Perfect skin is a physical trait that we all covet, but only a select few possess naturally. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, it seems as though there are constantly new products, tools and diets that promise clear skin, but they never quite seem to pan out. It’s time to set the record straight: what is acne, and how can we get rid of it once and for all? As it turns out, it’s much simpler than one might expect.
Acne is formed when excess bacteria, oil and dead skin cells build up and cause clogged pores, resulting in different types of acne such as blackheads, whiteheads, inflammatory and cystic acne. Although genetics certainly plays a large role in the severity and frequency of breakouts, there are other hormonal and environmental factors that contribute. For instance, many females tend to experience a flare-up of acne before and during their menstrual period due to the hormonal changes that occur around that time. That said, many men and women alike continue to deal with breakouts throughout their adult lives, even though we typically associate acne with puberty and our teenage years.
If you are suffering from regular breakouts, reducing your dairy intake may help clear your skin, according to Dr. Nada Elbuluk, MD, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Although rumors of superfoods and fad diets to reduce acne seem to be constantly circulating, Elbuluk recommends simply maintaining a well-balanced diet all around to achieve a clear complexion.
Another common cause of acne that plagues many college students is stress.
“I definitely notice that I break out around finals time, or when something in my life is making me really anxious,” Gallatin freshman Allison Daley said.
Accordingly, even if the last thing you want to do after a stressful night of studying is to carry out your skincare routine, taking those extra measures is exactly what your skin needs most.
Regarding that all-important skincare routine, Elbuluk advises not to go overboard when it comes to using acne products.
“Sometimes people think that washing your face many times a day is going to make it cleaner, but you’re actually going to cause dryness and irritation if you overdo it,” Elbuluk said.
Using a gentle cleanser every morning and night will suffice. Try a face wash with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help fight acne, but keep the rest of your routine free of acne products so as not to irritate the skin.
While there are evidently many ways one can go about clearing a breakout, we all have those days when those blemishes just won’t go away. If you continue having problems with your skin despite regularly using over-the-counter acne medications, Elbuluk thinks it might be time to see a certified dermatologist.
“People should know there are a lot of treatments for acne. There’s topical and oral medications, as well as procedures that we do for acne that can be very helpful.”
It’s important to realize that no two cases of acne are exactly alike, so what works for one person may not work as well for you. Even if your acne isn’t severe, it’s always a good idea to visit a dermatologist for a personal assessment so you can determine what your skin in particular needs.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 14 print edition. Email Halle Gold at [email protected]