Self-help : Acne Treatment Guide

There are a few steps you can take to treat your acne. These include using an oil free moisturiser and a gentle cleanser when washing your face; remembering to wash your hands before you apply your make up and not squeezing your acne spots.

These are all ‘self-help’ steps in that you can do these at home without need to consult your GP. They can also be followed along with any over the counter acne product or an acne medication that is only available on prescription.

A self-help routine is useful for cases of mild acne but moderate to severe forms of acne will require further treatment.

So where do you start?

Skin care

Start with a good daily skin care routine. This means washing your face twice a day and using a mild cleanser such as ‘Neutrogena’. This type of cleanser will remove any excess grease from your skin as well as unblocking your pores. Most importantly, it won’t aggravate your acne.

This is followed by the application of an oil-free moisturiser.

You may be wondering about the use of a moisturiser on an oily skin but washing plus an acne medication can dry out your skin. A dry skin is then vulnerable to peeling which will aggravate your acne. So use a light moisturiser every time you wash your face.

Avoid any excess rubbing of your face. Wash around your jaw line, neck and around your ears as well as your face. Cleanse your face, rinse off and then repeat this again.

Apply an acne medication such as a topical (apply to the skin only) cream or lotion which can be purchased from your pharmacy or on prescription via your GP. Avoid wearing make up which is too heavy as it is likely to clog up your pores. Choose a non-oily based version instead.

This routine works well on cases of acne where there is no inflammation, e.g. blackheads.

But if you have inflamed acne then use an anti-bacterial cleanser which contains the chemical ‘benzoyl peroxide’. This chemical dries out oily skin and helps dead skin cells to shed as per normal. This prevents the pores from clogging up as well as the risk of infection.

An example of a cleanser which contains benzoyl peroxide is ‘Clearasil Max’. This and other types of over the counter acne medicines are discussed in a separate section.

Clean, exfoliate, rinse and moisturise before applying an acne medication.

Skin care and body acne

If you have acne on other parts of your body as well as your face, for example, your back and shoulders then adopt the same routine. Use a soft cloth to clean those areas rather than a loofah or a brush and avoid any form movements such as scrubbing which will further aggravate your acne.

Have more baths than showers: lying in warm water will help remove dead skin cells as well as opening the skin pores.

Apply an acne cream or lotion afterwards. Wear loose, cotton clothing or anything made from natural fibres and avoid tight fitting or man-made fibres.

Male skin care and acne

A skin care routine is just as important for men. Adopt the same routine as mentioned above which equally applies to men and women. Washing the face twice a day, using a moisturiser and an acne medication will all help to control your acne.

Avoid washing your face too often or too vigorously as this can remove essential oils from the skin as well as irritating your acne. It is easy to assume that frequent washing will clean a greasy skin which is a symptom of acne but this can have the opposite effect.

Excessive washing will dry out the skin which leaves it vulnerable to peeling. Dry skin is also a side effect of some acne medications.

Be careful when you shave that you don’t catch your razor on any of the spots. Use an electric razor instead of a manual razor (e.g. Bic) and avoid applying any aftershave. Apply an acne medication instead but choose one which doesn’t irritate newly shaved skin. Do not shave if you have an outbreak of severely inflamed acne.

Use a moisturiser. Moisturisers are not just for women. There are plenty of moisturisers available which is marketed at men. This means you don’t have the embarrassment of buying a moisturiser in a bright pink container!

If you have a severe outbreak of acne then ask your GP’s advice about skin care.

Note to both men and women: make sure that you use products on your skin which are ‘non-comedogenic’; this means that they won’t clog up your pores.

Other self-help methods

Looking after your skin is important but also pay attention to your diet. Acne is not caused by certain foods, e.g. chips, but you may find that these foods worsen your acne.

Eating a healthy diet is not only beneficial for your acne but is also good for your health as well. Ensure that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need and drink plenty of water.

If you are experiencing a period of acute stress at this time then look at ways of reducing this. Stress does not actually cause acne but it could aggravate an existing outbreak.

And, most importantly, do not pick or squeeze your spots. We know that this is hard to resist but it is important that you do to prevent the risk of further infection and/or scarring.

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