Clear your breakouts by the time school starts

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After a fun-packed summer full of BBQs, beach trips, and pool days spent with your #squad, we know the thought of going back to school sounds, well, really lame. But, as much as we wish we could hold onto summertime forever, fall is right around the corner — which means we'll be gearing you up to have your best year yet. Repeat after me: This is the year of insert your name here.

In order to start off on the right foot, you have to roll in with confidence. And nothing (and we mean nothing) says confidence like walking the halls with your head held high — showing off super-clear, radiant skin. That said, summer is notorious for spurring those pesky, sweat-induced if you're currently sporting a blemish or two (or more), just know you're not flying solo. To help you conquer your complexion woes, we enlisted celeb esthetician Renée Rouleau and board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Sejal Shah, MD to create an expert guide to getting flawless skin — just in time for homeroom.

One Month Before:
First, you need to evaluate your situation and decide if you should make a trip to your derm. If you're battling some nasty, stubborn breakouts, Dr. Shah suggests booking an appt. to discuss potential treatment options and possibly start a prescription regimen. Now is also the time to find a spot treatment (we love Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatement) and concealer (try Sephora Collection Bright Future Gel Serum) that work well for you — just be careful not to overdo the testing of new products.

If you're suffering from painful, cystic bumps, Rouleau advises laying off the dairy products. We know this can be super tough, seeing as ice cream and pizza fall into this category but, according to Rouleau, these foods can be triggers for cyst-like breakouts that pop up along your jawline and elsewhere. "Try cutting back and watch your skin clear up," she said. We're in this together, guys!

Three Weeks Before:
At this point in the game, Dr. Shah tells us there's still plenty of time to see your dermatologist. Also, if you're considering extractions or a chemical peel, now is definitely the time to book an appointment. You definitely don't want to wait too long, as your skin will need time to heal post-treatment.

Two Weeks Before:
If you haven't already, go see your derm, ASAP. "Dermatologists often have a quick fix cocktail they can prescribe to help clear skin rapidly," said Dr. Shah. If you're only dealing with a few blemishes, a doctor's appointment might not be necessary, but definitely make sure you're keeping up with your spot treatments. Renee Rouleau's Night Time Spot Lotion works well at combatting whiteheads and normal pimples — plus it does all the work while you're getting some blissful shut-eye. If you're dealing with cystic breakouts, her super-powerful Anti-Cyst Treatment will give those painful bumps a run for their money. Note: try to apply the gel or lotion as soon as you feel a blemish forming, so the treatment has its best shot at nipping it in the bud.

One Week Before:
We know how tempting it can be to pick at blemishes, but now is the time to really crack down and avoid it. "Breakouts cannot always be avoided, but you can control what happens once they occur," said Rouleau. "A blemish usually lasts five to seven days, but the red or dark scar from picking at the blemish can linger for weeks or even months." Instead of furthering the issue, Rouleau suggests using a spot treatment based on the type of blemish you're facing. If the infection surfaces with a yellowish whitehead, then you know it's a traditional pimple, which, in this case, Rouleau says to leave alone for a day or two so that you can effectively control it without damaging the skin. "Once the whitehead is truly visible, gently squeeze out the infection with your fingers, then apply a spot-drying treatment," she said. "If you apply a drying treatment before the whitehead is on the surface, it will simply dry out the surface of the skin keeping the infection trapped underneath for longer," she adds. For cystic breakouts, try the fast-acting method we mentioned above.

Three Days Before:
If it seems like a cyst is trying to make a permanent home on your face, Dr. Shah recommends using a combination of ice and OTC hydrocortisone cream a few times a day to help bring down the inflammation. Why not a warm compress or regular spot treatment? "Warm compresses tend to bring acne bumps to a head, and spot treatments tend to be very drying, so at this stage they may end up making the acne bump more noticeable and less easily concealed," Dr. Shah explained.

On the flip side, if angry cysts aren't prevalent, Rouleau suggests going in for a post-summer facial to give your skin the extra boost it needs before school. "Get a facial that offers deep pore cleansing with gentle but effective extractions, skin exfoliation to fade acne scars, and a cooling mask to hydrate, balance, and soothe the skin," she said. Remember, you can always tailor a facial to fit your specific needs, so if extractions don't seem like your jam, simply ask the esthetician to skip 'em.

The Day Before:
Treat yourself to a soothing, skin-plumping gel mask like Rouleau's Bio Calm Repair Masque. Gel formulations are great because they're water-based, so they won't add more oil to the skin or interfere with your makeup. "They calm the skin from any first day nerves and give you a smooth, healthy glow," said Rouleau.

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