A dermatologist shares how to take control of your breakouts


(BPT) - The return of fall often means busier schedules with school, extracurriculars, work and family gatherings filling the calendar and as a result, can often mean more stress. For many, as stress levels rise, so do acne flareups. Fortunately, some expert dermatologist advice can help you cross acne breakouts off your list of worries this season.

"Stress and acne can often be connected," said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Claire Chang. "And while we can't eliminate the stress in our lives completely, there are some steps you can take to help calm current breakouts and prevent future flareups before they begin."

Cleanse regularly, but gently

To start, Chang suggests finding a cleanser that is right for your skin type and needs. Cleansing regularly is key to eliminating dirt, oil and debris that settle on the skin and can cause clogged pores. However, over-cleansing with harsh soaps or scrubs can irritate skin and worsen inflammation, so it’s important to look for soap-free gentle cleansers.

"In general, sensitive, dry skin types should look for a gentle, hydrating cleanser. For those with clogged pores and acne-prone skin, a salicylic acid cleanser is typically best, as salicylic acid is oil-soluble and can penetrate deep into the pores to remove dirt, oil and other impurities to help prevent acne," said Chang.

One option Chang recommends is CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser, a gel-to-foam cleanser that works to clear acne, reduce blackheads and improve the appearance of pores. The cleanser contains 2% salicylic acid and oil-absorbing technology to remove dirt, gently exfoliate clogged pores, and absorb excess oil. For added benefit, the formula contains three essential ceramides to maintain the protective skin barrier, while the inclusion of niacinamide helps to soothe the skin.

Treat with the right ingredients

Cleansing is just the first step in an acne-fighting routine, as breakouts often create a need for specific treatments to clear, brighten or repair impacted skin as well. Choosing treatments with the right ingredients depend on the type of acne you are experiencing, but since most patients experience a combination of acne types, there is not one exact formula for treating.

When researching serums and treatments, Chang says there are two main over-the-counter ingredients to look for:

1. Benzoyl peroxide is typically best for acne like papules and pustules, which are caused by bacteria and ruptured comedones, resulting in inflammation. The powerful ingredient helps to clear skin by minimizing the bacteria on the skin’s surface that lead to acne breakouts.

2. Salicylic acid is particularly effective for blackheads and white heads, formally known as comedones. The exfoliating ingredient helps to penetrate deeply into pores to clear away oils and impurities that are often the root cause of acne, appearing as whiteheads and blackheads.

In addition to acne-fighting ingredients, it’s also important to ensure that the formulas contain ingredients to benefit the skin barrier, like ceramides, which is often compromised because of acne.

Ceramides are lipids naturally found in skin and make up to 50 percent of its composition to form the natural skin barrier. Ceramides are an important ingredient for all skin types, but especially acne-prone, which is shown to have reduced levels of ceramides.

"Many acne medications can often be drying or irritating, and over-cleansing and over-exfoliating can strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to a compromised skin barrier, so look for products with essential ceramides to help maintain and restore the skin barrier," Chang said.

Chang suggests CeraVe Acne Control Gel, a hydrating all-over gel acne treatment that prevents new breakouts from forming while treating existing acne. This non-drying, full-face gel is formulated with a mixture of glycolic and lactic acids to smooth skin, salicylic acid to help clear acne and prevent breakouts and three essential ceramides to keep skin hydrated and restore the protective skin barrier.

In tandem with ceramides, SPF and niacinamide are also beneficial for an acne regimen. Dr. Chang suggests using an oil-free daily moisturizer with both to help protect, calm and hydrate impacted skin.

Consistency is key

When it comes to acne, many people take a reactive approach and only think about breakouts when they flare up. However, while treating the blemishes you see is important, having a preventative routine can help keep breakouts to a minimum, making a daily consistent skincare routine crucial.

"Consistency is key when it comes to treating acne, as most acne medications and routines may take six to eight weeks to see improvement," said Chang. "Working with a board-certified dermatologist and seeking out dermatologist-developed products can help customize your acne care routine and get breakouts under control."

Learn more skin care tips at CeraVe.com.