Acne is a fact of life for many teenagers and even some adults well into their twenties. Our first instinct is to obsess over zits, pimples and acne and release an onslaught of popping and squeezing and chemicals and creams. But drastic methods often lead to scarring or worsening of acne. In order to get clearer skin, follow some of these basic guidelines.

Washing Your Face

Excess oil, clogged pores, bacteria and inflammation cause acne. However, washing and scrubbing excessively is not the best method to get clear skin. In fact, excessive scrubbing can irritate or dry your skin, which visibly worsens acne.

Instead, you should gently wash your face once or twice a day with a mild cleanser and lukewarm (not hot) water. Shampoo your hair daily if you have oily hair.

Blackheads

Blackheads, or open comedones, are pimples that have a visible black color. These are cause by follicles that have been plugged with sebum and sloughed-off skin cells.

Whiteheads

Whiteheads are called closed comedones and are also follicles filled with skin cells and sebum. The difference is that the opening on a whitehead is too small for air to enter into the follicle. When air reaches the plug, it oxidizes and gets its white color.

Getting Rid of Blackheads and Whiteheads

Whiteheads and blackheads can both be removed by keeping a daily facewashing routine as described above. Avoid oil-based makeup and do not scrub your face excessively.

Benzoyl peroxide is a topical treatment that can be used as an antibacterial on a whitehead or blackhead. This can help reduce the plugging that causes whiteheads and blackheads.

Tretinoin (Retin-A) is another topical treatment that is applied on the face and left overnight. Retin-A helps remove skin cells that may be clogging follilcles. It should be washed off in the morning.

You can also use antibiotics to treat infected blackheads and whiteheads. These are whiteheads that are visible heavily irritated or have turned into cuts.

Popping Zits

You should avoid popping whiteheads and blackheads as this can cause cuts that may scar and make acne worse. However, if you simply must pop a pimple, use the following method for “safer” results:

  • Only pop pimples with visible white heads on the surface.
  • Wash your face and hands with warm water and soap. Pat dry.
  • Pass a needle through the flame of a lighter to disinfect it. Use the tip of the flame as this is the hottest part.
  • Let the needle cool and then wipe it down with rubbing alcohol.
  • Wipe the pimple and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol.
  • Carefully pierce the head the pimple with the needle held perpendicular to your skin.
  • Do not squeeze. This can force the contents to rupture backwards, worsening your acne.
  • Wipe the area with a clean alcohol wipe. Apple some witch hazel or hold light pressure on the pimple for a minute or so.

Back Acne

Some people have acne on their backs (“bacne”) or upper arms and buttocks. Back acne can be treated with the same methods: daily washing and the use of topical treatments. You may want to use an antibacterial soap as well.

To prevent bacne, use a sugar scrub to exfoliate your back and arms. This reduces the occurrence of back acne.

While many products can help you lessen your acne symptoms, the best method for controlling acne is to avoid irritating the skin and to wash your face regularly. For severe cases of acne, it is best to consult a dermatologist to determine the best course of action. Prescription acne treatments can be very helpful – but only when applied correctly. Talk with a doctor before undertaking any drastic acne reduction regimen.