Dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) shares her advice on how to keep acne from creeping up on you.
If you must pop, do it right
Entrust popping your pimples to the experts. According to board-certified dermatologist Sandra “Dr. Pimple Popper” Lee, MD doing it yourself could make the swelling worse or lead to scarring. If you can’t help yourself, then follow Dr. Lee’s mantra: “Know when to pop and know when to stop.” If you messing with the red zits deep under the skin, then you have to expect that you will only leave them even more inflamed. You have to wait until your pimple has come to a head – yes, once it has that icky white center. Or, you can apply a warm compress to speed the process along. When you’re ready to pop that zit, was your fans and face first, and sterilize with rubbing alcohol. Then, squeeze the pimple from all directions. The white fluid and a bit of red will start to come out, but be sure that you do not overdo it, Dr. Lee warns. “The more you push, the more swelling you have,” she says. “But if you can, get all the pustules out.”
Keep your hands off
Even when you are not really trying to pop a pimple, and you’re just absentmindedly picking, the result can be just as bad. If you have the tendency of frequently touching your face or scratching at your blemishes, Dr. Lee suggests that you try putting a small circle bandage over the spot in order to block your itchy fingers. You could also consider adding a dollop of a thick or tacky spot treatment. Not only will this fight the pimple, but it will also serve as a constant reminder for you to keep your hands off.
Use a lower SPF
Some greasy sunscreens can actually clog pores. Nevertheless, you don’t want to leave your skin vulnerable to sun damage. But, you may have to dial back in the potency of your sunscreen choice. Here’s a clue: the higher the SPF, the heavier and more likely it will clog pores. Although the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher, Dr. Lee recommends SPF 15, which is the minimum recommended SPF level from the FDA, for everyday use. “SPF 15 is actually a very good amount of sunscreen protection,” she says. “When you get higher than 15 or 30—which are pretty similar—50 or 100 is silly because it doesn’t protect you much more.” You can also try the daily moisturizer from Dr. Lee’s own product line, SLMD. However, if you’re spending the day in the sun, you need to go higher with SPF 30 just to stay safe, Dr. Lee says.
Know your acne type
Not all acne treatment is created equal. What regimen worked best for a friend of yours may not be the one that will work best for you. But, even then, it is important for you to figure our which regimen you should follow without a dermatologist. “If you understand what kind of acne you have—more blackheads or whiteheads or pustules or cysts—and why you get it, a person can take control in their own hands,” Dr. Lee says. For example, people with blackheads and whiteheads will probably have more success with acne meds that have retinol or salicylic acid. However, OTC topical products probably won’t be able to go deep enough to address cystic acne. And so, you may need a dermatologist to prescribe you the proper oral antibiotics or creams to use.
Don’t give up on moisturizer
You might be one of those who believe that moisturizer is the last thing your oily skin needs. But you know what? Even acne-prone people should always keep it in their skincare regimen. Why? Well, for one, starting a new acne treatment could actuallly put you at the opposite extreme: instead of oily, you get dry, red, and flaky skin. “You will probably need more moisturizer because they’re designed to decrease oil on skin,” Dr. Lee says. “Moisturizer keeps skin moisturized and supple and looking good.”
Stick with lotion moisturizers
Yes, you want to moisturize, but you can’t just use any hydrating product you can find at the counter. Moisturizing creams are oil-based, and this is not ideal to someone with acne-prone skin, says Dr. Lee. The solution? Use a lotion instead. “Lotion is water-based, so it’s going to be lighter and not as occlusive,” the doctor says. She recommends dermatologist-approved products such as Cetaphil, CeraVe, Aveeno, or Eucerin.
Push your bangs back
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Oils from your hair can also travel to your skin. Such oils can clog your pores and cause acne. “People have bangs that sweep their face, and you lift that up and see black heads or white heads,” Dr. Lee explains. She suggests using a headband or clip to keep your hair off your face whenever you’re at home so that you can give your skin a chance to breathe.
Go light on the hair products
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If you’re a hair product nut, then you are likely to end up with what they call “pomade acne,” says Dr. Lee. Those heavy hair products get on your skin and can consequently clog your pores. “Stay away from more heavy, greasy products like oils or gels,” the doctor warns. Instead, she suggests that you try something lighter. Like moose, for example.
Bring towelettes to the gym
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A sweaty gym session is definitely great for your body—but is also not so great for your acne. “When you sweat like that, you’re going to get clogging of pores,” Dr. Lee says. Even if you don’t have time to shower fully after each workout, it is still very important that you wash your face. Make sure that you stash face towelettes in your gym bag so you can wipe your face and go without being neglectful of your skin.
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