Arch nemesis of skincare brands and teenagers all over the world, acne is without question the issue we get asked about most here at Luminositie.
With up to 85% of teens experiencing some form of acne, it’s probably no wonder we are so preoccupied with ways to prevent, remove and treat it.
But in the age of the internet, it feels like new remedies and treatments are being claimed virtually every week.
Keeping track of the latest acne treatments and miracle cures can sometimes make our heads spin.
As a result, we decided to make this definitive guide, listing all of the methods you can use to both get rid of your acne and prevent it coming back for good.
This is different from other guides in that we will explain exactly how each pimple remedy works and in what situation, meaning it should be easy to select the treatment that works for you.
Even more importantly, we want to keep this guide definitive, so will continue to update it as and when new effective treatments are discovered or studies are released.
Acne isn’t just a mild issue, it can affect people’s self-esteem, confidence, and even lead to anxiety, depression and permanent scarring.
By the time you read this entire guide, you’ll know exactly what causes acne, what makes it tick, and how to keep yourself pimple-free.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in:
What Causes Acne?
Acne occurs when our hair follicles get blocked, usually with oil, dead skin cells and the like.
The main causes of this blockage can include:
- Excess oil production in the skin
- Dead skin cells (often combined with excess oil production)
- Unusual or increased hormonal activity
- Bacteria in the pore/follicle
This is extremely common amongst teenagers as we mentioned, but it is something that can affect anybody regardless of age, even if you haven’t struggled with acne previously.
These blockages lead to pimples, zits, whiteheads and blackheads, and while acne is most commonly found on the face, it can also affect the chest, back and shoulders.
There are plenty of effective treatments, skincare products, medications and remedies out there, but with everybody’s skin, skincare regime, diet and acne being different, how do you know which one will work best for you?
Our first recommendation is to pay attention to your skin.
Some people have flare-ups when they have a certain food, or their acne disappears when they drink a lot of water and avoid sugar, or it only manifests itself when they’re stressed.
The single best thing you can do to prevent or heal acne is to try each of the methods in this guide while paying attention to the results from day to day.
If a certain method doesn’t work, forget it, but if one does, you may just have to start doing it every day.
By crossing out the techniques that are ineffective to you, you will gradually build and refine a skincare routine that actively combats acne and leaves your skin naturally feeling smooth and healthy.
This will protect you from acne and mean you never have to wonder how to get rid of pimples again.
Types of Acne Spots & Symptoms
The symptoms of acne aren’t always the same and different types of spots and pimples can come with different causes.
The most common include:
Blackheads are formed when plugged pores remain somewhat open
Whiteheads are formed when plugged pores are fully blocked
Papules are small red, pink or skin coloured lumps that often feel tender and first appear under the skin
Pustules are similar to papules but contain pus near the top (poppable spots)
While it’s likely you’ve experienced all of the above at some point during your lifetime, the following two are a bit less common:
Nodules are large, painful lumps under the skin that can feel hard to the touch
Cystic Lesions are also painful and below the skin but contain pus and can be among the most difficult forms of acne to remove and/or live with
Image Source: Pharmaceutical Journal
Types of Acne
So now you know some of the different symptoms of acne, but did you know there are also different kinds of acne which can be caused in different ways and lead to these differing symptoms?
Now you do:
Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne there is and is by far the most painful and most difficult to rid yourself of. Cystic acne leads to cystic lesions below the skin which can cause severe scarring. If you believe you may be suffering from cystic acne, we recommend visiting your GP immediately, as this form of acne is simply too difficult to remove with skincare products alone - prescription medication is required, or a dermatologist’s attention at the very least.
Inflammatory acne typically involves pustules and similar red lumps. It can be pretty painful and long-lasting. Inflammatory acne is usually treatable at home using the remedies listed here, but if it persists don’t be afraid to contact a GP as the quicker you get rid of it, the lower your chances of scarring.
Acne Vulgaris is one of the most common forms of acne and is also commonly known just as “simple acne”. It most commonly leads to whiteheads and blackheads and is a result of pores being blocked by dead skin cells, excess oil and other nasty foreign bodies and substances. Acne Vulgaris can appear in people with otherwise healthy and clear skin, but luckily it is one of the easiest forms of acne to overcome and should be no match for many of the treatment methods listed below.
This is similar to acne vulgaris and is also caused by blockages but more commonly leads to blackheads on the chin or in the forehead T-zone.
This is most common amongst women and teenagers and is a result of excess oil being produced in the face as a result of hormonal increases or changes. Hormonal acne is the reason many women find they experience acne more commonly during specific stages of their menstrual cycle.
Can Your Diet Cause Acne?
This is a common question that is actually more difficult to answer than you might think, with many academics disagreeing with each other on the topic.
An old wives tale that still gets passed around today is the idea that eating greasy foods can lead to acne. While cooking in a greasy environment can block your hair follicles and lead to acne, there is no evidence that eating greasy foods does the same thing.
The two main types of food that do have some evidence supporting an increase in acne, are high-glycemic index foods such as potatoes, pasta, bread etc, along with sweets and dairy.
Of course, hydration is a huge point for your skin in general, so avoiding high-glycemic index foods, eating clean and healthy foods, and drinking water regularly will eliminate virtually all acne or causes coming from food.
Whey protein supplements have also had the finger pointed at them, as not only do they contain dairy but they can also make skin cells divide and grow more quickly which has been suggested to increase acne symptoms.
Once again we have to mention that this varies a lot from person to person and that the best thing you can do is pay attention to what you eat.
If you have whey protein regularly and have never felt like it worsened your acne, then chances are you have nothing to worry about.
In the same way, if you get an acne flare up every time you eat a specific food, you should do your best to avoid it.
On the flipside, some probiotic foods such as “oats, chia seeds, sauerkraut, kale, broccoli and cabbage will apparently help eliminate the toxins that cause acne” according to Richmond & Matt Plowman at Cardiff Sports Nutrition.
How to Get Rid of Acne & Pimples Fast
Ok, so we’ve covered the basics now.
You know your papules from your pustules, and how acne comes about.
We’ve shown you what gets rid of acne in terms of natural and easy treatments.
But what about when you have acne symptoms already, but you have an important event coming up like a wedding or a work presentation?
How do you get rid of pimples overnight, or learn how to get rid of acne fast?!
First things first, if you find yourself in this situation, you need to look at improving your diet and looking at our acne prevention tips too, as a little effort in this area can make sure this never happens to you again.
But that doesn’t help you right now, so let’s take a look:
Best Products to Remove Acne Quickly
There are plenty of acne solutions, creams and face masks being offered, the vast majority of whom claim to be the best, but how do you figure out which ones actually are?
Generally, you want to avoid washing your face with soap.
It shouldn’t cause acne directly, but it will certainly dry out your skin which can lead to acne and other issues.
You need something that’s effective enough to wash out your pores and clear out all that oil and other nasties, while still being gentle enough not to damage or dry out your skin.
Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the two main ingredients to look out for, and applying them regularly can work wonders for both preventing and healing acne.
Combining a good quality face wash with these ingredients, and a gentle cleaning method will clear acne fast and get you on the path to clean and clear skin!
You may wonder why we don’t have any face washes currently listed in our shop.
The simple reason is that we only tend to release products if we are 100% sure we can be unique enough and better than existing options, and there are plenty of effective face washes out there right now that makes this rather difficult.
If we find a way, we’ll let you know immediately, but for now, stick to those two ingredients and you’ll be just fine.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of pimples overnight, a good quality face wash should be your first stop.
A lot of people are of the opinion that you should avoid putting any sort of skincare products on acne.
This idea tends to come from being aware that certain products can dry out the skin or exacerbate acne while being unaware of which products actually do this.
Luckily, this doesn’t apply to moisturiser at all, as long as you have a decent quality one with no nasty synthetic chemicals.
Dry skin leads to increased oil production which leads to acne, so continuing your moisturising regime is crucial.
There are oil-free moisturisers available which are formulated specifically for regular acne-sufferers, so these are a great choice.
There are also foundations and other makeup products that are oil-free and beneficial for acne prone skin. These are often labelled as “non-acnegenic” or “non-comedogenic” so keep an eye out for those.
Generally, the same rules apply to anything else you put on your face, so avoid oily products or things that can dry out your skin.
Natural Acne Treatments (or what to put on pimples)
There are plenty of natural skincare treatments out there that can be great for acne.
Since these are often cheap and easy to acquire, we recommend trying all of these before looking into any more complicated treatments or products.
Their low price, ready availability and proven results make them great choices when you need to get rid of a pimple right now.
Here are just a few natural remedies that have been found to help combat acne quickly:
It might be strange to hear us recommend an oil after warning off it for the last few paragraphs, but coconut oil is somewhat of a wonder product that has applications ranging from skincare and haircare to cooking.
Coconut oil has antibacterial and antioxidant qualities and can be applied topically or consumed internally, with both having positive effects on facial skin health.
It also has hydrating effects when applied to the skin which can only help your anti acne treatment!
Tea Tree Oil Spot Treatment
Tea tree oil is well known to combat both skin inflammation and bacteria.
Not only that, but it specifically kills bacteria involved in causing pimples.
It has also been suggested to have an equally effective result on acne as benzoyl peroxide. Not bad at all for a natural substance that costs next to nothing!
It is worth noting that tea tree oil in its natural form is very strong and quite harsh, which can lead to redness and sore skin.
We highly recommend diluting it with heavily with water (9 parts water to 1 part tea tree oil), which makes it a lot kinder on your skin and creates a low cost and highly effective anti-pimple face wash.
In addition to tea tree oils, there are other essential oils that can be used. Clove-basil oil, rosemary, cinnamon and lemongrass essential oils also have been found to reduce pimples quicker than most manmade anti-pimple products.
Green tea has also been shown to fight inflammation, bacteria and reduce pimple size and visibility.
It is also rich in an antioxidant known as EGCG, which reduces inflammation, reduces sebum production and inhibits the growth of spots.
There are a variety of skincare products that contain green tea extract, but you can purchase green tea for next to nothing and make your own skincare for acne lotion at home, meaning there is no reason not to at least try green tea’s effects.
Of course, aloe was going to show up here at some point, is there anything it doesn’t do?
Studies have shown that aloe vera can speed up healing, fight bacteria and (yes again) reduce inflammation.
It is commonly used to treat sunburn, rashes and similar due to these effects along with its benefits to skin hydration.
While aloe has beneficial effects alone, it seems to be at it’s best when mixed with other effective ingredients such as salicylic acid.
If you do purchase an aloe based gel to treat or prevent acne, please do make sure it contains pure aloe with no other ingredients, as there are plenty of products claiming to be aloe vera gels out there that contain less than 1% aloe.
Witch Hazel is another natural ingredient that provides a huge boost to your fight against acne, reducing inflammation and killing bacteria.
Applying it to the skin gently with a cotton pad should immediately start shrinking your pimples and have you looking your best as quickly as possible.
How to Prevent Acne
So, above we have listed some great products and natural treatments that can help you zap your zits in the short term and get your skin back to its natural best.
But what about the long term?
Are there things you can do daily to prevent acne from rearing its ugly head in the first place?
Here are just a few:
That’s right, the omega-3 fatty acids that are present in fish oil tablets and capsules, the ones that are already applauded for basically everything?
They help your body to regulate its oil production, increase skin hydration and reduce pimple size.
This isn’t gonna take action quick enough to remove a pimple before a big date, unfortunately, but taking them daily can stop pimples from forming in the first place - along with plenty of other health benefits.
Zinc is another daily supplement you can take to prevent the onset of acne.
It’s discovered benefits include the healing of wounds and reduced inflammation.
There are even signs that people with clear skin have higher levels of zinc in their blood than acne sufferers, making the link possibly more direct than we may think.
It may seem obvious but we had to mention this here and it really can’t be overstated.
Drinking enough water every day has a myriad of health benefits, and you’ll notice that many of the recommendations we’ve already given you connect to hydration or dry skin in some way.
Water also removes toxins from the body, keeping your skin and blood clean and healthy.
If this is the only pointer you take away from this article and take actual action on, you will likely still see benefits!
Medical Acne Treatments
While the vast majority of acne symptoms can be treated and completely removed using only the tips we mentioned above, unfortunately, there are more severe cases where medical intervention is necessary, especially in the case of cystic acne.
If you believe this is the case for you, go see a doctor immediately.
The quicker you get the help you need, the quicker your acne will be removed, and the less likely it is you’ll suffer serious scarring.
Here are a few of the most common medications you will be likely to be given:
Antibiotics can be prescribed as a topical cream, as tablets or both. These kill the bacteria trapped in your pores and can also reduce inflammation.
In combination with some good natural treatments like the ones we mentioned above, antibiotics should get rid of the majority of acne cases.
The most commonly used are:
While antibiotics can be very useful, if your symptoms are caused by hormone imbalances instead of bacteria, they will be useless.
Luckily, there are plenty of hormonal acne medications.
Spironolactone is a common medicine used to block androgens (male hormones) in women which helps rebalance oil production. This is a long term medication that needs to be taken for months before a benefit will begin to be seen.
Another option for women suffering from hormonal acne is contraceptive pills with estrogen. These work in the same way, helping your hormone production to remain healthy and balanced.
Previously known as Accutane, Isotretinoin is the most powerful of prescribed acne treatments and is only used for the most serious of symptoms after all other treatments have failed.
It has a joint action, reducing oil production, fighting bacteria, cleaning out pores and fighting inflammation.
Isotretinoin can unfortunately cause birth defects and as such can only be taken under medical supervision and alongside an effective contraceptive.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne
Back acne works in the same face as facial acne and all of the suggestions we’ve given above can work and should be attempted.
A gentle, natural exfoliator combined with some of the acne treatments we have listed will surely get your back looking clean and natural again.
With that said, if your acne is on your back only and not affecting your face, you should consider whether it could be caused by something specific such as clothing.
Women often find that back acne can be caused by not washing bras daily or wearing uncomfortable clothing that makes them sweat constantly.
How to Remove Blackheads
If you’re one of those people who gets a lot of satisfaction from squeezing blackheads, you are going to be disappointed with this answer, but it is best to leave physical blackhead removal to the professionals.
Removing blackheads with your bare hands can simply remove the blackhead temporarily, leaving the oil that caused the blackhead or bacteria from your hands in the follicle, causing another, often larger blackhead to form.
It is better to simply use some natural topical treatments such as tea tree oil and wait for the blackheads to take care of themselves, but if you do want them removed immediately, it is best to go to a dermatologist who can do this in a manner that leaves your pores clean and your blackheads gone.
So, there goes our guide to removing and treating acne!
For 99% of people, your ideal treatment that will make your skin look beautiful and clear again is in this list, it’s just a matter of trying them all and seeing which one agrees with you best.
In extremely rare cases, you may have tried all of them and still struggle with acne.
If this is the case, it might be worth looking into some specialist dermatology procedures such as micro-needling or laser acne treatments, but in general, topical or oral treatments will be more effective, regardless of whether they are prescribed or natural.
We hope you have enjoyed this in-depth guide. Keep your eyes on Luminositie regularly for new deep-dives and honest looks at the skincare industry.
We will look at acne further in the future in topics such as surgical procedures, how to heal acne scars, and more, but if you are looking for information on how to treat your skin here and now, you won’t find a more reliable collection of proven treatments than this - so get trying them!
If you have any effective treatments we haven’t mentioned here, or just want to share your skincare routine for acne, feel free to contact us!