Pore-cleansers are even more effective if you find two or three products you like and rotate them every two to three months, Crutchfield says.
"You can actually build a resistance to treatment. Essentially, the acne outsmarts the medicine and the breakout begins again, but rotating products can often solve that problem," he says.
What about the pre-packaged acne treatment products often sold on infomercials, the Internet and shopping channels? Day says these products usually contain benzyl peroxide or salicylic acid or both - the same ingredients in the acne medications sold in drugstores.
Crutchfield says that what gives these products an edge is the fact that they come with a recommended regimen. This, he says, increases compliance, which is a essential to the effectiveness of any product. "If they have any 'magic', that's it," Crutchfield says.
For occasional breakouts - or to keep skin clear after ending a regimen - you may want to skip the topicals altogether and go high-tech with Zeno, an FDA approved heated electronic "zit zapper." It uses the body's "heat shock response" to kill bacteria and clear pimples.
While the company claims Zeno can clear each pimple with just a few 2 1/2-minute long treatments spread over 24 hours, Crutchfield says it does so for only about 60-70% of patients - and it works best only on mild breakouts.
"This is not for severe acne - it's good for maintenance once your acne is under control or if you have an occasional pimple, but that's all," says Crutchfield.
Acne Treatments: How Your Doctor Can Help
When over-the-counter acne treatments just don't seem to do the job, don't despair - your local dermatologist has another bag of tricks that can help. Often, the first line of prescription defense is antibiotics - both topical and oral, and sometimes both.
"Antibiotics work fast, so they can bring about a quick result," says Day. This, she says, is particularly true when used in conjunction with a benzyl peroxide product and a good cleansing regimen.
One of the newest soldiers in the antibiotic army is Solodyn, an extended release drug which offers a continuous but very low dose of the antibiotic minocycline. Another is MinocinPac - the first prescription treatment package that combines minocycline withskin calming topical products designed to work together.