If you suffer from acne, either as an adult or a teen, you may have tried all sorts of products to clear up your skin. And if you're on here, chances are, those products aren't working.
Here are five reasons I give when someone asks me, "why won't my acne go away?"
You Don't Understand Your Acne
One of the biggest issues I see with people who suffer from acne is they don't understand their acne—what causes it, why it flares up for some and calms down easily for others, what makes it worse or better.
Acne tends to occur around puberty when the sebaceous glands, which produce sebum, start functioning. When too much sebum is produced, the oil can clog up pores and hair follicles. This attracts bacteria, which leads to acne. While teen boys seem to suffer more than teen girls, the problem performs a gender reversal as time goes on, and adult women tend to suffer from more acne flare-ups than adult men. Why? Blame hormones. This is why birth control pills, which can normalize hormones, often help cut down on acne.
Greasy foods, chocolate, and dairy don't cause acne, but certain foods can exacerbate it. So if you're on a strict skincare regimen but your skin isn't clearing up, you should take a look at your diet. Dairy, in particular, is known to cause problems with current acne-sufferers. Greasy foods are also bad for the skin.
You Aren't On the Right Program
The best over-the-counter products to combat acne are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid acts as an exfoliant, cleansing your pores and clogged follicles of excess sebum while calming down irritation. Benzoyl peroxide is proven to kill the bacteria that causes acne. Used in tandem, these 2 ingredients can help some clear up skin in a matter of weeks.
Benzyl alcohol is a fruit-derived aromatic alcohol primarily used in product formulation as a preservative to stop microorganisms from overgrowing in products, which might later lead to an infection.
There is a host of cleansers, pads, and gels you can use to treat your skin. Follow the directions so you don't abuse your skin. Get the full scoop on my favorite acne products, a 3-punch system, and aspirin mask recipe in Best Treatment Options for Acne.
You Are Overusing Products
When it comes to treating inflammation of the skin, you may think more is better. Perhaps you are applying treatment pads a few times a day or you are mixing your salicylic acid cleanser with facial scrubs and a host of products that have been recommended to you.
Too much use can actually worsen your skin. You should not be using more than one salicylic or benzoyl peroxide product on your face at a time and certainly not in tandem with Retin-A or prescribed products. Do not cleanse with a salicylic acid product, then follow up with a salicylic acid pad and then complete your regimen with an application of the gel. It's simply too much. Your skin will be aggravated.
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself by encouraging cell turnover. It's commonly prescribed for acne, fine lines, and sun damaged skin.
Also, acne products tend to be formulated for teen skin because a high percentage of teens suffer from acne. If you're an adult, you may be using too harsh a product to treat your acne.
You Don't Stick Long Enough to a Regimen
Inflamed skin takes time to calm down and heal. Give yourself at least 6 weeks to 2 months of a regimen before you give up and try something else. And make sure you apply treatment to the entire affected area. If you spot treat, the bacteria could grow elsewhere.
Some people go cold turkey once the worst of their breakouts are over only to find their acne flares up again. Once your skin clears up, it's important to keep up the regimen for a time and then slowly taper off.
You Need to See a Dermatologist
Some types of acne can't be treated with over-the-counter products most effectively. If your acne is not clearing up, get yourself to a dermatologist. There are prescription-strength topical treatments that can wipe out acne better than the OTC remedies and a good doctor can work with you on the right program for you.
Skroza N, Tolino E, Mambrin A, et al. Adult acne versus adolescent acne: a retrospective study of 1,167 patients. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(1):21-25.
American Academy or Dermatology Association. Can the right diet get rid of acne?
Kawashima M, Nagare T, Doi M. Clinical efficacy and safety of benzoyl peroxide for acne vulgaris: comparison between Japanese and Western patients. J Dermatol. 2017;44(11):1212-1218. doi:10.1111/1346-8138.13996