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Social Distancing Acne Regimens

By Christina Burr, PA-C | 

Acne can occur at any age but it is very common during your teenage years and early twenties. Acne is frequently caused by hormones as you grow and change. It’s also caused by stress and occlusion (skin being covered and unable to breathe). Some studies also suggest that a high sugar or high fat diet may also aggravate acne. You can’t stop growing, but anything you can do to modify other risk factors can potentially help your acne. There are also several simple routine changes and over the counter products that can be helpful.  Here are a few suggestions to try at home during this unique time of social distancing.

Routine Suggestions:

  1. Wash your face TWICE a day with a gentle acne-friendly cleanser.
    1. For dry skin try Cerave hydrating wash
    2. For oily skin try Cetaphil oil control foam
    3. For normal or combination skin try Neutragena Ultra Gentle Cleanser
  2. Avoid touching your face and avoid getting hair products on your face.
  3. Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
  4. Limit or avoid make up when possible. If you do use make up choose one that is labeled non-comedogenic meaning it will be less likely to clog your pores.
  5. Wear breathable clothing and shower after athletic activities.

Over-the-Counter Products Available:

  1. Benzoyl peroxide (BP) topical—2.5% to 10% is available over the counter in a gel, lotion, pads or wash. I suggest 2.5% BP topical gel or lotion twice a day to spot treat acne on the face. For acne on the body I suggest a five to 10% BP topical wash, leave on five minutes and then wash off. The most common side effect is dryness or irritation. Benzoyl peroxide decreases bacteria on the skin and can be particularly good for inflammatory acne. It can be used as needed to spot treat or daily. Be aware this product can bleach towels, sheets, and more, so don’t use your favorite!
  2. Salicylic Acid topical—available in washes, toners, moisturizers, pads and included in some make ups. This product can be used twice a day. Most common side effect is dryness and irritation. Salicylic acid can be particularly good for comedomal acne (blackheads and whiteheads). It can be used as needed to spot treat or daily. This product should not be used by anyone who has an allergy to aspirin.
  3. Adapelene 0.1% topical gel—apply a small amount about the size of a pea to the face at night after washing your face. You can apply to your forehead, cheeks, chin and nose but avoid your eyes. Dryness is the most common side effect, and most people experience some dryness the first four to six weeks before your skin usually self-adjusts. You can start with every other night and work up to nightly if needed. Most people can use this year round, but some people have to take the summer off due to sun sensitivity. Adapelene topical helps both comedomal acne and inflammatory acne and is also a great maintenance product for prevention. It is a slow acting product that has the potential to reduce acne, decrease dark spots left behind by acne, remodel and reduce acne scarring, even out skin tone and texture, and help prevent future acne break outs.

Tips/Points to Consider:

  1. Many products are not considered pregnancy safe, and you should not start any acne products without first consulting with your OB/GYN for approval if you are pregnant or trying for pregnancy.
  2. Sometimes you may have a flare up of acne in the first 2-3 weeks of starting a new product as it starts to push everything out of your pores. This is normal. You should expect to start seeing improvement in your acne within four to six weeks.
  3. It can take three to four months of consistently using your regimen six to seven days per week to see a 60 to 80% improvement in your acne.  That is a Long time, so be consistent and patient.
  4. Change or start one product at a time, and wait several weeks before adding in anything else to ensure you tolerate each product before adding in the next.
  5. Dryness can be a common temporary side effect when starting some acne products, and if you experience this, using a non-comedeogenic lotion as needed can help. I suggest Cerave hydrating lotion or Cetaphil oil control lotion.

If your acne persists, we have prescription options available to help you. To help protect you during this COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering Zoom video visits for acne from the comfort of your home. Feel free to call 608-348-2331 for more details or to schedule an appointment.

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