Dermatologist’s Tips for Treating Acne

Posted by Azadeh Shirazi MD on

Acne affects people of all races, ages, and genders worldwide. It can present differently in every individual and because there are so many different types and triggers, it can be physically and emotionally stressful to manage. But don’t give up! There are several treatment options; naturally, topically, and orally to explore that can help improve the appearance of the skin and reduce the severity and frequency of these breakouts. I’m here to provide you with the correct knowledge and resources to help you achieve clear, healthy skin. Check out my video on on this topic for more in depth information!

What Is Acne and What Are the Different Types?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when the hair follicle becomes clogged with oil and dead skin cells. The different types of acne are 

  • Black Heads: small black or dark colored bumps; open comedones
  • White Heads: small white colored bumps; closed comedones
  • Papules: small, red, raised bumps
  • Pustules: small, pus-filled bumps
  • Nodules/Cysts: large tender red bumps under the skin

What Causes Acne?

Acne is complex and caused by a combination of multiple factors including:

  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal fluctuation, shifts, and overall climate has a profound effect on the skin such as pregnancy, puberty, menstrual cycle, conditions such as PCOS and birth controls
  • Environmental: Products exposed to the skin, medications, and environment factors such as extreme temperatures and fluctuations in weather 
  • Lifestyle: diet, stress, sleep, and habits

How Can Acne Be Treated?

There are many different treatment options for acne. It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different and what works for one person may not necessarily work for every person. Any acne treatment will require patience and consistency. Give your skin time to change and heal, and don’t be afraid to seek help from a medical professional. The most effective way to treat your acne will depend on the type and severity.

  1. Naturally: Our diet and habits can have a significant impact on our hormones. Dietary wise, foods high in sugars can increase the production of insulin in the body. Elevated insulin increases circulating cortisol levels that bind to our sebaceous glands, increasing oil (sebum) production.  Furthermore, whey protein can increase the production of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 which revs up oil production and leading to acne flares. 
  2. Changes in lifestyle: Stress and lack of sleep can also play a large role. Some helpful changes you can make to your diet is to avoid processed sugars and artificial sweeteners. Switch to natural sugars found in fruits. Avoid overconsumption of cow’s milk, particularly skim milk. If you’re an avid milk drinker, try switching to almond milk. Try to get a good nights rest every evening, our cell renewal process takes place during this time and can help improve your overall skin health.
  3. Skincare Products: Beneficial ingredients in skincare products for acne include retinols, salicylic acid, medicated sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid. Pair these effective acne ingredients with a gentle cleanser and a hydrating moisturizer.  It’s important to maintain a simple effective skincare regimen.  When looking for skincare products avoid using ingredients like dimethicone, cyclomethicone, fragrance, mineral oil, shea butter, lanolin, and coconut oil as they can cause acne flares.
  4. Oral Medications: If you’re experiencing severe acne and you’re not seeing results from topical products, seeing a dermatologist, a doctor specializing in the skin is beneficial. Sometime topical prescriptions like Winlevi or Tretinoin or oral medications like birth control, Seysara, Doxycycline, or Spironolactone are necessary.  

5  Helpful Tips for Controlling Acne

  • Refrain from using too many products. It’s important to maintain a simple skincare routine. My philosophy is cleanse, treat, protect. Too many products in your daily routine can cause more breakouts.
  • Try switching to silk pillow cases. Cotton pillow cases can harbor bacteria and yeast. Wash your pillow cases often as well as disinfecting your phone screen!
  • Exfoliate once a week with salicylic acid and/or glycolic acid based product in place of a retinol. This is helpful to prevent skin buildup and treat breakouts. 
  • Don’t over exfoliate. Over exfoliation disrupts the skin barrier and worsen acne. 
  • Avoid friction and facial scrubs if you have active acne.  THey can create microtears in the skin while friction irritates the skin worsening breakouts. 
  • Moisturize.  Acne is a condition of a weak skin barrier so it’s important to use moisturizers to reinforce and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier healing acne breakouts.  There is a common misconception that people with acne prone skin should not use a moisturizer. Choose a nourishing moisturizer with a lightweight formula that’s fragrance-free, oil-free, and non-comedogenic.   

Dr. Azi’s Recommended Products for Acne Breakouts

Acne Regimen: Easy 3 step routine.  Start with the Exfoliating Cleanser, next spot treat acne prone areas with the Zit Roller, and protect with the Intense Recovery Complex designed for acne prone inflamed skin.  

Acne Regimen for Oily Skin: gently cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize while reducing excess oil and targeting acne for a radiant, shine-free complexion.

Intense Recovery Complex: Lightweight moisturizer designed to strengthen and support the skin barrier for those struggling with acne, rosacea, or those on retinol and exfoliants.

Recommended Products for your skin needs. Take the skin quiz!

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment


Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD is a Board-Certified Dermatologist.

Specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Shirazi received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University Of Kentucky College of Medicine. After doing a Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, she completed her residency training in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in addition to completing her training in dermatology and cosmetic surgery at the University of California San Diego.

She has received multiple research scholarships from iconic institutions including Harvard University and the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has several peer-reviewed publications to her name.