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Navigating the Acne Aisle

by Jessica Springer | Sep 10, 2019

Having acne can be very upsetting. You may feel less attractive. And, it may seem as though your skin will never clear up. You stand the best chance of controlling your acne if you follow your treatment plan. Be patient. Acne often takes months to improve, not days or weeks.

“One of the main complaints we hear from patients is that they’ve tried multiple different products and nothing seems to be working,” said Dennis Kordish, PA, physician assistant at Stonegate Dermatology. “However, when you take a closer look, all the products they are trying have the same active ingredient.”

When trying to clear up acne, some of the most common issues dermatologists see are patients who are constantly switching products or stopping and starting products. It’s always recommended you try any one product for at least three months to see if it’s going to work for you before switching to something different. However, with hundreds of over-the-counter acne products on the market, it’s hard to know where to begin.

“If you were to try every product offered in the acne aisle for the recommended amount of time it would take you about 35 years to get through them all,” said Dennis. “One of the main reasons people visit a dermatologist is because they don’t want to deal with trial and error which is completely understandable.”

Most store-bought acne products range anywhere from 2% to 10% concentration of active ingredients. You’ll often see products containing benzoyl peroxide in the 10% range. Most products with an active ingredient of salicylic acid, which make up a majority of products in the acne aisle, are in the 2% concentration range.

Keep in mind the products are designed by scientists, but the acne aisle is designed by marketers. There is no real organization to how the products appear on the shelf. You’ll see a lot of nice colors and creative product packaging which may contain misleading words such as “gentle” when in reality they contain nearly the same concentration of active ingredients as the product sitting next to it.

When is it time to see a dermatologist?

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Stop all over-the-counter products you are using that contain an active ingredient immediately and talk to a dermatologist about other treatment options.
  • Scarring – This often results from picking or popping lesions on the face and can be permanent. A dermatologist can help recommend treatments to lesson the appearance of current scars and prevent future scarring.
  • No results – If you’ve tried a certain product for three months with no results, or it’s getting worse after an extended period, schedule an appointment. Keep in mind you should expect your acne to get worse during the first month of using a new product as your skin adjusts to the change.

What else should I try?

  • Exercise – If you tend to experience a flareup every time you have a test at school or before a big meeting at work, exercise can help alleviate some of this stress which often serves as a trigger for acne.
  • Eat healthy foods – This should be a goal for living an overall healthy lifestyle, but in the case of acne focus specifically on less refined sugar in your diet.
  • Use oil-free products – Everything that goes on your face including makeup and moisturizers needs to be oil free. Look for common phrases on products such as “doesn’t cause acne” or “non-comedogenic.”

Stonegate Dermatology offers a customized experience to meet each person’s individual needs. Whether you are looking for cosmetic or medical dermatology, advice or treatment–we can help develop a specialized treatment or procedure plan for you. Call 269.408.4265 or click here to request a consultation.

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