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Top 8 Acne Treatment Mistakes

Common ways people go wrong in treating their acne.

Mistake No. 5: Popping and Picking at Pimples

Popping and picking pimples prolongs healing time and raises the risk of scarring. Infected material can get pushed further into the skin, leading to more swelling and redness.

“People tend to groom the lesions. They examine them very closely several times a day and start imagining that there is something they can stick in the lesion or extract from the lesion. So they pick and the lesion gets worse,” Reed says.

Mistake No. 6: Waiting Too Long to See a Dermatologist

It's time to make an appointment once acne starts taking a toll on self-esteem, becomes painful, causes scarring, or if over-the-counter (OTC) medications aren't clearing it up.

Dermatologists have more tools to treat acne and can prescribe stronger concentrations of OTC medications and oral antibiotics. They also offer light and laser therapy and chemical peels. But these treatments are probably not necessary to treat a patient's acne, Armstrong says.

Dermatologists can give prescription medicines that are tailored to the type of acne a person has and also their skin type, Reed says.

It's also possible a person could have rosacea, which usually requires different treatment than acne. Rosacea is a long-term disease that causes redness and pimples.

Mistake No. 7: Over-Using or Under-Using a Prescribed Acne Medication

Berson says she stresses to patients to use the medication as instructed. Over-usage won't help clear the acne. It can cause more redness and dryness.

Not sticking to a regimen delays any potential improvements.

Half of the battle is consistency. Many people under-use because they lose motivation after the first 2 weeks. They can't expect results overnight, Armstrong says.

Under-using the medication by spot-treating fails to prevent breakouts.

“You need to apply medication to the entire affected area that tends to break out, instead of spot treating. With spot treating, you haven't addressed the area next to it, where another pimple could be brewing, Berson says.

Mistake No. 8: Stopping the Use of Acne Medication Once It Clears Up

It's best to taper medication usage by using it less and less. For example, if you've been using it twice a day, use it once a day for a while, then once every other day, then twice a week, and then stop. It often takes acne 4 to 6 weeks to return, just like it took it the same amount of time for it to get better, Reed says.

To keep skin blemish-free, most people need to continue usage with at least one acne product. It's possible to cut down to a few times a week if someone is using an OTC medication.

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Reviewed on July 12, 2013

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