How To Get Rid Of Acne

Although most of us think of acne as an adolescent problem but the truth is that, for a variety of reasons, many are experiencing acne breakouts well into adulthood. But getting rid of acne and preventing acne scars can be done by educating yourself about causes and remedies to treat acne.

What Is Acne?

Commonly acne is referred to as ‘pimples’ or ‘zits’ and while those are accurate, they are also an oversimplification of what acne is. Simply put, acne is an irritating skin rash that usually begins in the pre-teen years and for some can continue for decades. Typically red, acne most often appears on the skin on the face, back and chest. Sometimes acne may form on the neck, arms and buttocks.

Whiteheads, shown in the photo below, require a different treatment than blackheads or zits.

Whiteheads, shown in the photo below, require a different treatment than blackheads or zits.

Although commonly surfacing as red bumps, acne can also appear as blackheads or whiteheads, cysts and pustules. These all have different characteristics but they are all forms of acne. It is important to know what type of acne you have because it will help you come up with an effective acne treatment.

What Causes Acne?

The best way to avoid acne breakouts is to understand what causes acne. During adolescence all that can really be done is to keep the acne flare ups to a minimum, but in adulthood, understanding the causes of acne can help prevent breakouts.

There isn’t one specific factor that causes acne but rather many factors that can cause pimples to surface. In general acne occurs when oil glands—also known as sebaceous glands—are stimulated initially during puberty due to increased levels of male hormones. These oil glands are attached to hair follicles which are all over the human body. The excess oil clogs the pores until the hair follicle is enlarged until a bump—acne—has formed.

The amount of excess oil will determine just how inflamed the acne becomes. The different types of acne are based on how close to the surface of the skin they appear. Basically an excess of oil glands is the cause of acne, but a variety of factors can cause the bodies to produce additional oil.

Washing your face regularly can help prevent breakouts, but a dirty face isn’t guaranteed to cause acne.

Washing your face regularly can help prevent breakouts, but a dirty face isn’t guaranteed to cause acne.

Other factors that cause acne, include;

Diet. Foods high in sugar and fat tend to cause more oil to appear in the skin. Similarly a diet without enough water and vitamins can contribute to acne.


Too much oil build up

Cosmetics, particularly not washing them off effectively

Excess hormones like androgens and estrogen

Bacterial build up

Certain medications have also been known to cause acne.

Natural Remedies

Natural remedies to get rid of acne are become more popular as more and more people are looking away from chemicals to solve their skin problems. The most natural remedy for treating acne is drinking more water. Water flushes out toxins that can cause acne and leaves skin glowing and refreshed. This helps prevent acne and treat an existing breakout.

Exercise is another great natural acne remedy because it counteracts the effects of stress, which is to produce more oil, thereby reducing your chances of a breakout. Exercise also balances hormone levels, which is another cause for acne. Finally, exercise, specifically sweating clears out those clogged pores and boots out those dead skin cells that can cause an acne breakout.

In addition to these natural remedies for treating acne, there are also herbs and flowers that have properties that kill bacteria that causes acne. While commonly thought of as a natural antibacterial wash, myrrh, thyme and marigold work well to treat acne as well. You can use all-natural oils or scrubs.

Tea tree oil is another effective but all natural acne remedy because it fights breakouts without nasty side effects. Tea tree oil is widely available now so you can test it out as a natural way to fight acne.

Home Remedies

There are many home remedies to get rid of acne. Some are based on old wives’ tales and others inexplicably work. Whether you need to treat oily skin to get rid of acne, exfoliate your skin or reduce swelling to prevent acne scars, there is a home remedy you can try.

If you’re looking for a home remedy to unclog pores and get rid of dead skin cells but you don’t want to spend big bucks testing out high-end toners, consider apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or fresh tomato slices. These are very acidic and much cheaper than toner or astringent.

 If you have an important date or presentation in the morning and you’re experiencing a stress breakout, consider toothpaste or honey as a way to get rid of acne fast. Honey and toothpaste sucks the moisture from the pimple and is guaranteed to shrink or disappear it by morning. Place a dollop of honey or toothpaste (not gel) on the zit and cover with a Band-Aid.

Combine raw brown sugar with your favorite natural oil to create a scrub that will brush off dead skin and clean out your pores. Tea tree oil, lemon oil and lavender oil are all effective for helping soothe swollen pimps and eliminating dead skin cells.

Honey masks, pictured above, are a great natural and quick acne treatment.

Honey masks, pictured above, are a great natural and quick acne treatment.

Emergency Treatments

When you need to get rid of acne right away there are a few products that can get the job done right. You already know about honey and toothpaste, but the most common emergency treatments for acne are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These are both over the counter acne treatments that are great spot treatments.

Rather than an entire beauty regimen, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be rubbed onto the problem area for quick treatment.

Topical Treatments

One of the most popular acne treatments are topical treatments that come in several varieties. Whether in cream, lotion or gel form, these topical acne treatments can be purchased over the counter or gotten by prescription. Topical treatments for acne work best for surface acne to tackle the main problems that cause acne such as excess oil, blogged pores and bacteria.

Benzoyl peroxide is a two-fold acne treatment because it kills the bacteria that causes acne and it unclogs pores by causing skin to dry and flake off. Many topical acne treatments use benzoyl peroxide as a main ingredient.

Topical retinoids work more as a topical peel to unclog pores. When applied to the skin redness and dry skin can occur. If this happens find another topical treatment to keep skin healthy.

Topical antibiotics come in gel and lotion form to be applied directly to the skin rather than taking pills. Some topical antibiotics also contain benzoyl peroxide to increase effectiveness. Generally topical antibiotics are only prescribed for those with mild but persistent acne.

Azalaic acid products are recommended to those suffering from mild acne that usually consist of blackheads and whiteheads. Acne products with azalaic acid can be applied several times each day since inflammation is not a known side effect.


Antibiotics can be an effective method of getting rid of acne, although it is not a treatment that will be given out lightly. Generally acne has to worsen and be consistent before a doctor will recommend antibiotics to treat acne.

Antibiotics work for inflamed acne because it decreases inflammation that pimple-causing bacteria causes. You can get oral or topical antibiotics to fight bacteria that causes acne, although often a dermatologist will recommend oral antibiotics combined with topical skin treatments. Make sure you find out the known side effects before choosing antibiotics to treat acne breakouts.

Hormonal Therapies

Since the hormone imbalance we go through during adolescence is when acne first presents, there have been many developments of hormone therapy to treat acne. An excess of hormones can lead to acne breakouts and your dermatologist may recommend this therapy to treat them.

One form of hormone therapy works to block androgen receptors that has been known to help women deal with persistent acne breakouts. Androgen is a male hormone and when women produce too much of this hormone, they suffer from resistant acne. Androgen blockers rely on low doses of progesterone and estrogen. Unfortunately androgen blockers often cause irregular periods, breast tenderness and high potassium in the blood.

Oral contraceptives, or birth control, are often prescribed to fight androgen.


Isotretinoin has been used for decades to treat severe acne. You probably know this treatment as Accutane even though there are plenty of generic versions of this product. This is sort of a last resort acne treatment, when all other forms of treatment have not been successful. Isotretinoin is not a run of the mill acne treatment due to side effects, and it is unlikely your dermatologist will prescribe it if you don’t need it.

Isotretinoin and birth defects: Pregnant women who take isotretinoin are at a very high risk of birth defects, which is why two negative pregnancy tests are required before a doctor will even consider prescribing this treatment. To avoid birth defects associated with isotretinoin, monthly pregnancy tests are recommended as well as two forms of birth control for sexually active women. If carefully monitored, the risk of birth defects is minimal.

Isotretinoin and mood changes: The U.S. government has installed a national registration system for isoretinoin due to the increased risk of suicide and depression linked to the drug. Despite the fact there no empirical evidence has been presented to back up these claims, most dermatologists closely monitor this type of acne treatment.

It is important if you take isotretinoin that you monitor yourself for signs of pregnancy, depression or suicide. Even general melancholy or a slightly late period is enough to consult with your doctor.

Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraception has key ingredients—ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate—that have been shown to improve acne in women. Notably Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Estrostep are low estrogen oral contraceptives often prescribed to fight acne.

Unfortunately oral contraception has several side effects that may not warrant this type of treatment for acne. Some side effects of using birth control for acne include migraines and headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, depression and high blood pressure.

Laser And Light Therapy

Therapies based in light or laser are effective for treating acne because they penetrate to the deeper levels of the skin without damaging the surface.

Laser therapy works on the sebaceous glands, damaging them so they produce less oil and thereby reduces the clogging of pores. Light therapy on the other hand, targets bacteria that causes the acne to swell.

Laser therapy is a common treatment for acne and acne scars.

Laser therapy is a common treatment for acne and acne scars.

Laser or light therapy is also used to improve the overall texture of the skin and reduces the darkness of acne scars. These forms of acne therapy are conducted on an outpatient basis by a dermatologist.

Cosmetic Procedures

Cosmetic acne treatments have been surging in popularity as they become more readily available and receive endorsements by famous faces. Cosmetic treatments for acne include chemical peels, microdermabrasion and even laser therapy are used to reduce the visibility of acne and acne scars.

These cosmetic treatments work best when combined with other acne treatments, particularly to soothe the side effects of these treatments. Red, bloody skin, blistering and scaling are common side effects of many cosmetic procedures, which may require anti-inflammatory creams or lotions and oils to soothe the skin after treatments.


Getting rid of acne or preventing acne breakouts altogether requires some proactive treatment tips. These tips work to keep your skin balanced, pores empty and small and remove dead skin cells.

  • Wash face at least twice each day with a cleanser.
  • Moisturize dry skin and use toner to reduce oily skin.
  • Remove make up prior to washing face.
  • Use pore strips to remove oil from areas you breakout most often.
  • Steaming is a great method to unclog pores.
  • Exfoliate skin at least twice every week to remove dead skin.
  • Drink more water.

Written By Kayla Harris

Dr. Harris is a dermatologist certified by the American Boards of Dermatology and Pediatrics. She has also received a certification in the sub-specialty of Pediatric Dermatology. Dr. Harris received an undergraduate degree biology from the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Harris earned her Medical Degree at the University Missouri. Dr. Harris completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at the University of Colorado where she also completed her residency in dermatology just one year later.


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