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How to Treat Acne

How to Treat Acne
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The Web puts answers to every conundrum at your fingertips, but do you really want to seek fashion and beauty counsel from whoever turns up at the top of the page? In a pioneering collaboration with Google, we quizzed the non-virtual pros for answers on the Internet’s most-searched style stumpers.

The question is one that has plagued us ever since our first breakout at age 14---how do you treat acne? Acne is caused by excess sebum, oil, makeup, or bacteria clogging your pores, so to get your answer, you first need to determine the cause to set out your plan of attack. If wearing heavy makeup isn't your problem, the flare-ups could occur from bacteria on your hands making contact with your face. Try not to touch your skin throughout the day, and keep blotting papers nearby if you tend to get shiny. Also, take a look at your diet. Dairy products cause your skin to produce more sebum and can lead to breakouts, so swap that pint of Ben & Jerry's for sorbet, and you should see an improvement. There are many face washes on the market specific to acne-prone skin, but because some formulas tend to be more drying than others, a gentle cleanser like Philosophy's Purity Made Simple ($23; philosophy.com) is your best bet---the mild formula won't further irritate any existing pimples, and will leave your complexion both oil and makeup free.

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Keep your breakouts at bay by incorporating a product rich in either salicylic or glycolic acid into your routine. Both ingredients work wonders at treating acne, it just depends on your preference---glycolic acid helps in fading scars, whereas salicylic acid helps in controlling oil production. Kate Somerville's Hydraclear Acne Gel ($65; katesomerville.com) incorporates a little of both, and the infusion of red algae will ensure your skin won't dry out. And speaking of dry skin... Because acne flare-ups are typically caused by oily skin, one immediate reaction would be to cut off all moisture to the affected area, but that can actually make matters worse, especially if you're layering more acne medication on top. Look for an oil-absorbing or mattifying face lotion like Lancome's Bienfait Pure Focus ($46; nordstrom.com), which will keep your complexion hydrated without being too heavy or greasy.

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As for those obnoxious, deep, under-the-skin breakouts? Resist the urge to pick at them and opt for a spot treatment instead. A product with that contains lactic acid like Renee Rouleau's Anti-Cyst Treatment ($42; reneerouleau.com) will help kill the blemish before it even comes to the surface, and will reduce inflammation for an especially-painful activity. A drying lotion like Mario Badescu's ($17; mariobadescu.com) will also work, just be sure to apply it directly to the spot, and nowhere else as the formula is meant to completely dry the affected area of anything clogging your pores. After a day or two, that monster of a pimple will either be completely gone, or dramatically-reduced. Any acne scars can easily be cleared with a product containing hydroquinone like Murad's Post-Acne Spot Lightening Gel ($60; sephora.com).

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Perhaps because "bacne" isn't the most glamorous of beauty topics, body acne tends to be one of those things that many people have, but no one really talks about. The spot treatments and salicylic-based products you use on your face should also clear any bumps that show up on your back, arms, or chest, but the use of certain hair products or lotions can make the activity worse. Seek out oil-free body lotions, and take a look at your hair styling arsenal to determine what may be causing the problem, and if you need to use it. If so, pick up an all-natural or fragrance-free version, which can be less irritating on your skin. Ketosis Pilaris, or KP, is a condition that causes tiny red bumps on your skin, and can commonly be mistaken for body acne. Luckily, the Clinical KP Treatment Wipes by Paula's Choice ($32; paulaschoice.com) tackle both issues with a potent blend of both lactic and salicylic acids, and help fade any redness or uneven tones left behind after everything has cleared.

For expert answers to more commonly googled questions, head to instyle.com/mostgoogled.

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