Okay, I’ll just say it: Acne sucks. Dealing with breakouts is frustrating and can be really difficult. Everyone’s problem areas are different, with varying triggers and results. The other annoying part? Acne medication and over-the-counter products usually come along with expensive price tags. So that’s why I’m here—to let you know that there is a solution, and it doesn’t have to come between you and your credit card payments.
Keep scrolling for free expert advice and acne products that won’t break the bank.
“If you experience acne cysts—those hard, sore bumps under the skin (most often occurring in the chin and jaw area) that linger for weeks—try to limit your intake of dairy,” suggests celebrity esthetician, Renée Rouleau. “Eliminate dairy for three full weeks, including yogurt, cheese, and milk. If you don’t develop any new cysts in this three-week time period, then this might be the solution to your problem.”
“Take advantage of coupons and promotions, even for prescription products,” recommends Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa. “For example, there are coupons for prescription acne products like Aczone 7.5% Gel where you can pay no more than $15.” Additionally, there are a lot of products that are sold in travel and trial sizes. That way, you can test them out for a lesser price and make sure they work for you before going in for the splurge.
This two-week trial kit combats breakouts with a power dose of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Look for any drugstore product with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid—these ingredients really do work. “Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser is a good acne wash for face or body acne,” says King. Rouleau adds: “Tea tree oil is beneficial in keeping skin clear from blemishes. It offers disinfectant properties to destroy acne-causing bacteria and keep pores clean.” You can order it on Amazon for just $6.
With a blast of grapefruit (perfect for those kinds of mornings) and vitamin C, this formula helps treat and prevent zits and blackheads without drying your skin.
Drinking hot water with lemon or this tea, that is. “Start your day by drinking hot lemon water before you eat or drink anything else,” suggests Rouleau. “Squeeze a half a lemon into hot water. This will help flush out and purify the body internally, potentially reducing toxins and bacteria in the small intestine where acne can be formed.”
You shouldn’t exfoliate vigorously over already-existing blemishes, but adding in an exfoliant to keep off surface dead skin cells will make all of your other products work more effectively. Rouleau says, “Active ingredients have a hard time performing at their best if dead cells are in the way. Use a gentle, round-grained facial scrub twice a week.” King agrees: “You can even do this with a warm soapy washcloth.”
“Avoid picking at your skin. It is imperative that we understand that although breakouts cannot always be avoided, you can control what happens once you get the breakout. The truth of the matter is, a blemish usually lasts five to seven days, but the red or dark scar from picking at the blemish can linger for weeks—or even months. If you refrain from picking, you won’t have to worry about using a product to diminish the appearance of a scar or mark,” explains Rouleau. “Subconsciously touching your face all day makes it quickly become the dirtiest part of your body.
It will add bacteria to the skin, which causes more problems. Try Renée Rouleau’s No Picking! Twisty Toy ($6), which is an easy way to keep your hands busy.
“Stress can exacerbate acne flare-ups because the adrenal gland goes into overproduction of cortisol, which can make sebaceous glands produce more oil and make skin extra oily. You can reduce stress by getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night.” That being said, Rouleau continues, “always wash your skin before bed. Oil on the skin makes for a breeding ground of bacteria, and bacteria will cause blemishes. Sleeping with not only your makeup on, but also the addition of oil, dirt, and debris that has built up on the skin during the day, can absolutely trigger new blemishes.”
Now, here’s what to do when your breakout is gone, but the redness is still there.