Pimples are no fun. And despite those reassurances we got as awkward teenagers that we’d grow out of them, many of us still deal with acne-at least occasionally-as adults.
This Video Shows Exactly What Causes Acne, and the Best Ways to Prevent It
But have you ever wondered exactly what’s going on in your body that’s causing those zits? Sure, you know it has something to do with oil and dirt and hormones, but what’s with the redness and swelling, and those whiteheads just begging to be popped?
This video from the American Chemical Society breaks down breakouts like we’ve never seen before. Not only is it a fascinating look at what goes on beneath the surface of your face, but it may help you better understand why blemishes happen, and how to prevent them in the future.
In short, the video says, it’s all about P. acnes, the bacteria most commonly blamed for causing pimples. When excess oil production leads to clogged hair follicles, dead skin cells can build up underneath and feed the growth of these bacteria. That kicks the body’s immune system into play, rushing blood and germ-fighting white blood cells to the area-hence the redness and (eww) sometimes even pus.
So what can you do about acne? The video suggests avoiding refined carbohydrates(yes, there’s evidence that there may be some truth to the old wives’ tale about sugary foods) and using a face wash with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If we could add some additional advice, be smart about the makeup you wear, and change your pillowcase regularly, too.
Hopefully, these skin-healthy habits will keep you mostly blemish-free-although the occasional spot is sure to pop up now and again. If you still have a frequent problem with acne, ask your doctor if antibiotics, retinoids, or birth control pills might help clear it up.
There are plenty of options, but you should know a few things first.
I have a few acne scars. Is there anything I can do about them?
The good news is that there are a lot of options available for diminishing the appearance of acne scars. But first, let’s differentiate between the dark spot you might get after a blemish heals and an actual acne scar. After a zit disappears, it’s totally common to see a mark left behind. The discoloration-known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH-is normal and not actually a scar; it should fade away on its own, though that may take years.
If you can’t wait that long, you can try a drugstore “brightening” cream containing ingredients such as kojic acid. If that doesn’t work, a dermatologist can prescribe formulas with more powerful ingredients, like tretinoin or hydroquinone. Both OTC and Rx products with retinol can be used to fade current marks and prevent future discoloration.
True acne scars can range from pits to bumps. Some people are simply more predisposed to them-black and Asian women, for example, tend to be more likely to get PIH and scars than Caucasian women. If you’re seeing an uneven texture, you can try a drugstore product that has alpha hydroxy acids to refine your complexion over time. If you have skin indentations and they bother you, see a cosmetic dermatologist, who can smooth things out using lasers, injectable fillers, chemical peels and/or other minor procedures.
Finally, remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do not pick at your pimples-they’re much more likely to scar if you do.