Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
Picture this: you’re in middle school and you reach the age of puberty where hormones begin to rage. One day you begin to see red dots appear on your skin. As you progress through highschool, you try everything from creams to ointments to face masks, but nothing seems to make these dots go away.
Does the above scenario sound familiar? If so, you or someone you know has probably experienced acne at some point during their life. This common, albeit unpleasant situation may seem mundane in the scheme of things, but in reality it can take a major toll on one’s mental health.
Thankfully, even the most stubborn blemishes are treatable. Read on for tips and tricks on managing your pimples or even reducing their frequency of occurring.
What causes a pimple to form?
Acne is a disorder of the skin, in which the body’s oil glands that connect to hair follicles become inflamed. This process leads to the formation of pimples, or small, red bumps filled with pus. These typically occur on the face, back, chest, and shoulders.
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing pimples including, but not limited to the following:
- Hormone imbalances: An increase in androgens (a.k.a male sex hormones) may lead to acne, as they cause sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more oil.
- Family history: If acne runs in your family, you may be more likely to experience breakouts.
- Medications: Certain medications (i.e. corticosteroids and lithium) may result in breakouts, as they tend to cause hormonal imbalance.
- Age: Acne may occur at any age, but is more common for individuals during their teenage years due to the hormonal changes caused by puberty.
Acne may also be exacerbated by the following risk factors:
- Diet: Certain types of foods (i.e. those containing high amounts of oil, sugar, or dairy) may be linked to worsening of acne symptoms.
- Stress: High levels of stress lead to a release of cortisol. Increased amounts of this hormone may influence inflammation of the skin and, thus lead to more breakouts.
- Makeup: Certain skincare products, such as face makeup may clog pores and eventually cause skin irritation.
- Environment: Environmental factors such as temperature and pollution may affect the skin by reducing natural moisture and leading to increased oil production.
You should always seek medical advice from either your primary care physician or a dermatologist to determine the cause of your pimples and in turn, find a successful treatment plan.
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What are dead skin cells?
Dead skin cells are the cells that the skin sheds in order to make room for new cells underneath. The process of shedding dead cells is a necessary component in maintaining clear skin. Generally, this is not noticeable, as the cells are very small and fall off naturally.
When dead skin cells do not shed on a regular basis, they collect in the pores, leading to acne. This provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria already present on your skin to enter and cause inflammation. Furthermore, it is necessary to aid your skin’s natural renewal process to ensure that dead skin cells shed. Washing your face with a gentle cleanser daily will not only remove dead cells, but also help maintain a healthy complexion. It’s a win win!
How to prevent pimples
Pimples can appear anywhere on this skin. While their exact cause is unknown, both genetic and environmental factors play a huge role. With that being said, there are numerous techniques that can be implemented to reduce the severity of acne or even eliminate pimples altogether.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is often recommended for reducing acne, as it helps keep pores clean. It can be found in a variety of over-the-counter products and prescription medications. By dissolving dead skin cells, it helps prevent a buildup that leads to breakouts.
While salicylic acid is very effective at reducing acne, it may cause side effects such as mild burning, stinging, irritation, and/or dryness of the skin. Furthermore, it is necessary to communicate with your healthcare provider before adding this product to your skincare routine.
Benzoyl peroxide is another commonly used acne-fighting ingredient that is widely available over-the-counter. It works by killing bacteria under the skin, which ultimately reduces clogged pores. Your doctor may recommend this treatment if your acne is inflammatory (i.e. red and swollen).
The main downside to benzoyl peroxide is that it can lead to dryness and irritation of the skin due to its oil-removal effect. It can also cause the discoloration of fabrics and bleaching of the hair, which are less serious side effects, but nonetheless things to be cautious of.
Washing your face twice a day
Unless your skin is constantly dry, washing your face twice a day can be extremely beneficial. This helps remove any oil or dirt that builds up on the skin throughout the day. Make sure to use a gentle, unscented soap and moisturize to avoid irritation and maintain hydration.
Stop touching your face
As a general piece of advice, you should avoid touching your face, as this can transfer dirt and bacteria from your hands to your skin. This can then lead to clogged pores, which ultimately causes breakouts. On a similar note, it’s also a good idea to stop trying to pop your pimples. This habit not only prolongs healing time, but could also result in scarring.
Avoid heavy makeup
While it’s not necessary to ditch your makeup altogether, wearing several products (i.e. foundation and concealer) could worsen acne, especially for those with sensitive skin. Furthermore, paying attention to ingredients and noting whether any are irritating your skin could be a beneficial practice. Additionally, washing your brushes and applying your products with clean hands will help prevent the transfer of bacteria to your face.
Shower after sweating
It’s important to shower after sweating because it helps remove excess oil and bacteria on your skin. If you tend to get pimples throughout your body (i.e. chest and back), this practice may be particularly effective.
How to treat pimples
Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are with your skincare routine, pimples continue popping up. Thankfully, there are numerous methods that can be implemented to treat even the most stubborn pimples.
Pimple patches are used to treat surface-level pimples that are filled with pus and oil. They absorb toxins that are trapped underneath the skin while also protecting the pimple from external bacteria. Most patches look like small, translucent stickers and are placed directly over the pimple.
Spot treatments are also used to treat surface-level pimples. They deliver acne fighting ingredients (i.e. benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid) directly to the pimple. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter which product you choose, as long as it contains a proven acne-fighting ingredient.
Hydrocortisone cream contains the synthetic version of the stress hormone cortisol, which helps regulate inflammatory skin conditions (i.e. those that ential redness, swelling, and itching). While this treatment improves the appearance of the skin, it doesn’t reduce the bacteria that causes acne in the first place.
Face masks don’t serve as a long-term solution, but can be a quick fix for inflammation or dry patches on your face. Paying attention to ingredients is necessary, as some can be more effective than others. For instance, oatmeal and aloe vera help soothe the skin while yogurt and papaya remove dead skin.
Staying hydrated is underestimated as a method to treat acne. Drinking water helps balance the oil content on the skin, which in turn, results in clear pores and fewer pimples.
What’s the takeaway?
While having pimples is no fun, there are several ways to treat or even prevent them from popping up going forward. And now that you know all the tricks, you can make a game plan for the next time you notice the dreaded pimple.
How can Pandia Health help?
Did you know that birth control may lead to clearer skin? Pandia Health can help with that! If you’re starting birth control for the first time or want a new prescription, you can schedule an online consultation with one of our expert doctors. We also offer acne treatment prescription, if you want to say bye to acne, sign up today and our doctors will find the best acne treatment for you!
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Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.