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Slideshow: Top Tips for Clear Skin

Clear Skin: Step by Step

Blemishes or pimples often appear on your face, neck, chest, back, and shoulders, where skin has the greatest amount of oil glands. Few of us are immune to breakouts, but treatments can minimize outbreaks. For a clear complexion, view the slides ahead to see some surprising dos and don'ts.

Don't Overwash Your Face

Frequent and vigorous washing can irritate your skin and make acne worse. So can grainy scrubs or soaps with harsh chemicals. Instead, wash acne-prone areas twice daily with a mild cleanser and warm water to minimize irritation.

Do Go Oil-Free When You Wash

Oil-free soaps or washes won’t clog your pores or cause blackheads, acne, and whiteheads. Choose products that are labeled "oil free," "nonacnegenic," or "noncomedogenic." Apply the soap and wash with your fingertips. Washcloths, mesh sponges, or other products may be too abrasive and can irritate the skin and cause breakouts. Some washes for acne skin contain ingredients  recommended by dermatologists, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Don't Avoid Favorite Foods

It's a myth that oily foods or chocolate directly causes pimples. Acne occurs when pores are blocked by oils, skin cells, and normal bacteria, causing inflammation. But if certain foods seem to cause you to break out, try to avoid them. But you don't need to shun pizza or chocolate for clear skin.  

Don't Use Heavy Cosmetics

Avoid oil-based cosmetics. How can you tell? Follow this simple guideline: Creamy foundation or blush generally can clog pores. Mineral-based cosmetics, which are light and powdery, may be less likely to do so.

Do Use an Oil-Free Foundation

If you wear makeup, use an oil-free foundation. Also, no matter how tired you are, wash your makeup off before bed.  

Don't Sunbathe or Tan

It's a myth that tanning clears up your skin. It's a fact that UV rays put you at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkles. Don't lie in the sun or use a tanning booth. Also, some commonly prescribed acne medications, including retinoids that go on your skin, can make you more sensitive to damage from UV rays.

Do Use Oil-Free Sunscreen

Wear an oil-free sunscreen or moisturizer with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that says "broad-spectrum" on the label, which means it protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Look for products labeled "noncomedogenic," which means it won't clog your pores. Reapply every two hours.

Don't Use Greasy Hair Products

Using too much product such as pomades or gels can clog your pores when your hair brushes against your face. If you have oily hair, shampoo daily. Shield your face when applying any sprays or gels to your hair.

Do Keep Hair Off Your Face

Pull long hair back when you sleep so it doesn't aggravate your skin. Try to keep your hair away from your face during the day as well. Remember, hair contains oils that can block pores and cause breakouts, even if you don't use hair products.

Don't Touch Your Face

Avoid touching or rubbing your face since this can make acne worse. Also, don't lean your face on your hands and try to keep your cell phone from touching your face. Our hands and phones may carry oils and germs that can irritate blemishes. Sweat can also make acne worse. After sweating, gently wash your skin.

Do Apply Cream With Applicators

Use cotton balls, cotton swabs, or clean applicators when applying creams or makeup to your skin. Don't reuse an old makeup sponge; replace it. If you use your hands, clean them first and only use your fingertips. Also, clean your skin before you put on makeup.

Do Use Oil-Free Moisturizer

Healthy skin is moist. Choose an oil-free moisturizer that says "noncomedogenic" on the label. This means it won't clog your pores. You may hesitate to apply moisturizer to acne-prone skin, but a good moisturizer may help calm irritated skin and keep acne at bay.

Don't Pop Your Pimples

Squeezing pimples or blemishes just creates more problems. Resist the temptation. It will only delay healing and make scars more likely. Squeezing pimples may also push infected material into the skin, where it can cause additional inflammation and scarring.

Do Use Acne Medicine as Directed

There’s no quick fix for acne. Medicines don't work overnight. Many treatments take weeks of daily use before your skin improves. Some acne may take up to six months to clear up. Afterward, basic skin care -- bathing daily and washing your face and hands with mild soap -- may not be enough. You may need to keep using acne medicine even when your skin clears. Follow your doctor’s directions. Too much medicine can irritate skin, but too little is not effective.

Look Into All Acne Treatments

Don't just live with acne, blackheads, and blemishes. If your current treatments don't seem to be working, see your doctor or dermatologist to discuss other treatments. There are many types of medicines to help clear your skin. Some are available with a doctor's prescription.

Your Guide to Teen Acne

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on February 21, 2014

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