The great thing about college is that one can leave everything behind—that is, everything except stress. With denser exams, longer papers and more distractions, stress is inevitable in college. Unfortunately, that means our skin is compromised. Clear skin is something that can be easily obtained, though, so fear not. You can ensure that your skin is clear, even if your mind is not.
Before we can attack acne, we must first understand why it’s there. When stressed, our adrenal glands become more active, which results in more oil production and thus more breakouts. Unfortunately, this begins a horrible cycle of stress: breaking out, getting stressed because of breaking out and breaking out even more.
Blemishes can be caused from more than just stress, though. According to acne.org, hormones, diet, genetics and vitamin intake all contribute to our skin’s health. These factors contribute to our overall health, too, which indicates that good general health corresponds with clear skin.
That said, even the healthiest teens, young adults and even adults are subject to waking up with blemishes. The ideal solution would be to stop stressing, but that is unrealistic, especially with piles of homework sitting in front of you. So here are some tips on how to keep your skin looking fresh, smooth and clear.
Tip #1: Gently exfoliate the blemished area and apply a salicylic acid treatment. The exfoliation will open your pores, which will make the treatment more effective. Although salicylic acid helps to kill acne-forming bacteria, following this tip alone likely will not result in completely clear skin. Rather, it will help prevent future breakouts and improves current ones. The exfoliation and treatment application are easy to do in the shower, so you won’t need to take extra time out of your busy schedule to maintain this routine.
For exfoliants, Neutrogena offers a great solution. Try the Oil-Free Acne Wash Daily Scrub, Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub (a personal favorite), Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Power-Clear Scrub or Blackhead Eliminating Daily Scrub.
Because you’re going to be a little rough on your skin when you exfoliate, make sure that you use a gentle cleansing product afterward, such as Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash or Clean & Clear’s ADVANTAGE® 3-in-1 Foaming Acne Wash, both of which contain salicylic acid. Note: Almost all of these products have the words “oil-free” in them. Oil-free ones are the most acne-friendly, so choose wisely.
Tip #2: Have access to a sauna? Use it! All that excessive sweating is good for your skin. The steam in saunas opens up your pores in a gentle manner. The toxins are then released with your sweat, which not only brightens up your skin, but also serves as great pimple prevention.
You’re probably thinking, “Where am I supposed to find a sauna? I’m in college.” Check out your campus recreation building because it might just have one available to students.
Tip #3: If you’re good in the kitchen, try whipping up some homemade remedies. There are plenty of recipes for clear skin, many of which require just one ingredient. Better yet, these ingredients are already in your home. Check out mysensitiveskincare.com, mybeautyrecipes.com or acnetreatment.org to see some of the do-it-yourself treatments out there.
Tip #4: Talk to a dermatologist about prescription medication for your acne. In my opinion, this is the most effective method of curing acne, as your doctor can prescribe topical solutions, pills and other in-office treatments for your skin type.
Depending on how severe your case of acne is, your dermatologist will probably start with a mild in-office treatment, such as a medicated spray, and prescribe a topical medication. Have you ever heard of Differin, Cleosin, Clinsol, BenzaClin or Retin-A? These are all prescription topical medications. In some cases, you might be prescribed more than one — there was a time during which I used both Differin and Cleosin. The point is, everyone’s skin is different, so your doctor will be able to help you decide which medication is best for you.
On that note, your dermatologist might prescribe you with a pill to regulate your acne, either in lieu of or in addition to a topical medication. Some of the pills that could be prescribed include Accutane, Doxycycline, Minocycline or Claravis. Ladies, be aware that if your dermatologist prescribes you with a pill for your skin, he or she might also prescribe a birth control pill. This dual prescription arises if your acne pill can cause harm to a pregnancy, even if you are not sexually active.
One more piece of advice about prescriptions, ask your doctor if a generic brand produces the same medication. You’ll get the same effects as you would if you used the named brand, but you’ll spend less money.
The last type of treatment that your dermatologist might prescribe to you would be one that takes place in his or her office. Such treatments include, but are not limited to, chemical peels, cortisone shots and microdermabrasion. Do not use chemical peels and microdermabrasion together. Chemical peels work by destroying acne-causing bacteria and opening pores, while microdermabrasion is a deep exfoliant. Using these treatments together can irritate and potentially scar the skin. You can receive one of these treatments every two or three months -- do it on breaks so it won't interrupt your busy college schedule -- which will ensure that your skin will remain healthy.
Cortisone shots are not as regular as the previous two skin treatments, and do not cover as large of an area. Because they are small injections into large, cyst-like pimples, you should limit yourself to this treatment for special occasions only. I am an acne-treatment veteran, yet have only received this treatment on two separate occasions, once for prom, and once for my sister’s bat mitzvah. However, they are extremely effective, so talk to your doctor if you have a big event coming up! (Formal, anyone?)
See, taking care of your skin isn’t so hard after all. Following some, or all of these tips will leave your skin clear in no time.