If scientists can decipher the human genome why, you might ask, can't they find a way to eradicate acne? With no sign of a cure looming on the horizon, it's up to you to find a way to deal with the outbreaks of those spots that can damage your looks and your self-esteem long past adolescence.

How to Relieve Acne

When a pimple rears its ugly head, there are several over-the-counter products that can help. But then, so too can simple natural remedies.

 

Acne cream

Topical keratolytic acids help relieve mild acne by breaking down the oily plugs blocking the hair follicles and slough off dead or hardened cells on the skin's surface. Keratolytes include salicylic acid preparations such as Clearasil Medicated Wipes and sulphur-based treatments such as Clearasil Acne Treatment Cream.

Benzoyl peroxide treatments such as Clearasil Ultra, Oxy and PanOxyl work by mildly irritating the skin, encouraging an increased removal of skin cells as well as suppressing bacteria. Start with a lower strength as stinging and redness can result. Topical antibiotic treatments can also be useful in controlling acne. Examples include clindamycin and erythromycin, and both are available on prescription. In more severe cases, your doctor might also prescribe oral antibiotics.

Retinoids are very effective treatment for acne but they can also cause the most irritation. They are available in topical or oral form, but are also only available on prescription.

Overcleansing itself can cause acne by stimulating the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Avoid granulated cleansers. And don't use a face washer, which is abrasive and may harbour bacteria. Instead, use disposable cleansing pads. And remember to clean face razors with surgical spirit after each use.

Natural acne treatments

Apply a drop of tea-tree oil to blemishes 3 times a day to discourage infection and speed up healing. Research has found that 5 per cent tea-tree oil is as effective against acne as a 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide solution.

For acne that flares up before a menstrual period, drink 1 to 2 cups of chasteberry tea a day. Some studies show that this herb helps to regulate female hormones, but give it 2 or 3 months to work. Sage and red clover may also help control excess production of sebum by moderating hormone levels.

Apply vinegar or lemon juice to pimples using a cotton wool ball. The acids present in lemon juice and all vinegars can help to flush out pores. Toothpaste smeared on an outbreak is also reputed to work well–try applying it before you go to bed.

A folk remedy for healing pimples is to use a mixture of spice and honey. Mix 1 teaspoon of powdered nutmeg with 1 teaspoon of honey and apply it to the pimple. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse off. There's no scientific proof that this helps, but honey does have antiseptic properties.

Apply aloe vera. One study found that 90 per cent of skin sores were completely healed with aloe vera within 5 days. Buy a product containing aloe vera, or squeeze the gel from the middle of a freshly cut leaf and apply it to the skin.

Applying live, natural yogurt to the skin helps soothe and heal, particularly after a camomile steam bath has opened up the sebaceous glands. Allow the steam to rise over your face.

At the first hint of a pimple, put an ice cube in a piece of plastic wrap and hold it on the area affected at least twice a day, or every hour if you can, but for only 5 minutes at a time. The cold will reduce the redness and ease the inflammation.

Make a skin cleanser by adding 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts and 3 drops of iodine to 125ml water. Bring to the boil, allow to cool and dab it onto spots with a clean cotton wool ball.

How to squeeze a spot

If you have to attack your spots, follow this dermatologist-approved method, suitable for whiteheads.

  • Clean the area and sterilise the tip of a needle by holding it in a naked flame for 3 seconds or wiping it with surgical spirit.
  • Gently nick the surface of the pimple.
  • Drain it using cotton wool and clean it with 20 vol. hydrogen peroxide solution.
  • Don't squeeze or pick the spot–you'll make it worse.
  • To deal with blackheads, buy a blackhead extractor, available online and from some pharmacies. Soften the blemish with a hot-water compress for 10 minutes before you use the device.

To get help discreetly, visit the OnlineClinic.

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