1.) Repeatedly cleanse with salicyclic acid.
Salicyclic acid works as an anti-bacterial agent, which is fantastic because the primary cause of acne is proliferation of the bacterial species P. acnes. Salicyclic acid also softens a protein that forms part of the skin structure – keratin. This helps to loosen dry scaly skin, increasing cell turnover and effectively renewing the skin. Salicyclic acid cleansers are so effective that they have been proven to single-handedly fight acne better than benzoyl peroxide cleansers.
Salicyclic acid becomes anti-inflammatory – not just antibacterial – when it is introduced at a neutral rather than acidic pH (Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Allergy Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 2007). However, this can be exceedingly hard to find. One product that contains neutral salicyclic acid is Unagel, with a neutral-pH.
Repeating this often is important. Acne-prone skin indicates bacteria is actively proliferating. While everyone needs to cleanse at least twice a day, when I have blemishes, I am sure to cleanse the affected areas during my lunch hour as well.
2.) Repeatedly spot treat with benzoyl peroxide.
Some experts recommend using benzoyl peroxide all over the face, but I disagree. Benzoyl peroxide works in mysterious ways, as it is not entirely clear exactly how it kills bacteria. One hypothesis with a lot of scientific backing is the idea that benzoyl peroxide causes an oxidative reaction within the sebaceous follicle that kills the bacteria. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found increased free radical formation as a result of using products containing benzoyl peroxide. Considering that free radicals are the enemies of antioxidants (and youth), I would certainly limit benzoyl peroxide use to on-the-spot treatments.
Again, repetition is important – but ONLY on the affected areas. When I have a blemish, I apply benzoyl peroxide up to 6 times a day. (An easy way to do this is to reapply a 10% benzoyl peroxide cream each time you use the restroom). It takes care of blemishes quickly – just be aware it can make surrounding skin a bit dry or irritated.
3.) Use a sulfur mask as another on-the-spot treatment on top of the benzoyl peroxide.
According to The Encyclopedia of Skin and Skin Disorders, sulfur is thought to slow bacterial growth as it dissolves the top layer of the skin and slows oil gland activity within the skin. Sulfur is included in anti-acne over-the-counter products in concentrations up to 10 percent. It can be irritating, but use of both benzoyl peroxide and sulfur together has been found to be more effective than either treatment alone (Journal of the Canadian Medical Society). That’s why I recommend it solely as an on-the-spot treatment.
4.) Use Zeno.
Zeno uses heat to kill bacteria within the hair follicle. It supplies heat of 121-degree F to the area of a blemish for an average of 2.5 minutes to get rid of the blemish faster. The heat supplied to the bacterial species most commonly responsible for acne, P. acnes, has been reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of the Sciences to be sufficient to increase the level of heat-shock proteins within the cell. According to in-house company studies, acne subsides 2.3 days faster in patients who use Zeno than those who do not.
Unfortunately, the above tips work best for those with mild to moderate acne – not those with full-blown cases all over the face. With that said, these treatments when done diligently will reduce the size and duration of your blemishes!