Sometimes treating your acne is not as straightforward as simply following the directions on a bottle of face wash or a tube or cream and enjoying a clear face days later. Whether you're using a benzoyl peroxide-based acne treatment or one that contains salicylic acid, you're bound to run into a challenge or two along the way. Here's a look at some of the most common of those challenges and how to best address them.
Challenge #1: Your treatment is leaving your face dry and flaky.
Acne treatments tend to be drying. They remove oil from your skin, which helps prevent future pimples from forming. Sometimes both benzoyl peroxide ad salicylic acid treatments can cause your skin to become too dry. If you're looking flaky and you've only been using your treatment for a few days, give your skin a little time to adapt. If you're still dry after 2 weeks, try one or more of these tips:
- Decrease the frequency of use. If you're using an acne face wash, use it only at night, and use a mild cleanser at night. If you're using an acne treatment cream, try decreasing its use to once per day, or even once every other day.
- After washing and drying your face, apply a mild moisturizer. Make sure it's labeled "non-comedogenic," which means that it won't clog your pores.
Challenge #2: You've been using your treatment as directed, but still have pimples.
Everyone's acne is different and responds to different medications. If you're just started using a new treatment, give your skin a month to adapt before deciding whether or not it's effective. If you still have not experienced an improvement within a month, try switching to a medication with a higher concentration of active ingredients. For example, if you're using a benzoyl peroxide, treatment switching from a 2% to a 5% solution may do the trick. You could also contact a dermatologist to see if there's a prescription treatment that may do a better job.
Also look at all of your beauty products carefully, and make sure they are all labeled "non-comedogenic." Switching your moisturizer, foundation, and other cosmetics over to versions made specifically for acne sufferers may allow your treatment to work more effectively.
Challenge #3: Instead of whiteheads, you now have blackhead pimples.
Sometimes acne medications effectively clear whiteheads, but they leave behind annoying blackheads. Blackheads are caused by the buildup of oil and dead skin cells in your pores. Exfoliating your skin regularly will help clear them up. Look for a gentle exfoliating wash, and use it one to two times per week to keep dead skin cells at bay. You may want to avoid using your acne treatment on the day you exfoliate to a prevent making your skin overly dry.
Challenge #4: Your treatment seems to be making your skin oily.
Sometimes the drying effect of an acne treatment medication causes your skin to overreact by producing more oil than is normal. In many patients, this side effect subsides within a few weeks of starting a new acne medication. Try using oil blotting sheets to keep your oil slick under control, and if the symptom does not subside within a month of starting a new treatment, try the following:
- Switch to a lighter moisturizer, or only use your moisturizer every other day.
- Try an acne medication with a lower concentration of the same active ingredient.
- Use makeup made especially for oil skin.
Many cases of minor to moderate acne can be successfully treated with over-the-counter remedies, as long as you're willing to identify challenges and work around them. If you've tried several over-the-counter treatments and have not found one that agrees with your skin type, don't hesitate to visit a dermatologist. He or she can look closely at your skin and prescribe a solution that is most likely to work. Keep in mind, there may still be challenges involved with acne treatment -- but with a little innovation, you can face them head on.