How do you prevent pimples?
By Rachel Nall, RN BSN CCRN
Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Acne is a common skin disorder that can result in several types of blemish. Some include pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads. There are many ways to prevent acne.
Dermatologists have identified four factors that contribute to the development of acne:
the skin producing too much oil, which clogs pores
dead skin cells building up, which has the same effect
the presence of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) in the pores
inflammation of the skin, which also leads to redness
A doctor or dermatologist can help to identify which factor or combination of factors is causing acne. However, many methods of treatment and prevention are similar, regardless of the cause. The following tips can help to protect against acne and reduce the number of breakouts.
Fifteen ways to prevent pimples
There are many things a person can do to prevent pimples and other forms of acne, including:
- Wash the face twice daily
Washing the face twice a day and not popping pimples will help to improve skin appearance.
Acne is rarely the result of a dirty face, contrary to popular belief. However, it is important to remove excess dirt and oil from the skin by washing regularly.
Many people prefer to use a mild cleanser and warm water. Applying an oil-free moisturizer after washing can keep the skin from becoming too dry.
Over-washing the face may cause the skin to become dry, which can aggravate pimples.
- Refrain from harsh scrubbing
Some people scrub the skin with rough cloth pads or washcloths. This can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, making acne breakouts worse.
Applying a gentle cleanser with clean hands or a soft brush intended for use on the face can help to prevent pimples.
- Keep hair clean
If excess oil in the hair travels to the skin, it can worsen acne. Regularly washing the hair may stop acne from developing, especially close to the hairline.
Also, refrain from getting products such as hair gel or spray on the face. These can also clog pores and lead to breakouts.
- Refrain from popping or picking at pimples
It may be tempting to squeeze a pimple, but this usually results in inflammation and scarring.
To reduce the appearance of blemishes, use a topical treatment instead. They may take some time to work, but they can also prevent new pimples from forming.
- Apply topical treatments
Over-the-counter treatments, such as creams or serums, can reduce breakouts, particularly when they tend to occur in certain areas.
The following problem areas are common:
Treatments available for purchase online often contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These products are not as potent as prescription-strength treatments, but they can help to prevent mild acne and reduce breakouts.
- Consider topical retinoids
Topical retinoids are products containing medicines derived from vitamin A, and dermatologists prescribe them to manage and prevent acne. These treatments can also get rid of excess dead skin cells and reduce inflammation.
Most topical retinoids are only available with by prescription, including tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova), and tazarotene (Tazorac).
However, one retinoid medication, adapalene (Differin), is available for purchase online or over the counter.
- Talk to a dermatologist about antibiotics
Topical antibiotics can fight an overgrowth of P. acne bacteria in the skin. Examples of antibiotics that treat this inflammatory acne include erythromycin and clindamycin, which are available by prescription.
A person can identify inflammatory acne by its very red, irritated appearance. It can also be painful.
- Talk to a doctor about hormone pills
Hormonal birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to prevent acne.
Birth control pills can help to prevent acne, by helping to regulate the hormones that may make acne worse.
However, these pills carry risks, so it is essential to review the benefits and side effects before making a decision.
Spironolactone, a medication often used to treat high blood pressure, may also help in cases of severe acne. However, spironolactone has many possible side effects, so it is best to speak to a doctor.
- Cut back on foods linked to acne
Doctors are not certain of the connection between foods and acne. However, a growing body of research suggests that some foods may trigger acne in certain patients.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, foods with a high glycemic index may increase the risk of developing acne or make acne worse.
These potentially problematic foods are sugary and high in carbohydrates. Some examples include:
Dairy products, especially skim milk, may also increase a person’s risk of developing acne. A person may want to cut back on a particular food group, to see if their skin improves.
- Wear sunscreen when going outdoors
Too much sun has many damaging effects on the skin. Sunburn can also lead to an overproduction of oils that make acne worse.
Using oil-free sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15 may help to prevent sunburns and exacerbated acne.
- Consider light or laser therapies
A dermatologist or esthetician can provide these therapies, which aim to reduce the presence of P. acne bacteria on the skin.
- Avoid skincare products that contain oil
Avoiding skincare products that contain oil may help prevent pimples.
Skincare products contain oil can clog the pores. These products are often intended for use on dry or mature skin that may not have as much natural oil.
Products that do not contain oil are usually labeled “non-comedogenic.”
It may be a good idea to avoid touching household grease and cooking oils, which can also clog pores.
- Refrain from excess exfoliation
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the skin.
While some exfoliation can help to improve acne, too much can worsen breakouts. This happens when a person removes too much natural oil from the skin. The skin may compensate by producing more oil, which clogs pores and leads to more pimples.
If a person is exfoliating too much, the skin may become irritated or feel very tight after washing.
- Reduce stress
Stress often causes inflammation, which can make breakouts worse.
Below are some means of reducing stress that may help to prevent acne:
relaxing before bed by reading or taking a bath
spending time in nature
engaging in hobbies
- Keep facial care products clean
Makeup and facial sponges and brushes should be cleaned regularly with soap and water to prevent a buildup of bacteria, which could lead to breakouts.
Make sure that brushes dry completely before use.
Cleaning the skin regularly and gently, selecting skincare products carefully and avoiding contact with oil can help to reduce acne.
If none of these methods show improvement in 6 to 8 weeks, see a dermatologist for further recommendations.