So, you have acne.

It’s there on your face for everyone to see. And you have to go to school or work where everyone else has perfect skin. (Not really, but that’s how it feels sometimes.) What do you do?

Of course, if this is the way you start your day, you need to get help from your Dermatologist.

But what do you do until then? Like today?

You’ve got to make your acne less visible without making it worse.  Not an easy thing to accomplish, but I have some tips.

First of all – read your product labels.  They should say things like oil-free, non-comedogenic, and non-irritating. If they don’t, they’re not helping. Ditch them and read on. You might need to make an emergency run to the pharmacy or, better yet, have a drone drop new products in for you.

Now you’ve got to get busy.  Follow these steps to put your best face forward.

Cleanse – Easy does it! Don’t try to sand those bumps down with an abrasive cleanser. Don’t even think about using that apricot scrub you bought at the grocery store. When I find out a patient has been using that, I try to maintain a calm expression.  But this is me on the inside …

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against exfoliating when you have acne, though I know some experts advise against it.  Honestly, I’m addicted to the pore unclogging power of the little jojoba beads in our Balance Alpha/Beta Cleanser. I believe that if you’ve got acne, especially the kind with blackheads or whiteheads, it is helpful to loosen up those evil little pore plugs so you can gradually get them to leave. Just don’t go crazy grinding away. Acneic skin is upset enough – don’t make it furious.

Tone – A good toner helps to soothe and hydrate the skin.  One good ingredient for acne patients is willow bark or salicylic acid, which is like aspirin and can calm irritation. A good toner also restores the correct skin pH.  This is important in maintaining the balance of the healthy bacteria on the skin.

Moisturize – Yes, Moisturize!  Recent studies have found that in patients with acne, there is an increase in the amount of water that is lost through your skin (trans epidermal water loss). When the skin can’t retain the natural moisture it needs to function correctly, oil production goes up. Its like your skin is doing whatever it can to seal in moisture. But that’s just what your skin doesn’t need – more oil.

So, help it out and hydrate it.  Find a light weight moisturizer that contains things like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, natural ingredients called humectants, that grab moisture out of the air. Ceramides are great too.

Avoid things like isopropyl myristate, propylene glycol, lanolin, red dyes, and tropical oils, like Coconut Oil (Another mini scream for Coconut Oil. I’ll explain in an upcoming entry.)

These can clog pores and you know that’s not good.

If you’re on a topical medication for your acne, many of them can dry out your skin. Using the right moisturizer during your treatment can help your skin tolerate the treatment and get your skin to clear more quickly.  Recent studies have shown that applying a moisturizer about twenty minutes before a retinoid medication (such as Retin-A) improved tolerability of the treatment without decreasing its effectiveness.

Sunscreen – You can do this in two ways.  You can find a moisturizer/sunscreen combination that you like. Or you can apply a sunscreen after your moisturizer. Just remember to watch your ingredients.

I always recommend physical sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Now I also recommend those with iron oxide to help to block visible light, because new studies over the past few years have found that even visible light can damage your skin and cause healing spots to turn brown. This means that even your study lamp or ceiling light can damage your skin. (Are we safe nowhere?)

Makeup – Use only lightweight, oil-free, noncomedogenic cosmetics. I recommend mineral make up, such as glō·minerals, most often.

There are a few added benefits to using mineral makeup when trying to conceal your acne. They contain ingredients like silica, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. These can hide the redness from active and healing blemishes.  They also absorb oil without irritating your skin or causing pimples. Additionally, the iron oxide pigment in mineral makeup naturally blocks visible light. This helps to minimize skin damage and discoloration of acne scars.

If you prefer to use a liquid foundation, water should be the first ingredient listed. Also look for dimethicone, which can conceal redness while smoothing out uneven skin.

Once you find a makeup that will work for you, don’t overdo it. Applying layer after layer doesn’t always make your skin look better. Makeup can be very helpful, but sometimes if you use the wrong kind, or apply it too thickly, it can accentuate your blemishes.  And if your skin is red and peeling from your acne treatment, it can look even worse when smeared with thick makeup. In that situation, you might do better with just your moisturizer/sunscreen and a little powder.

I hope this helps.

Just remember…

Read your labels and use the right products.

Be kind to your skin.

Help it get better, don’t make it worse.

And, most importantly, ask your Dermatologist for help when you need it.

Your skin isn’t like anyone else’s and may need special care.

About the Author – Kathleen W. Judge, MD

Dr. Judge has been a practicing dermatologist for over 15 years and loves to share her enthusiasm for the science of skin. She works with her team to create interesting and informative articles, videos, and posts for her growing patient base.