The real reason why you can't get rid of your acne, according to dermatologists

Skincare Routine: Acne-Prone
Skincare Routine: Acne-Prone

Here's why acne gets our vote for worst skin problem ever: Unlike wrinkles, pimples can span a lifetime. You can get them when you're 13 and when you're 50. Why is it so hard to banish? We reached out to some leading dermatologists to find out the biggest mistakes you're making when it comes to treating acne. Read up, and get rid of this curse for good.

You're washing your face too much. "Having acne does not mean your skin is too dirty. Washing your face more than twice a day is not going to improve your acne. It'll just strip your natural skin moisturizers and make your acne more inflamed. Put aside those aggressive scrubs and brushes and reach for a gentle, nonfoaming cleanser. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser will keep your skin clean, and maintain the barrier, calming the inflammation that usually accompanies acne." —Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City

You think your skin needs to be flaking to pop a pimple. "You don't need flaky skin to open pores and 'release' the acne. Acne doesn't need to get worse before getting better. It's best to slowly improve the skin by a combination skin-care routine. Try using lasers, peels, and microneedling treatments. This way the skin is protected, rather than irritated as it gets better." —Jason Emer, a cosmetic dermatologist and aesthetic surgeon in Beverly Hills

You're blaming your acne on your a diet. "My patients always blame their breakouts on the last meal they had: too much chocolate, too many burritos, too much coffee. Sure, there's evidence to support that what you eat can flare up your acne, but even having a perfectly balanced diet won't necessarily cure it. Oftentimes I see people struggling with their skin for years, attempting to cut out bread, dairy, or sugar in an attempt to achieve perfectly glowing skin. Typically, they end up without any long-term improvement. Have a healthy diet, cut back on foods with a high glycemic index, and stay hydrated, but let your diet be a part of a larger acne-treatment regimen that includes other medications provided by your dermatologist." —Nazarian

Young girl in leisure time
Young girl in leisure time

You think you've tried everything because you've used a bunch of over-the-counter products. "I see many people struggling with their acne, explaining that they have 'tried everything.' When I review their treatments, I find that they have basically tried six versions of the same over-the-counter products. Most acne requires prescription medication, and I find that I can make real progress once we start an appropriate, individualized treatment plan. I use prescription-only creams that are related to vitamin A, which stop the blackhead phase of acne pathology. I can also use oral medications that block the inflammatory phase of acne—the kind that causes red bumps and zits filled with pus. These treatments are much more effective than anything available without a prescription, especially for people with more than just very mild acne." —Scott Dunbar, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group

You're gooping on your acne medication. "A thin layer of most acne medication is enough to combat acne pimples, and applying more will dry out your skin and leave you too irritated to even continue treatment. Remember that some acne medication needs to be slowly introduced to your skin, giving it time to adapt to ingredients. Rather than rushing the process by applying too often or too much, a slow and steady approach will garner better results. Acne takes several weeks of treatment before responding to most medications, so be patient." —Nazarian

You're only spot-treating your acne. "To keep a clear face, you need to treat the pimples you have, as well as those hiding under the skin that have not yet come to the surface. If you treat only the big pimples, you won't prevent any new ones from popping up, and you will always be playing catch-up, rather than keeping your face clear." —Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City

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You pick and choose which medications you want to use from your prescribed regimen. "It's important to realize that when a dermatologist comes up with a plan, we're tackling all of the different components of the acne and they all work hand in hand." —Karen Hammerman, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group

You tried a homemade treatment from Pinterest. "Your kitchen is not a pharmacy, and everything you eat is not necessarily safe to rub on your skin. Before you mix together that lemon-and-salt acne scrub you read about online or slather toothpaste onto your pimple, remember that your skin is a delicate organ, and the pH of many things from the kitchen make them inappropriate substitutes for a true acne medication. The reality is that more harm than good can come from playing pharmacist." —Nazarian

You ignore your acne until it's too late. "A lot of times people just wait until their acne is really bad to see the dermatologist, and at that point it becomes more difficult to treat. If you wait until scars form, then you need a whole other category of cosmetic treatments." —Hammerman

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