This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
If your problem with acne is that it’s making your skin swell up like crazy, aloe vera gel could do the trick. This is especially great to use for people who have sensitive skin, since its antibacterial properties reduce swelling and make for a soothing treatment. You can purchase aloe vera gel at the drugstore and use it as a spot treatment for any pimples that have appeared, and leave it on overnight.

Oral isotretinoin is very effective. But because of its potential side effects, doctors need to closely monitor anyone they treat with this drug. Potential side effects include ulcerative colitis, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and severe birth defects. In fact, isotretinoin carries such serious risk of side effects that all people receiving isotretinoin must participate in a Food and Drug Administration-approved risk management program.
But the side effects of targeted breakout cream treatments aren’t always worth it. “So many products instruct consumers to use benzoyl peroxide spot treat red bumps and pustules. I don’t recommend it,” says Dr. Lawrence Green, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University. Such high concentrations of benzoyl peroxide cause added irritation and inflammation to already sensitive skin, so with this in mind, we cut kits that included spot treatments.
Any acne treatment is a weeks-long experiment that you’re conducting with your skin. Acne is slow to heal, and in some cases, it can get worse before it gets better (nearly every benzoyl peroxide product we looked at emphasized the likeliness of irritating acne further, and starting off with a lighter application). April W. Armstrong, a doctor at the University of California Davis Health System, recommends waiting at least one month before you deem a product ineffective.
How to Handle It: Think of these as bigger, pissed-off whiteheads. Your best bet, says Zeichner, is to stock up on benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria. A spot treatment like Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix ($22) should do the trick. Also, try not to pop them — as tempting as that may be. Since they're inflamed, they're more likely to scar if you go the DIY route.
If your problem with acne is that it’s making your skin swell up like crazy, aloe vera gel could do the trick. This is especially great to use for people who have sensitive skin, since its antibacterial properties reduce swelling and make for a soothing treatment. You can purchase aloe vera gel at the drugstore and use it as a spot treatment for any pimples that have appeared, and leave it on overnight.
Retinoids: Retin-A (tretinoin) has been in use for years, and preparations have become milder and gentler while still maintaining its effectiveness. Newer retinoids include adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac). These medications are especially helpful for unclogging pores. Side effects may include irritation and a mild increase in sensitivity to the sun. Adapalene 0.1% is now available without a prescription. With proper sun protection, however, they can be used even during sunny periods. The combination medication known as Epiduo gel -- which contains the retinoid, adapalene, along with the antibacterial, benzoyl peroxide -- is applied once a day.
And if you thought blackheads and whiteheads were annoying, the deep painful pimples that often pop up in adult acne are much more aggravating—and harder to get rid of. So, we talked to dermatologists to find out which acne treatments are the most effective on all types of pimples. Keep reading to learn what causes acne in the first place, plus the best acne treatments worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.
And if you thought blackheads and whiteheads were annoying, the deep painful pimples that often pop up in adult acne are much more aggravating—and harder to get rid of. So, we talked to dermatologists to find out which acne treatments are the most effective on all types of pimples. Keep reading to learn what causes acne in the first place, plus the best acne treatments worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.

How to Handle It: If you've tried the usual anti-acne ingredients, like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide (which, we should warn you, rarely work for this), you should consider paying your dermatologist a visit. "You may need a cortisone injection or an oral medication, like an antibiotic, in addition to topical formulas," says Zeichner. He's also a fan of a prescription topical medication called Epiduo Forte Gel, since, he says, it's been shown to be effective at controlling severe acne without the help of oral treatments.
Rubbing ice cubes on the face will decrease the size of acne and helps in healing the acne pain. You are required to take a few ice cubes and wrap them in a clean cloth. Now, rub it gently on the face, specially covering the infected area until the area becomes insensitive. If you have a lot of acne, you can hold ice for five minutes on the infected area. This will minimize the redness and inflammation of acne.
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.
Blue light rays penetrate follicles to kill off acne-causing bacteria. For severe cases, photodynamic therapy adds a topical solution called Levulan to blue light therapy. Note that these treatments can cause temporary redness and may not be covered by insurance. Prices vary greatly depending on the location and severity of acne, but can cost at least $50 for one blue light treatment and $100 or more per photodynamic therapy session. Most patients will need multiple treatments to see effective results, but many dermatologists offer package deals.
Buying a facial cleanser can be intimidating. There are so many different products that all promise you clear, radiant skin. Between the cleansers, scrubs, and toners, it's easy to go overboard when it comes to washing your face. But when it comes to scoring zit-free skin, board certified dermatologist and medical director and founder of California Dermatology Specialists, Dr. Eric Meinhardt, says simple is usually better. "Routines that are complex with multiple steps are often too harsh for the skin," says Dr. Meinhardt, so don't worry about stocking up on tons of products or subscribing to a multi-step routine.

While hormones and skincare play a factor in whether or not your skin is clear, sometimes it just comes down to stress. And we all know that preparation for major life events that we have very little control over is bound to be stressful. But when you're stressed, your skin is more likely to produce too much cortisol, a hormone that produces excess oil and clogs pores to create blemishes. C'est la vie.

There’s evidence that eating a low glycemic diet, meaning one that doesn’t include lots of processed grains/flour products and added sugar, is one the best home remedies for acne because it can help prevent it.  Glycemic index measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar. Processed and refined foods, like those common in the Western diet, are high-glycemic, while meats and whole plant foods are low on the glycemic scale.
How to Handle It: Consider salicylic acid your secret weapon. "This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliate dead cells from the skin's surface to keep pores clear," says Zeichner. Try Clinique's Acne Solution Clearing Gel, a two-time Best of Beauty winner that packs both salicylic acid and sea whip extract — an ingredient with skin-soothing properties — to help counteract the dryness sometimes caused by salicylic acid. The formula does double duty: It works as a spot treatment for mild to moderate acne and as a nightly allover treatment for pimple prevention. And since it dries clear, you can wear it to fight zits whenever, wherever.
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.
×