’t going to work if they stay in the bottle.
  4. Diet does affect acne. Dairy and sugar seem to make breakouts worse.

The exact products that you should use and when to apply them depends upon your skin type. You can identify your correct skin type at

New Acne Treatments

A no-guesswork regimen

I recommend keeping things simple. A kit that contains salicylic acid is essential, since SA helps keep pores clear—and it also has an anti-aging effect. The new Olay Pro-X Clear Acne Protocol consists of a cleanser, treatment and lotion to heal blemishes and prevent new breakouts—without overdrying skin.  This kit should work well for those with mild adult acne.

No time to go to a dermatologist

Prescription retinoids are the best acne treatment in my opinion. But if you do not have time or cannot go to a dermatologist, try an over-the-counter retinol like Skinceuticals Retinol (available in 0.5 and 1.0 concentrations), or La Roche-Posay Biomedic Retinol or RoC Multi-Correxion Night Treatment.

Benzoyl peroxide-resistant towels

I wish I thought of this one, since one of the most common complaints I get from acne patients is that benzoyl peroxide bleaches their towels. Color Solutions Bath Towels by WestPoint Home resist the bleaching effect that BP can have on linens, and they come in 8 colors. They’re also soft, so they won’t feel scratchy on aggravated skin.

Preventing Acne

  1. Did you know that your shampoo and conditioner can cause breakouts? To keep blemishes to a minimum, wash your face after your wash and condition your hair. And if you suffer from acne on your back and/or chest, be sure to wash your body with a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid shower gel after taking care of your hair.
  2. Change your pillowcases and the towels you use to dry your face every few days. Think about it… Your face rests on your pillowcase for (hopefully) 8 or so hours a night, and it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and a great host for pore-clogging oils not only from your face, but from your skincare products as well. Your towels can also harbor dirt and bacteria, so wash them often!
  3. Check all of your product labels and avoid isopropyl myristate, which is often used to make creams and lotions feel good on the skin. Myristyl myristate is another big no-no for blemish-prone skin, and it’s often in hair products. (And while you’re at it, check for these other acne-causing ingredients.)

How to hide under-eye circles

Our lifestyles don’t do much to help under-eye circles, and while skincare products can help in most cases (as can more sleep and less stress), many of us have our DNA to blame. And covering up under-eye circles can be tricky, since the wrong shade of concealer can make matters worse. That’s why I asked my friend, Emmy Award-winning makeup artist, Kevin James Bennett, for his professional pointers.

Cover and correct

Most discoloration under the eyes is due to blood leaking from the capillaries, and since the skin is thinner under the eyes than other parts of the body (only about 7 layers deep compared to 20 layers elsewhere on the face), this pooled blood is much easier to see. Blood that is left unexposed to oxygen is a deep purple color, and when you mix this hue with most people’s basic skin tone, you get telltale dark circles.

Serious dark circles need more than coverage—you need to enlist the help of color correction products as well in order to disguise them. And to make matters more confusing, the corrective color you need depends on your skin tone. Lighter skin tones have less melanin, and require less pigment to hide dark circles. A soft peachy tint should counteract the darkness. Medium to dark skin tones should try a salmon-colored corrector, and the darkest skins can go as deep as orange or rust.

Once you have a color-correcting product in hand, apply it lightly with a soft concealer brush before applying concealer. And make sure your concealer is as close a match to your skin tone as possible. If you go too light, this can accentuate your dark circles more.


The lowdown on cleansing your skin

So many of us focus on the skincare products we apply after washing our face without realizing that cleaning is not only the first, but perhaps one of the most important skincare steps. Your cleanser is responsible for clearing away dirt, makeup and oil that accumulate on our skin throughout the day (and night), and without proper cleansing, you’re getting your skincare routine off on the wrong foot.

How to cleanse

It may seem rudimentary, but how you wash your face is important. Whether you use a washcloth (if you do, please wash it every day or two) or not, you should use a circular motion that follows the lymph flow of your face—this means using your hands in an up-and-out motion.

Choose the right cleanser for your skin type

Have you taken our skin type quiz yet? If not, you are probably using the wrong skin care products. If you’re oily, use a foaming cleanser to help strip excess oils from the skin. And be sure to use hot or warm water to open the pores. If your skin is not sensitive, it will respond well to a scrubbing salicylic acid cleanser like Vivite Exfoliating Cleanser or Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Daily Scrub. After cleansing, rinse with cool water to close pores, and keep in mind your skin may feel tight for about 45 minutes—this is how long it takes for your oil glands to get going again.

If you’re sensitive and oily, go with a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide cleanser (benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria and salicylic acid helps clear excess oil out of the pores). If you’re dry and acne-prone, glycolic acid cleansers help clear dead cells off the surface of the skin that can lead to clogged pores.

Dry skin should be cleansed with tepid water and minimal friction, and avoid scrubs if your skin gets red and sensitive. Mild flaking (not soreness and redness) can be alleviated with a mild scrub like Clinique 7-Day Scrub Cream or La Roche Posay Physiologic Gel Scrub.

Rosacea requires special care during cleansing as not to aggravate the skin. Don’t use hot or cold water—instead aim for a tepid temperature. Use gentle cleansing motions as friction only makes matters worse. Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients like feverfew, green tea and oatmeal, and avoid glycolic acid and vitamin C. You can also skip cleansing in the morning if you aren’t oily and it makes your skin red, but cleansing at night is a must to remove sunscreen and makeup.

Those who experience burning and stinging shouldn’t use toners, and should avoid alcohol, witch hazel, glycolic acid, lactic acid, benzoic acid and other ingredients that sting.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

August 2, 2016 Acne, Skincare