Pimples, Zits and Blackheads…Oh My!

Acne 101:

It is important to understand the basics about acne before you can start treating it. First of all, acne is very common in the pre-teen and teen years. Your body is beginning to release hormones that cause your body to change. These hormone changes often lead your body to produce more oil, which can lead to acne. Don’t ever feel like something is wrong with you, or that you’re a weirdo because you have it. It’s extremely common with girls your age. And don’t lose hope, either! It can be fixed.

So here’s a little lesson on acne:

It all begins with pores. Pores are tiny openings on your skin. They are actually the little holes for your hair follicles. Your body is covered with skin pores, but some are more noticeable than others. Each pore has a sebaceous gland that produces oil (also known as sebum). Your body naturally produces this oil to help keep your skin moisturized. Oil isn’t a bad thing. However, pores can become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. When pores become clogged, bacteria and germs build up and infection sets in. This causes acne.

What To Do At The First Signs of Acne:

If you’re getting an occasional pimple or two, you can possibly get it under control before going to a doctor or a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin issues).

First and foremost, you must begin to THINK CLEAN! You have to think about every little thing you do that could be causing dirt, oil and germs to build up on the surface of your skin. Here are a few dirty skin culprits:

– Hands
– Headbands
– Pillowcases
– Washcloths
– Hair products
– Makeup

Know the key acne-fighting ingredients. Ok. I’m gonna throw a few big words at you, but you need to know the weapons in a good acne-fighting arsenal.

1. Benzoyl Peroxide – It kills the germs that can lead to acne. It takes about 4 weeks to really see the benefits of benzoyl peroxide. Even after your acne improves, you have to keep using it. You also need to know that Benzoyl Peroxide BLEACHES! Wear an old t-shirt when washing your face or treating your face with Benzoyl Peroxide.

2. Salicylic Acid – It affects the way your skin sheds old skin cells that lead to acne. This also takes a few weeks before you’ll see improvement. And just like benzoyl peroxide, you have to keep using it, or the acne will come back.

3. Retinol – This will be your main weapon against acne. It affects the way cells grow and keeps pimples from being able to form. Don’t freak out! Your acne will probably get worse before it gets better, because Retinol will pull out the acne that has already begun to form under your skin. It will take 8-12 weeks before you start seeing acne improve from Retinol. However, it’s probably the best topical medication for treating acne. It was once only available with a prescription from the doctor. But now you can buy a lower dose of Retinol in a cream called Differin.

Products to have on hand with links to my tried-and-true favorites:

Benzoyl Peroxide wash:

Salicylic Acid wash:

Gentle wash:

Toner:

Moisturizer:

Retinol:

Jane Iredale Magic Mitt:

Kleenex Hand Towels:

Antimicrobial Pillowcases:

Washing Routine

Now that you know what acne is and you’re familiar with the main acne-fighting ingredients and you have your products, it’s time to start a washing routine. Healthy skin begins with clean skin. You need to wash your face at least twice a day – in the morning and before bed. You also need to wash your face after you do any activity that causes you to sweat a lot. You want to wash really well, but be careful! You can actually over-do it! Skin can be very picky! You want to keep a good balance. You want to remove dirt, germs and excess oil, without stripping away all the moisture your skin needs. You want to clean your skin well, without rubbing or scrubbing too hard. Damaging your skin can actually lead to more redness and irritation! YIKES!

So the idea with a acne face washing routine, is to give your skin a little bit of all the acne-fighting ingredients without over-doing it. If you begin to see signs that your skin is very red, burning or really drying out (a little drying out is to be expected), then replace one of the washes with your gentle Cetaphil wash once or twice before going back to the stronger stuff. You can also lay off the Differin gel one night here and there. Never skip moisturizer!

Here is my favorite washing routine:

Morning:
1. Wet your magic mitt and wet your face. Put a little dab of your Salicylic Acid wash on your magic mitt and wash your face with small circular motions. Rinse out your magic mitt and use it to wash the soap off your face completely. You will probably have to rinse your mitt and your face several times.

2. Dry your face with a fresh Kleenex hand towel.
3. Moisten a CLEAN cotton ball with your witch hazel toner and wipe it across your entire face using upward motions. Let it dry for several seconds before moving on to the next step.

4. Dab a little moisturizer on your clean finger and rub it all over your face using upward motions.

Night:

*Don’t forget! Benzoyl Peroxide bleaches! Wear an old t-shirt when washing your face!

1. Wet your Magic Mitt and wet your face. Put a little bit of your Benzoyl Peroxide wash on your Magic Mitt and begin washing your face with small, circular motions. Rinse out your mitt and use it to rinse the soap off your face. You will probably have to rinse your mitt and face several times to get all the wash off.

2. Dry your face with a fresh Kleenex hand towel.

3. Moisten a CLEAN cotton ball with your witch hazel toner and wipe it across your entire face using upward motions. Let it dry for several seconds before moving on to the next step.

4. Put a tiny bit of Differin gel on your finger and spread it across your problem areas first. Problem areas tend to be in the “T-zone” (forehead, nose, chin). I would avoid putting it in areas that are more sensitive, such as your cheeks and NEVER too close to your eyes!!!! Retinol can really dry out your skin, especially in the less-oily areas of the face. So I suggest only applying it to your problem areas at first. Let the gel dry for about a minute before the next step.

5. Dab a little moisturizer on your clean finger and rub it all over your face using upward motions.

6. Sleep on a CLEAN pillow case and with your hair pulled off your face. I highly suggest having several white pillowcases on hand, so you can sleep on a freshly washed pillow case each night. You wouldn’t believe how much oil, germs, residue from your hair products, sweat, etc. seep into your pillowcase each night. Keeping it clean will help your skin more than you realize! If you can splurge, purchase a bamboo pillowcase! Bamboo has natural germ-fighting properties!

After a sweaty activity:

Follow the steps from your morning routine. Or replace the salicylic wash with your gentle Cetaphil Wash if you feel your skin is getting dry or irritated from too much product.

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