The struggle with acne can go beyond skin deep. Not only can it be uncomfortable to live with angry, inflamed skin, but the negative impact on a person’s self-image can be profound. There’s probably only one thing worse than suffering from acne breakouts, and that’s having a reminder of it for the rest of your life. While breakouts are temporary and often a normal part of life due to hormones and other factors, scars are permanent. However, scarring can be avoided with some gentle care and effective acne treatment.

1. Don’t Squeeze or Pick

The most important thing is to keep your hands away from your face. It’s natural to feel tempted to squeeze or pick, but this can significantly exasperate the problem. Bacteria on the hands can make its way to deeper layers of the dermis, spreading infection and further damaging surrounding tissue. If you’ve already popped the blemish, treat it tenderly. Disinfect the area by dabbing gently with a cotton ball soaked with witch-hazel, then apply ice for a few minutes to soothe the irritation. Once the scab forms, allow it to heal naturally. Never pick as this will almost guarantee that you’ll be left with a scar.

2. Treat Acne at the First Sign of a Breakout

Seeking out an effective acne treatment at the first sign of a breakout is a sure way to prevent scarring later on. Over the counter topical treatments are often successful in ensuring that the problem doesn’t develop further. If the skin continues to breakout, additional treatment provided by a visit to your doctor or pharmacist can help to treat the problem.

3. Prevent Inflammation

Prevention of acne scars involves more than the pimples themselves. A necessary part of successful acne treatment is reducing inflammation of the skin. Aggressive scrubbing, usage of abrasive facial scrubs, harsh chemicals, and rubbing with a rough washcloth should always be avoided as these activities and products will further irritate the skin, leading to worse breakouts and possible scarring. Soothe and calm the skin by using a mild cleanser with lukewarm water twice a day. And always lightly pat the skin dry.

4. Treat Your Skin from the Inside Out

While diet alone won’t prevent breakouts, it’s still important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet not only to avoid damage to the skin, but to promote effective healing. Studies have found a link between high glycemic load diets and an increased risk of acne. Therefore, eating lots of nutrient-rich foods and less over-processed food can go a long way to keep the skin not only looking and feeling fresh and healthy, but able to recover more easily from breakouts or inflammation. Most importantly, stay hydrated with plenty of water.

5. Use Extra Sunscreen

There’s long been a myth that it’s possible to let acne breakouts dry up in the sun, but the truth is that the heat and UV rays are extremely damaging and can aggravate the skin even further. It can be quite challenging to find a sunscreen that is the right formula for acne-prone skin, but not impossible. By taking the time to choose carefully among the many choices of sunscreen lining the shelves, you can find a nourishing, hydrating, and acne-friendly formula. Seek out an oil-free, water-resistant product that is SPF 30 or higher to protect your delicate skin from those harmful UV rays and keep redness to a minimum.

Acne can be frustrating and irritating, often causing discomfort and self-esteem issues. The good news is that there are solutions to fix the problem. It can be tempting to spend time in front of the mirror squeezing or popping in an effort to force the pimples away, but getting rid of acne requires a soft touch. With time, treatment, and patience, it is possible to clear up breakouts with no scarring left to remind you of it in the years ahead.

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