Contrary to the marketing promises of “blemish banishers” and “zit zappers,” immediate results are not the trademark of acne treatments — a frustrating truth to anyone suffering through a breakout. And while pimples are personal (your stress-induced spots will look and act differently than your best friend’s breakout), the best acne treatments will include a regimen of products to hit all of acne’s root causes. We tested 43 kits to find the most well-rounded breakout-fighting solutions on the market.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a procedure that treats precancerous cells, in addition to other types of cancer cells. The medical treatment does this with the help of a photosensitizing drug and a light source that activates the applied drug, destroying cancer cells. PDT is approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and Barrett's esophagus. It treats actinic keratosis, as well as acne, rosacea, skin cancer, sun damage, oily skin, wrinkles, warts, psoriasis, and enlarged sebaceous glands.
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.
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.
Moderation and regularity are good things, but not everyone can sleep eight hours, eat three healthy meals per day, and drink plenty of water a day. Probably the most useful lifestyle changes one can make is to never to pick or squeeze pimples. Playing with or popping pimples, no matter how careful and clean one is, nearly always makes bumps stay redder and bumpier longer. People often refer to redness as "scarring," but fortunately, it usually isn't permanent. It's just a mark that takes months to fade if left entirely alone.
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.
Another prescription option your dermatologist might prescribe for acne is dapsone gel, like the brand name version Aczone. Dapsone is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, and it’s proven to help with blackheads, whiteheads, and deeper painful pimples. Oftentimes, dapsone is used alongside other acne treatments. And, like many of those other remedies, this can cause skin to dry out.
-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.
Retinoids and retinoid-like drugs. These come as creams, gels and lotions. Retinoid drugs are derived from vitamin A and include tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, others), adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage). You apply this medication in the evening, beginning with three times a week, then daily as your skin becomes used to it. It works by preventing plugging of the hair follicles.