If you're like most people, you've probably dealt with pimples at some point in your life. And whether it's an occasional bump or regular breakouts, you may be wondering how to prevent acne in the first place.

If this sounds like you, read on for some tips from a board-certified Dermatologist to help keep pimples at bay—and your complexion blemish-free.

What Is Acne?

Acne is mainly caused by clogged pores. Pores get clogged for a few reasons, including too much oil production (called sebum), bacteria overgrowth, and dead skin cells.

At first, clogged pores form whiteheads and blackheads. As pores become more clogged and inflamed, pimples and cysts form. This is more likely to happen on oily skin, like your face, chest, and upper back.

How to Prevent Pimples

If you have acne-prone skin, try these Dermatologist tips to help prevent pimples from forming.

  1. Develop healthy hygiene habits. Wash your face twice a day and any time after you sweat. This gets rid of the makeup, oil, and other impurities on your skin. Use a mild cleanser, like the EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser, and then use a non-comedogenic (formulated to not clog pores) moisturizer.
  2. Be gentle with your skin. Use your fingertips when applying products. Avoid things that can irritate your skin, like washcloths and sponges.
  3. Watch what you eat. Certain foods, like cow's milk and sugar, can make acne worse. Sticking to low-sugar whole foods and limiting dairy can help minimize breakouts.
  4. Don't touch your face. Keep your hands off your face as much as possible. This means never picking or squeezing pimples!
  5. Shampoo your hair regularly. If you have oily hair, shampooing your hair daily can reduce the amount of oil that transfers to your face.
  6. Be choosy with hair products. Avoid hair products that contain harsh fragrances, oils, or other ingredients that can irritate your skin or clog pores.
  7. Protect your skin from the sun. Sun exposure doesn't cause acne, but it can contribute to hyperpigmentation and premature aging. Use an oil-free sunscreen like EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 every day.
  8. Use the right makeup. If you wear makeup, stick to products that are labeled non-comedogenic and fragrance-free.
  9. Lower stress as much as possible. Stress doesn't cause breakouts to occur, but it can worsen existing acne, especially on acne-prone skin. Regular habits like exercise and meditation can help lower daily stress.
  10. Follow directions. If you're on an acne treatment plan and find yourself breaking out, make sure you're following your Dermatologist's directions. Most acne treatments only work if they're used correctly and regularly.

What to Do If You Get a Pimple

If you do happen to get a pimple, don't panic! You may not be able to get rid of it immediately, but there are ways to keep it from getting bigger and help it heal faster:

  • Don't scrub, pick, or squeeze the area.
  • Use an over-the-counter acne product twice a day as a spot treatment. Look for products with Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid. Seeing as they can be irritating, start with lower concentrations at first and work your way up if needed.
  • To get rid of redness, dab a little over-the-counter 1% Hydrocortisone on the spot to lower inflammation. A word of caution: Don't use Hydrocortisone for more than a day or two or on other parts of your face. If used for too long, it can cause skin thinning and other problems.

And finally, if your pimples are deep and painful, consider a visit to your Derm. They can give you a small steroid injection that quickly reduces redness and swelling.

No one likes breakouts, but understanding how to prevent acne from the get-go is an important first line of defense. Fortunately, simple skin care and lifestyle habits can help. By regularly cleansing your skin, keeping it moisturized, and minimizing the amount of sugar in your diet, you can say yes to fresh, glowing skin.

Author

  • MARIA ROBINSON, MD, MBA

    Maria Robinson, MD, MBA is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with over ten years of clinical experience. Dr. Robinson has a special interest in nutrition and integrative dermatology and believes that education is the foundation for good health. Through her writing, she strives to empower people with accurate health information so they can make positive decisions that lead to healthy and vibrant skin.