Preventing acne breakouts means sticking to an effective cleaning process and selecting the right products.

While your daily skin care routine can seem mundane, establishing a process and taking an active approach to keeping your skin clean and healthy is half the battle. However, if you suffer from acne breakouts, the other half of the fight is learning which products and techniques are right for your specific skin type.

First, let’s understand what causes those annoying acne breakouts that rear their ugly heads right before that big first date, new job interview or high school class reunion. They always seem to come at an inopportune time, but if you start to break the cycle now, you can avoid these incidents and your skin will thank you later.

Acne begins when your skin cells don’t flake off properly, thus clogging your pores in the form of blackheads, also known as comedones. When this happens, oil glands produce sebum (oil) and acne-causing bacteria use this as a food source. When the bacteria eat the dead skin cells and oil in the clogged pores, they release inflammatory factors that lead to redness and swelling in the form of papules and pustules. This cycle is actually an eight-week process, so what you do now will affect your skin in eight weeks. That’s why consistency in your skin care regimen is important and cleansing is crucial.

It seems like such a simple thing, but the manner in which you cleanse your skin can make all the difference. Whichever cleanser you choose, it should leave your skin clean but not too tight, dry, itchy or red. Also, keep in mind that cleansing too often isn’t good for your skin. Despite having acne-prone skin, some natural oil is a good thing. You want to keep a healthy balance and not over dry or irritate your skin by stripping it too much.

No matter what you choose to fight against acne, always make sure that you wash your face before bed. After a night out on the town don’t sleep in your makeup, because silicones (found in many moisturizers, hair products and sunscreen) can clog pores and hold in dirt.
If cleansing alone doesn’t improve your skin, see your dermatologist. Prescription creams containing retinoids can help treat acne and prevent the recurrence of acne. Take the time to find out what works best for you and you’ll win the war against acne.

Try looking for cleansers that contain the following ingredients:

    • Salicylic acid: This ingredient penetrates the oil in your pores and removes the built-up dead skin cells while delivering some anti-inflammatory relief. The acidity helps exfoliate the flaking dead skin cells, leaving you with smoother, cleaner skin.
    • Silver: This element has antimicrobial properties that have been lauded since biblical times. Products fight acne with salicylic acid but contain silver as a preservative, which may contribute to faster pimple healing and eradication of bacteria.
    • Benzoyl peroxide: This organic compound works as a peeling agent, increasing skin turnover, clearing pores and reducing the amount of bacteria. Before using a cleanser containing it, be aware that it can be irritating to some people.

Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., FAAD, is an internationally renowned, board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author, media personality and lecturer. CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute and founder of the University of Miamis Cosmetic Medicine & Research Institute, she authored the best-selling Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice and The Skin Type Solution, and has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Discovery Channel.