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10 Things To Stop Doing When You Have Acne

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Updated February 26, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Although acne is completely frustrating, there are things you can do to get it under control. There are also a few things you shouldn't do if you really want to get results and feel good about your skin. Here are 10 things to stop doing when you have acne.

1. Blaming Yourself

Acne doesn't happen because of something you did (or didn't do). Acne just is. Some people are prone to it, some aren't.

In fact, acne appears mainly because of your genes. It tends to run in families, so if your parents had acne you're more likely to break out, too.

Acne isn't your fault and you're not causing your acne. So, stop blaming yourself and instead spend that time finding a treatment that works for you.

2. Picking at Your Skin

Yeah, this is a tough one for me, too. When you see that zit, you really want to pop it to make it go away. While gently squeezing a pimple every once in a while probably won't do much harm, constant picking and forceful squeezing definitely will.

As hard as it may be, fight the urge to pick. You'll actually notice that your skin starts to look better.

3. Scrubbing, Over-Cleansing and Otherwise Over-Working Your Skin

Harsh scrubs, abrasive exfoliating pads and lots and lots of cleansing. Does this sound like your typical skin-care routine? If it does, stop!

Constantly using really abrasive scrubs can do more harm than good. Vigorous scrubbing can irritate the skin, aggravate inflammation and tear the tops off pimples. A good indicator that you're scrubbing too hard: Your skin looks really red or burns and stings afterwards.

Of course, some exfoliation is needed if you want clearer skin. Regular exfoliation helps keep your pores cleared of gunk and makes your skin softer, too. Gentle scrubs are usually okay, as are washcloths and soft facial brushes. Be aware that many acne treatments (like Retin-A Micro, Differin and other topical retinoids) already exfoliate the skin.

Over-cleansing is another common problem. A clean face is important, but don't wash so much that your skin becomes over-dry. Cleansing two to three times per day is usually plenty. Much more and you're probably overdoing it.

4. Buying Into the Myths

It's hard sometimes to separate fact from fiction. But knowing the truth about acne, its development and its treatment is key in getting acne under control.

Acne isn't caused by dirt. You don't have acne because you touched your face with your hands. Having sex or masturbating doesn't cause acne. And contrary to what your mom told you, acne isn't caused by not washing your face.

What about your diet? The jury is still out on that one. While conventional wisdom still holds that diet doesn't play a role, some doctors are questioning that notion. Some studies have been done, but the reality is there still is no proven link between what you eat and acne. We do know things traditionally associated with acne (chocolate, French fries, pizza) don't affect acne one way or another.

Probably the biggest myth of all: You have to outgrow acne or wait for it to go away on its own.

Acne can be treated.

5. Spending Money on "Miracle Cures"

There are plenty of them out there - those supplements, herbs and vitamins that claim they cure your acne. Or those "special formulation" creams that promise to heal your breakouts in just days. We so desperately want to believe they will! It would be fabulous if we could just pop a few vitamins or use a miraculous cream and have clear skin.

No matter how professional the website or how convincing the claim, these products won't clear up acne. With the exception of isotretinoin, a powerful drug that is very likely to cure acne in many people, most professional treatments or prescription medications just keep the acne in check.

Don't spend your hard-earned cash on products that will only give questionable results, at best. It's better to spend money on proven over-the-counter (OTC) products (like benzoyl peroxide) or for a prescription medication.

6. Letting Acne Rule Your Life

You're all set to go to a party, but then you change your mind because you get a bad breakout or you find yourself not wanting to go out with friends. You avoid mirrors. Any of these sound familiar?

Acne can change the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel self-conscious, embarrassed, ashamed and angry. Well, to a large extent, these feelings are completely normal.

It's okay if you feel this way. You don't have to pretend acne doesn't bother you. Acknowledge these feelings. Bring them out into the open. Talk to someone who is supportive. Often just opening up helps you feel better.

Stop letting acne dictate your social schedule. It's easier said than done, but it's important that you not let acne rule your life. You're much more than your skin.

There are things you can do to help protect and build your self-esteem. The good news is, just starting treatment often gives you a boost because it helps you feel more in control of your acne.

If acne is affecting you to the point where you feel like it's taking over your life, let your doctor know. It may mean you need to treat your acne more aggressively to get the improvement you’re looking for.

7. Sabotaging Your Treatment

We all want clear skin and we're ready to do anything to get it. But are you unwittingly sabotaging your treatment?

First and foremost, you have to use your treatments consistently. It's all too easy to get busy in the morning and rush off or be so tired at night you just fall into bed. Sometimes you just plain forget. But every missed dose means less effective treatment.

Don't jump from product to product. Weeks of waiting can seem like a lifetime, but by jumping around with your treatments you aren't allowing enough time for improvement. If you want to see if a treatment really works, you have to wait it out.

Make sure you understand how your treatments should be used. Should they be applied only at night? Can you take your oral medications with food? Is it okay to use an OTC acne product at the same time as your prescription? Ask your dermatologist and follow the directions to a "T." You'll be rewarded with better results.

8. Putting Off Seeing a Dermatologist

Most of us head to the drugstore when we start breaking out. There's nothing wrong with trying an OTC acne product first; if you're really lucky, that's all you'll need. But if you've used OTC products without much success for more than 12 weeks, it's time to make an appointment to see a doctor.

It's easy to put off seeing a dermatologist. You get busy, you think acne isn't that serious or you just keep holding out hope that something on the store shelf is going to work. But the longer you wait, the longer it will take to get your acne under control. The acne may get worse, and you run the risk of scarring if you wait.

If cost is an issue, consider the amount of money you can spend on OTC products that aren't working for you. Also, acne treatment is covered by most insurance. Most people with acne wish they had seen a dermatologist sooner. So, stop putting it off and make that call!

9. Letting Others Make You Feel Badly About Yourself

Sometimes people say or do things that hurt your feelings or make you really angry. Whether it's a careless comment, well-meaning but insensitive "advice" or a not-so-subtle glance at the skin, it can be a blow to already shaky self-esteem.

Keep it in perspective. Is grandma really trying to help you or just doing it in a clumsy way? Thank her and forget it. Is the person in your class just being a jerk? Ignore them.

Try to let these situations roll off your back. You may want to vent to your best friend or go for a run to blow off steam, or write a nasty letter to the offender (and then tear it into a million little pieces).

Don't allow others to have power over how you feel about yourself. Remember, you define who you are, not anyone else and certainly not acne.

10. Thinking Treatments Can't Work for You

It's so hard to stay positive and motivated when you have tried dozens of treatments and you still have acne. It's natural to want to give up.

There are so many acne treatments available today. Maybe you haven't hit on the right combination yet. Maybe you need to see a dermatologist. Maybe you need to switch dermatologists.

There are treatments out there for everyone. It may take longer than you expected, it may mean using medications you hoped you'd never need (like oral antibiotics or isotretinoin). But with the right treatment, the right physician in your corner and the patience and perseverance to keep trying, you can control your acne. Don't give up! Success may be right around the corner.

Next Steps

More "10 Things To Stop Doing to Improve Your Health" Articles

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Acne (Before I Started Treatment)

10 Things Not To Say To Someone With Acne

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