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    19 Things Everyone With A Face Should Know About Acne

    Like how to get it off your face for good.

    If you've got acne, don't freak out — you're not alone.

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    Each year, as many as 50 million people in the United States break out, making it the most common skin condition in the country. This has given dermatologists the opportunity to really study the condition, and because of that, they've gotten pretty damn good at fighting it — something they're really proud of, Dr. Marie Leger, assistant professor or dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), tells BuzzFeed Health.

    There's no denying that having acne sucks, so we asked Leger and dermatologists Dr. Sonya Kenkare and Dr. Ronald Davis, who are also fellows of the AAD, to tell us the most important things to know about acne. Here's what they had to say.

    1. First, you should probably know what acne even is.

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    Leger says it's a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit, which is made up of the hair follicle (aka the pore) and the oil gland that's attached to it. Normally, oil just exits through your pores, but sometimes the hair and skin cells block the oil from leaving. This creates an environment for a bacteria called P. acnes to grow, causing inflammation in the form of those annoying zits.

    2. There's more to acne than just whiteheads and blackheads.

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    Blackheads and whiteheads are the mildest kind, Kenkare says — they mostly show up as bumps on the skin, only when the pore is clogged. But when inflammation sets in — causing swelling, redness, and pain — and the pores can't take it anymore, it can cause even more annoying acne lesions that range in severity. There are papules (small pink bumps on the skin), pustules (pus-filled bumps with a red base), nodules (big, painful lesions that are deeper in the skin), and cysts (deep, painful, pus-filled lesions).

    Kenkare says it's the more severe kinds that are most likely to cause scarring, which we'll get into in a bit.

    3. You're most likely to get acne as a teen. And it usually gets worse before it gets better.

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    Nearly 85% of people between ages of 12 and 24 get at least minor acne. That's because in your teens, your hormones fluctuate enough to force the oil glands to produce more oil — which can trigger acne, Kenkare says.

    You'll probably start seeing a lot less acne as you get older and your hormone levels start to simmer down, though. Still, women tend to get more acne than men throughout life, ~thanks~ to the fluctuating hormones that come with periods.

    4. Acne problems tend to run in the family.

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    While there's no foolproof way to predict who will get acne, Davis says you're more likely to have it if someone in your family does (like your mom, dad, or siblings). "But it's not absolute," he says. This also helps dermatologists know what to expect when it comes to treating you.

    5. Acne can affect anyone with any type of skin.

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    If you've heard that people with oily skin get acne more often, that might not be the case. "I have people with oily skin that don't break out at all, and other people with dry skin who break out severely," Davis says. What it really comes down to is whether you're prone to acne at all, he says. And if you are, then having oily skin could just make everything worse.

    6. Your bacne isn't actually much different from the acne on your face.

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    Davis says acne is just as likely to show up on your back or chest as it is on your face. However, if you see that your back is full of fat pimples while your face only gets blackheads, it could be because you're wearing clothes that won't let your body breathe — and breathe it MUST!

    "[The clothes] physically block the pores and help in trapping the dead skin cells, and when someone is already prone to developing acne, they're more likely to break out in these areas," Kenkare says.

    Here's how to get rid of them.

    7. Certain medications might make you break out.

    For example, certain steroid drugs, like prednisone (for allergies). Antiepileptic meds and lithium may also cause acne, because they can trigger the oil glands to make extra oil, Kenkare says.

    8. Oily foods probably won't cause acne.

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    But not washing your hands after eating them might, Kenkare says. "A lot of people are really good about washing their hands before they eat, but they wash less after," so they end up touching their face with their hands all full of oil. And for people who are already prone to acne, that can be an issue.

    While Leger agrees, she says that if every time you eat a certain food, you find yourself break out, then you should probably avoid it anyway.

    9. A diet high in carbs, sugar, and dairy might worsen acne, though.

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    Leger points to studies that have shown associations between acne and both a high-glycemic-load diet and dairy products, although the reason why is still unclear.

    The AAD has not made any official recommendations based on this research, but Leger says that if you break out every time you eat pizza, it's probably a safe bet to try avoiding it for a while to see if it improves your skin.

    10. Stress can definitely make you break out.

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    Stress affects pretty much everyone, and it can lead to breakouts in people who are prone to acne, Davis says. Studies suggest that this is because the stress triggers a chemical reaction in the skin, which leads to acne flaring up.

    "Stress just makes everything worse," Leger says. #FACTS

    11. If you exercise or play sports and don't wash your face afterward, you're on the fast lane to Acneville.

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    Bacteria on the skin live for sweat, because it helps them grow — and this causes inflammation that can cause you to break out, Kenkare says. If you wear tight clothes to exercise, or a sweatband or hat around your head, chances are you're making the situation worse, Leger says.

    For these reasons, both Kenkare and Leger suggest washing your face right after you work out — actually, your whole body, if possible. You don't even have to bring all those bottles of cleanser with you, just pack some face wipes, Kenkare says. And if you can't shower right away, Leger suggests wearing looser, cotton clothing (as opposed to nylon or polyester) so that at least you're not obnoxiously blocking your pores.

    12. For most people, those over-the-counter acne cleansers and spot treatments really work.

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    You want to look for products with either benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial that kills P. acnes, or salicylic acid, which breaks down blackheads and whiteheads while also sweeping away those dead skin cells. If you exfoliate, only do so once a week in order to avoid drying out or further irritating your skin. And Kenkare and Leger both agree that you can skip the toner, because it's an extra step that's not really necessary (and might even irritate you).

    When you wash your face, Leger suggests a gentle face wash — one without scents or botanicals — followed by your spot treatment, and then a noncomedogenic moisturizer, and sunscreen if it's morning. If you wear makeup, of course that goes on last.

    That said, Kenkare warns that acne products can dry out skin, and you don't want to overdry it or scrub too hard, because both can lead to irritation and more breakouts. So be gentle. Also, "don't try too many products at the same time — add them in gradually," she says, and when you do, test them on a small area first to see if they mess up your skin.

    13. But it can take a few weeks (or a few months) to know if your acne treatment is working.

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    Be patient, and give your meds a chance to see if they work. "Often, when you first start using a new medication, it can get a little bit worse before it gets better, and it definitely takes some time," Leger says, noting that it could take up to three months to see a difference.

    If you still don't see it getting better after that, then it might be time to see a dermatologist about prescription-strength meds.

    14. When you're buying moisturizers, sunscreen, and makeup, look out for oil-free, noncomedogenic products.


    These are products that sit on your face all damn day. And if you're prone to acne, the last thing you want is an oil-based product infusing more oil into your already clogged pores.

    Kenkare says "oil-free" and "noncomedogenic" are the buzzwords that you should look for in your products, as they won't clog pores or cause acne in general.

    15. Makeup brushes should also be cleaned regularly.

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    Even if your makeup is noncomedogenic, there's still going to be oil and bacteria from your face transferring over onto your brushes, and then back again onto your face the next day. "So you'll want to wash them at least once a week," Kenkare says. (Here's more info on how your makeup harbors germs and how to fix it.)

    FYI: The same thing happens with your cell phone, she says, so keep it clean or avoid long calls with it up to your face.

    16. Do. Not. Pop. Your. Pimples.

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    Seriously, stop. Don't pick or scratch them either. If you remember, pimples are already inflamed, so squeezing them will only make the inflammation worse, and you'll end up with a bigger pimple, Davis says. Not only that, but "you'll end up with more scarring and discoloration," Kenkare says, making it an all-around bad time.

    If you have a particularly bad one that MUST be popped, go to a dermatologist because they might just do it for you — or they'll give you a medication that will make the pimple go down, Davis says.

    17. Acne scars suck, but a dermatologist can help.

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    The first step to reducing scarring is just getting that acne under control. "Because by reducing future acne, you're reducing future scarring and allowing current scars to start healing," Kenkare says. Both Davis and Leger say that if you have really bad nodular acne, ask your dermatologist about isotretinoin because it's the most effective drug for treating it.

    Davis says that if you have some scars and they aren't too bad, they might improve over time, because "the younger the person, the better their skin is at rejuvenating itself." Not all scars will fade, though. And when this is the case, Davis says your dermatologist will know about procedures that will take them away.

    18. Wearing sunscreen can also help your scars fade faster.


    Staying out of the sun helps us protect our skin from damaging UV rays, which can irritate the skin and cause breakouts. Scars also tend to tan faster and darker than normal skin, and using sunscreen helps to block that from happening so that they can fade away, Kenkare says.

    19. But if acne is a serious pain in your ass and nothing seems to help, talk to your doctor.

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    It seems like something everyone deals with, so it can be tempting to just brush it off and not consider bringing it up at a checkup. But your doctor can refer you to a dermatologist, or they can check for any other symptoms to see if there's some underlying cause, like polycystic ovary syndrome, which begins around puberty for girls.

    Acne sucks, but there are so many different remedies out there right now. It may take some trial and error to find the right one, but you'll get there.

    So, don't let that acne keep you down. With this knowledge, you'll be on your way to clearer skin.

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    Go you!

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