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DISCLAIMER: Some more severe types of acne can only be helped by consulting with a doctor or dermatologist. I am recommending courses of action I have taken myself, which worked for me.
1. Wash your face morning and night.
Don't leave your makeup on overnight! I can't say this enough. The times I use the most makeup is when I have more spots on my face to try and cover them, which can lead to more spots. It all becomes a vicious cycle. When you don't wash off your makeup, it has more time to clog your pores, causing more spots, which you try to cover up with more makeup. I have nixed concealers and cover-up products and just let my skin breathe, which honestly has helped more than anything else. Don't forget, you shouldn't keep makeup products that come in contact with your skin for longer than two to three months because the bacteria will cause MORE spots. It takes a lot of bravery to go bare-faced, and if you absolutely can't live without your cover-up, at the very least wash it off at the end of the day. I heard once that no one will remember your spots except you. Don't stress about them, and try to just be gentle to your skin.
2. Try to avoid foaming cleansers.
I found out that foaming cleansers can irritate the skin, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin, because they remove all the oils from the surface of your skin. If you don't moisturize right after, it will likely lead to acne. Your face will go into hyper-drive to try and replace the oil you scrubbed away to protect your skin (which then leads to clogged pores). Use a gentle, non-foaming cleanser such as Cetaphil and lukewarm or cool water to gently cleanse your skin. Cetaphil can still remove your makeup, but is strictly to cleanse your skin and maintain its pH levels. For oily skin types, foaming cleansers are more of a necessity, but don't forget to moisturize.
3. Use a gentle moisturizer and be kind to your skin.
During the day I use Clean and Clear's dual action moisturizer (~$7), which contains a bit of salicylic acid to treat spots, and leaves your skin with a fresh glowing feeling. Three pumps usually does the trick for me. Be careful not to overuse and avoid your eye area. This is the only thing I put on my face after I shower on a normal day. When I do wear makeup, I put it on about 30 minutes after my shower so I don't clog pores that are still closing from the hot water.
At night, I like to use a product called Complex 15 which does nothing but moisturize and is made by dermatologists. It is also unscented and very gentle, while still affordable (~$10 a tube). A dime-sized amount is plenty.
4. Use a wash-off face mask once a week.
I have just started doing this and it really helps. I use a dead sea mud mask which washes off. I have sensitive combination skin, so peel-off masks end up really hurting when I try to remove them. I like to do it on Sunday nights to freshen up for the week. Once you wash your face apply a thin layer of the mask to your face avoiding eye areas and follow the directions on your mask for time. Don't leave it on for too long, because it could over-dry your skin. Once you wash it off with warm water, moisturize to protect your face.
5. Don't touch your face and don't pick at your spots.
By far this is the most important tip I can give you. Your hands touch everything—keyboards, doorknobs, money, your phone—all which teem with bacteria. Try to avoid resting your chin in your hand, picking at your spots in front of the mirror, and touching your face during the day.
Another good thing to note is that the blood vessels in your face are extremely close to your brain, and the ones in your T-zone pass by your face on their way to the brain. If the gunk in your spots gets into your bloodstream it can be a more serious problem—that's why it's important not to pop pimples. Some of the contents come out, but some also gets pushed further into your skin. That remaining bit can get into damaged blood vessel (a result of popping and picking) or can yield its own new crop of spots. How many times have you popped a pimple, only to find a new one right next to it the same day? There's so many reasons not to pick at your face. I know it's hard, trust me. I had to cover my mirror in the bathroom for a month to stop myself—but it can be done.
6. Change your pillowcases and towels every couple of days.
Your towels and pillowcases come in contact with your hair and skin daily, so wash them frequently, ESPECIALLY if you live in a damp environment, and your towels don't dry out completely. They can become breeding grounds for bacteria, and you don't want to introduce that bacteria to your vulnerable facial skin.
7. Avoid high processed, fatty foods and lots of sugar.
This one is really difficult. I have quite the sweet-tooth, and cutting out sugar can lead to some serious cravings. I like to maintain a balance. Sugar and fat are like drugs in their own way, so don't quit cold turkey—cut it back, and get to a point where you are happy with the balance you've struck. I like to have a movie night on Saturdays with my boyfriend, where I will eat pizza, fries, pop, or cookies without feeling guilty. The rest of the week, I'll indulge once in a while—maybe have dessert after supper on Thursday. Just make sure you are eating more healthy food every day than processed, fatty, sugary foods.
8. Drink lots of fluids like water, tea, etc...
This is the mantra of beauty gurus. Just remember, there's water in foods like fruit, veggies, and anything you've boiled (potatoes, pasta, etc.). You're probably taking in more water than you realize. Don't let yourself get thirsty, because once you realize you need a drink of water, chances are you've already started to get a little dehydrated. Carry a water bottle around with you and drink it up!
9. Try cutting out milk and dairy products.
This for me was a struggle. I loved my morning bowl of cereal, because it was so easy! I did some research which showed that milk actually contains testosterone, which can cause the stimulation of oil glands, especially in your face. This may or may not work for you, but if you're really desperate, it's worth a try. I still eat yogurt and cheese occasionally, and I'll eat things with milk cooked into it. It has made a big difference in my appearance, not only in the number of spots but the size when they come up.
10. Disinfect your phone every two days.
Your phone is a big bacteria magnet, and chances are you take it everywhere—even to the bathroom. First off, stop that habit ASAP. It's gross. You also want to invest in a spray bottle of disinfectant, or little disinfectant wipes specifically designed for phone screens, and clean every surface of your phone, including the case, at least every two days. This is not only good for your face and hands, but your general health. If you eat and use your phone at the same time, but also use it in the bathroom, chances are you are consuming some pretty unsavory bacteria.
There's plenty of things you can do to get rid of acne if you really dedicate yourself to a healthier lifestyle. Exercise is one, but I haven't found it works for me as well, and I exercise simply to keep my body healthy. I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be able to completely eradicate acne forever—hormonal changes can cause you to break out every now and again, and stress can cause spots to pop up too (but nobody can tell me how to get rid of that. If I find out I'll let you know). Don't let that discourage you though! Once you form healthier habits, you'll notice good changes happening. If you have been suffering for a long time with widespread acne, it might be time to make an appointment with a doctor to see what you can do medically to get at the root of the issue.
Above all, remember that you're the only one who remembers your spots. When people think of you, they don't think of your acne. Chances are they are busy worrying about themselves and their issues. There's bigger things in life than pesky skin problems, and you've got lots of tools to help you tackle it.