Better Me

Acne Care Dos and Don’ts

We always hear, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” and “beauty is only skin deep.”

Yes, our character—what’s inside—is more meaningful, but if you’re battling skin issues such as acne, blackheads and cysts, it may be hindering you from feeling like your confident, outgoing self.

While anyone can get acne, it can vary in severity person-to-person and can be affected by things like genetics and hormone changes.

And for some, it can affect more than their appearance. Mild to severe acne can contribute to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and a poor self-image. Studies show that the longer acne lasts, the more likely it can affect one’s emotions.

If you are suffering from mild to severe acne, don’t let it get you down, said Trevor Thompson, MD, a dermatologist at Banner Health Center in Peoria, Arizona. Take control over your acne.

Dr. Thompson came to our rescue with nine things to do and not to do to help say bye, bye to acne and let your personality shine through.

1. DO use a mild non-abrasive cleanser

Wash your face with a mild cleanser, such as Cetaphil, and warm water once or twice a day—especially after you work out or have been sweating.

“Basic skincare is a great place to start, but if you are still experiencing acne symptoms and your skin isn’t too dry, consider a trial of a mild acne wash containing salicylic acid or a slightly stronger benzoyl peroxide (3-4%),” Dr. Thompson said. “For many individuals, higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide can cause more skin irritation, so be careful."

2. DON’T overdo face washing

It may seem intuitive that washing your face more can help get rid of those pesky zits and blackheads, but you may just make things worse.

“Remember to not over-wash as this can strip away the natural oils from your skin and sometimes leave your skin feeling tight, red and dry,” Dr. Thompson said. “Instead, just stick to washing in the morning, at night and after you sweat.”

3. DO watch your sun exposure

You may have also believed at one time or another that getting out in the sun can help dry up your acne.

While there is some evidence that vitamin D (which you can get from the sun and certain foods) has antimicrobial properties and can help reduce inflammation, too much time in the sun isn’t good for acne or your skin. In fact, it can put you at greater risk for sun damage—or worse, skin cancer. If your sun exposure is limited, such as during the winter months, you’ll want to make sure you get a sufficient amount of vitamin D in your diet or through supplements.

Some acne medications can also make you more sensitive to the sun. You’ll want to check to see if your acne medication includes any warnings.

If you’ll be outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat and soft, breathable fabrics to cover your vulnerable skin and ask your doctor which sunscreen is best for you.

4. DON’T be cruel to your skin

“A gentle approach to skincare is generally preferred for most as opposed to harsher, exfoliating products that can cause more skin irritation,” Dr. Thompson said.

He shared a few things you should try to avoid:

  • Products that irritate your skin, such as astringents, toners and exfoliants
  • Vigorous scrubbing or rubbing
  • Touching or resting your hands on your face
  • Squeezing, picking and frequent popping (This can just lead to skin inflammation, discoloration and risk of scarring)

5. DO watch what you eat and drink

While that chocolate bar and hamburger won’t cause your acne, a poor diet won’t help it. Make sure your staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and stick to a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Avoid consuming sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages and limit sugars and carbohydrates in your diet.

“Interestingly, increased milk consumption—especially skim milk—can worsen acne, so limiting your dairy intake may help as well,” Dr. Thompson said.

6. DON’T cover or conceal acne with cosmetics

“Be careful with using makeup to hide your blemishes,” Dr. Thompson advised. “Many individuals with problematic acne use cosmetics to try and conceal acne, but more makeup can block pores leading to more acne—creating a vicious cycle. Try and limit the amount you use and gently wash it off when possible.”

If you prefer to wear makeup, consider a mineral makeup, preferably a powder, and remember to wash your makeup brushes and sponges regularly to prevent oil and bacteria from building up.

7. DO clean your phone

Our smartphones are almost like another appendage of our bodies these days—especially for tweens and teens. While overuse of technology is a whole other topic we’ve discussed, your phone can also harbor bacteria, including the kind that contribute to acne. Make sure you regularly disinfect your phone.

8. DON’T over examine your skin

Warning: Objects (i.e., your acne and pores) may be larger than they appear. Be careful with mirrors—especially those over-magnified makeup mirrors.

“No one’s skin looks ‘normal’ with this degree of magnification,” Dr. Thompson said. “These types of mirrors often lead people to spend more time picking, squeezing and damaging their skin.”

9. DO see a dermatologist

Don’t let acne keep you from putting your best face forward. If you or a family member is having concerns, challenges or problems with your skin, controlling acne or cystic lesions, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

“Acne severity can be related to genetics while others may just have more challenges with acne,” Dr. Thompson said. “Whether you’re a teenager or an adult suffering from acne, a dermatologist can provide additional ideas, tips or prescription treatments and can help devise a solid skincare regimen. Dermatologists are here to help.”

To find a Banner Health dermatologist near you, visit

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