-Chemical exfoliants like BHAs (salicylic acid is one, which can be found in willow bark extractions for those who prefer natural) sink down INTO the skin and work to dissolve the gunk trapped in your pores. Word of warning, though, if you begin using BHAs: it’s common for it to cause a session of “purging” that lasts for up to two weeks at most, which means your skin can have more acne than usual. This SOUNDS terrible, but it’s actually a good thing– it means it’s working and causing all of the gross, deep-embedded pustules to come to the surface where they’ll be healed. Once the purging session is over, you should have drastically reduced amounts of acne as long as you keep up with your BHAs to ensure no more acne can form.
You’ve probably heard of the benefits of retinoid creams for anti-aging, but vitamin A is also efficient at clearing up acne. “[Retinoids] cause skin cells to turn over at a faster rate, decrease oil production, and help skin exfoliate,” board-certified dermatologist Rita Linkner, M.D., tells SELF. Another benefit: Acne is inflammation, and retinoids are anti-inflammatory.
According to a 2016 review of research that examined how diet may impact breakouts, researchers concluded that “compelling evidence shows that high glycemic load diets may exacerbate acne.” Foods high on the glycemic index (GI) tend to be higher in refined carbs, like those found in white bread. Scientists suspect that raised insulin levels from the carbs may trigger a release of hormones that inflame follicles and increase oil production.
The treatment regimen your doctor recommends depends on your age, the type and severity of your acne, and what you are willing to commit to. For example, you may need to wash and apply medications to the affected skin twice a day for several weeks. Often topical medications and drugs you take by mouth (oral medication) are used in combination. Pregnant women will not be able to use oral prescription medications for acne.
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