How to Pop a Zit (The Doc

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You’ve been warned and yet you still pick at your pimples? No guilt!

“It’s a habit that’s hard to kick, so your best bet is to learn how to do it without damaging skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Your pop plan:

Do thisWash with your usual cleanser, then apply a washcloth soaked in warm water for a minute to soften the zit. Disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol.

Not thatPop only pimples with visible pus (squeezing red ones will just irritate skin). Just don’t attempt it while wearing makeup (or even moisturizer); it can cause inflammation.

Do thisUse a sterilized comedone extractor, such as Sephora Double-Ended Blemish Extractor ($16; sephora.com), or two Q-tips. Apply pressure to the skin around the pimple.

Not thatTempting as it may be to use your fingers, don’t! They can apply too much pressure and leave a scar.

Do thisAfterward, spot-treat with an antibacterial gel that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to tame inflammation. Try Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel ($8; mass retailers).

Not thatResist the urge to go at it a second time. Broken skin needs time to heal.

How to Extract a Blemish Like a Pro

De-Stress Your Face

8 Steps to Healthy Skin at Every Age

5 Healthy Eating Tips to Banish Acne

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Think you are the only person in the universe dealing with adult acne? Well, you’ve got company. Clinical acne affects 45% of women ages 21 to 30, 26% of women ages 31 to 40, and 12% of women ages 41 to 50, according to a study by Massachusetts General Hospital.

Why do blemishes continue to linger post-puberty? Stress, hormones, cosmetics, and interestingly, diet have been speculated as potential causes. While the link between food and acne is still controversial–studies linking diet to acne are small and not conclusive–dietary changes may help; they seemed to work for me.

After suffering a severe and persistent bout of acne during college, I began researching alternative treatment methods and stumbled upon several small studies and natural healing books that discussed how changing your diet could help acne. Frustrated and willing to try anything, I adjusted my diet. I cut back on dairy, sugar, and wheat, and ate more raw fruits and vegetables. To my surprise, it really did improve the condition of my skin.

If you have blemishes way past your teenage years, try these diet tips to help calm your complexion.

Eat an avocado: A study in Lipids in Health and Disease suggested that food rich in healthy fats (think omega-3s) could help reduce acne lesions in addition to improving mental outlook. Snack on avocados, raw nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, and fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines, to up your intake.

 Limit dairy: One hotly debated hypothesis says that dairy can aggravate acne; there are strong opinions on both sides. In the September 2011 issue of Dermatology World, the magazine of the American Academy of Dermatology, William Danby, MD, division of dermatology at Dartmouth Medical School, said, “In patients who have no genetic background for acne, dairy plays no role whatsoever. It will not give them acne. But for those who have a propensity for acne and are susceptible to the effects of dairy, it can make their acne much worse.”

For me, cutting out dairy seemed to play the biggest role in reducing my blemishes, which incidentally do run in my family. Curse you Mom and Dad! Either way, try your own personal two-week trial and see if it makes a difference for you.

 Amp up zinc: Zinc is vital for the structure and function of cell membranes. A small Turkish study found that participants with acne were more likely to be zinc-deficient than those without acne. Good sources of zinc are meat, eggs, mushrooms, whole grain products, and oysters.

 Pick the right carbs: Refined grains and white flour in breads, pastas, bagels, and muffins can cause a quick spike in blood sugar, which may contribute to acne. On the other side, eating low glycemic index foods could improve your skin. Eat quinoa, brown rice, barley, and sweet potato to satisfy your carb cravings without aggravating your complexion.

Focus on vitamin A: This fat-soluble vitamin is necessary for healthy skin and a study in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology suggests that vitamin A supplementation can improve acne conditions in patients. Fill up on sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and carrots to reap the benefits.

How to Extract a Blemish Like a Pro

De-Stress Your Face

8 Steps to Healthy Skin at Every Age

Hot Ingredient: Can You Fight Acne With Oxygen?

Oxygen facials at the spa? So last year.

These days, you can buy creams, foundations, and other products enhanced with oxygen, which may lead to brighter, clearer skin. (Most contain hydrogen peroxide, which ultimately breaks down into oxygen and water.)

Acne comes from bacteria, and hydrogen peroxide has antimicrobial properties, so it could help give you clearer skin,” says New York City dermatologist Eric Schweiger, MD. “And oxygen itself increases circulation and has wound-healing abilities.”

Find out more about how to treat acne or find out How to Extract a Blemish Like a Pro.

How to Get Rid of Blackheads for Good

Q: Why do I keep getting blackheads and how do I get rid of them?A: Blackheads are a type of acne. Normally, older skin cells work their way to the top surface of the skin and shed on a daily basis. In acne-prone skin, this process breaks down, and skin cells don’t shed normally. (We still don’t understand the exact reason for this.) Blackheads occur when dead skin, oil and bacteria clump in hair follicles (a.k.a. pores), rather than shedding normally. These clumps turn black as a result of oxidation after exposure to the air.

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The best medications for treating blackheads are prescription retinoid creams like Retin-A. Over-the-counter medicine containing salicylic acid, retinol, and benzoyl peroxide, however, may be enough to treat mild blackheads/acne. There are a few tips for using these products: If you choose to use retinol, remember that you should apply it at night since sunlight may inactivate the product. And note that if you use a product containing benzoyl peroxide, it can bleach fabric. You should apply any product that you use to the entire affected area (don’t just dab it on blackheads that you can see), in order to both treat obvious blackheads and those that are just starting but not yet visible.

If you choose to use pore strips, which attach to blackheads and may help remove them from the skin, know that they are not effective at preventing future blackheads from breaking out. Consult your doctor before using pore strips in combination with prescription creams, as they can cause skin irritation.

Be patient–it takes several months to see good results. Don’t delay seeing a dermatologist, however, if you have acne that’s leaving scars, as it could permanently damage your skin.

—Lawrence Osman, MD, is a dermatologist based in Woodland Hills, Calif.

ChickRx is a new site providing personalized health and wellness advice for women. Ask questions (anonymously, if desired), get answers from top experts and peers, and browse health news delivered with a fun, fresh attitude.

4 Skin Problems You Can Get on Your Butt

Skin problems can happen anywhere on your body—and that includes your butt. From acne to stretch marks and everything in between, see how to treat and prevent these common skin problems down below.

Pimples

What they are:Â Small red lesions on your skin. Though you normally see them on your face, “you can get them anywhere you have hair follicles, including your butt,” notes Chicago derm Carolyn Jacob, MD. Oil and dead skin get clogged in the follicle, causing inflammation and a killer zit.

Rx:Â Use a benzoyl peroxide cream to destroy acne-causing bacteria. If that doesn’t do the trick, see your dermatologist for prescription topical antibiotics or Retin-A cream. One way to stop pimples from popping up in the first place: Peel off your workout clothes immediately after exercising (all that moisture creates a breeding ground for bacteria), then jump into the shower.

RELATED: 16 Adult Acne Myths, Busted

Stretch marks

What they are:Â White or red lines caused by your skin stretching from rapid weight changes (say, during pregnancy). The lines form when elastin and collagen fibers just below the surface weaken and tear, leaving streaks of indented skin. Stretch marks tend to run in families, so if your mom has them, you’re more likely to as well.

Rx: Try to stay at a stable weight. Gaining—or gaining and losing—weight quickly will stretch the skin, Dr. Jacob says. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about these telltale lines. If they’re still pink, a prescription topical retinoid like Retin-A can fade them (it stimulates collagen growth, which helps plump out skin). If they’ve turned white, a laser treatment at your MD’s office may help—again by stimulating collagen—but the results usually aren’t that great.

RELATED: Erase 10 Years From Head to Toe

Cellulite

What it is:Â Basically, a fancy name for the dimpled flesh caused by bulging fat cells beneath the skin. It appears bumpy because the fat is pushing against the connective tissues under the skin surface. “You can notice cellulite as early as your 20s, when the skin starts to get lax,” Dr. Jacob says. It may be more noticeable if you’re overweight, though thin women can be plagued too, depending on their genetics (thanks, Mom!). In fact, about 90% of all women have cellulite.

Rx:Â Your best bet is to lose excess weight and exercise regularly. “The less fat, the less cellulite,” Dr. Jacob explains. In the meantime, try applying a cream containing caffeine (such as Clarins Body Lift Cellulite Control, $43, amazon.com), which temporarily tightens skin, making your cottage-cheese marks less apparent.

RELATED: 15 Myths and Facts About Cellulite

Butt rash

What it is:Â If a red, itchy rash develops between your butt cheeks, it might be intertrigo, caused by the chafing together of warm, moist skin, commonly after you work out.

Rx:Â Shower immediately after you exercise, dry yourself thoroughly, and apply a small amount of hydrocortisone cream. If the rash doesn’t disappear in a few days, see your doctor to rule out a fungal infection or other skin condition, like psoriasis (the butt crack area is a classic place to see psoriasis).

RELATED: 21 Tips and Tricks for Treating Psoriasis

Butt Facials Are Now a Thing

Just when you thought you’d heard it all, there’s a new beauty trend on the up and up: butt facials.

“I got this idea last May, when I had a client come in expressing concern about some acne on her butt,” says Molly Lamb, owner of Skin by Molly in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I just put the treatment up on my spa menu, and I was deluged.”

The 30-minute Shiny Hiney facial, which costs $85, includes a wash with a purifying cleanse, followed by a toner that contains salicylic acid; next comes a manual exfoliation, a steam and a purifying clay mask. (For an extra $20, you can add a mild glycolic peel to further do away with dead skin cells and penetrate deep into those clogged pores.)

RELATED: 15 Myths and Facts About Cellulite

But if you don’t have a spa that’s offering a butt facial near you, don’t despair: You can perform your own bum beauty treatment at home by using a salicylic acid body wash followed by a tea tree oil scrub and a clay mask. (One we like: Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque, $23, nordstrom.com.)

“Anything that you would use on your face or back is perfectly safe to put on your behind,” Lamb says.

RELATED: 4 Skin Problems You Can Get on Your Butt

How to Treat Hormonal Acne Without Birth Control

Ever feel like you’re 30 going on 13, thanks to your skin? Dealing with pimples as an adult is so not fair. Acne is a teenage problem after all, right?

Not necessarily: According to research in the Journal of Women’s Health, 26% of women in their 30s battle breakouts. “It’s very common for a woman to come to my office for an anti-aging procedure, then tear up, admitting that she’s still struggling with acne,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

While bacteria (P. acnes) and inflammation are the two main culprits, acne is also influenced by hormones, Dr. Bowe explains. “When a woman’s androgen receptors are particularly sensitive, these hormones can trigger excess oil production and cause skin cells to become sticky, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.”

How can you tell if your acne is hormonal? Clues include breakouts primarily on your lower face (specifically cysts along the jawline and even down the neck) and acne flares before or during your period.

For years, the Rx for hormonal acne has been the birth control pill. Those that contain both estrogen and progesterone lower the amount of androgens your body produces, keeping blemishes at bay. But what if you’re perfectly happy with your current type of birth control, or you just don’t want to pop the pill?

Follow this multi-modal treatment plan, courtesy of Dr. Bowe, for clearer skin within three months.

Cleanse mildly

Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day to keep pores clear of dirt, oil, and makeup. One to try: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($8; walgreens.com).

Treat gently

Immediately after cleansing, apply a topical acne treatment. Dr. Bowe suggests Aczone, a prescription anti-inflammatory and antibacterial gel. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, which can be drying, Aczone contains dapsone, a gentle yet effective ingredient that is ideal for adult female skin.

RELATED: 16 Adult Acne Myths, Busted

Moisturize smartly

Use a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat ($32; target.com) and apply it only to areas that tend to feel dry.

Get good bacteria

Take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt with live, active cultures once a day. Probiotics work by helping your gut ease the inflammation that can trigger a host of skin problems, including acne, says Dr. Bowe.

RELATED: 13 Ways Inflammation Can Affect Your Health

Ask about peels

Talk to your dermatologist about a series of chemical peels. Typically a gentle dose of glycolic or alpha hydroxy acids, these treatments slough off the sticky, dead skin cells that can clog pores.

Tweak your diet

Eliminate dairy milk—especially skim, which may have more pimple-producing hormones. A good-for-your-skin swap? Almond milk. Also limit your intake of high glycemic index foods like white bread, rice, and pasta.

RELATED: 15 Home Remedies to Make a Pimple Vanish

Move more

Exercise boosts circulation, which can help dial down skin inflammation, Dr. Bowe says.

Stress less

Practice methods of stress reduction, such a yoga, massage, and meditation.

How Lily Allen's Pimple Selfie Is Helping Women Feel Better About Adult Acne

Singer Lily Allen helped acne-sufferers feel a little more normal this week when she posted a selfie on Instagram revealing bumps along her chin. She wrote, “How is it fair that I get acne at 30? #1stworldproblems .” And the comments section was full of people thanking her for being real and helping them feel better about their own skin.

 

RELATED: 16 Adult Acne Myths, Busted

While many people think acne is supposed to stop when you graduate high school—or that if you never got it in your teens you’re in the clear forever—hormonal acne can occur well into your 30s. Here’s how to treat hormonal acne and what else you should know about adult acne myths.

RELATED: 15 Home Remedies to Make a Pimple Vanish

Find the Perfect Sunscreen for Your Skin

Fact: everyone needs a daily sunscreen. But the thing is, sunscreen is not one-size-fits-all. Plus, who wants to buy two products when you can buy one? Thanks to all the new multitasking sunscreen formulas, you can do just that. Here are some of our favorite SPF solutions, matched with common skin dilemmas.

If you’ve got sensitive skin

SPF Solution: Yes To Cucumbers Daily Calming Moisturizer with SPF 30 ($15, yestocarrots.com)

If your skin gets easily irritated, this is the sunblock for you. It’s packed with soothing ingredients like organic cucumber, sweet almond oil and aloe to keep skin calm, cool, and hydrated without skimping on sun protection.

RELATED: 15 Biggest Sunscreen Mistakes

If you’ve got dry skin

SPF Solution: Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 ($32, sephora.com)

Sunscreen oils melt into skin quickly and leave behind an invisible shield of protection instead of a layer of grease. The pure argan oil in this moisturizer sinks into skin’s deepest layers to hydrate and moisturize thanks to its antioxidants and vitamin E.

Photo: sephora.com

RELATED: 7 Simple Steps for Head-to-Toe Sun Protection

If you’ve got oily skin

SPF Solution: Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($65, sephora.com)

Sunscreen gets a bad rap for causing skin to look slick, but it doesn’t have to. This gel-like serum glides on to eliminate shine along with imperfections like fine lines and wrinkles for perfectly protected skin.

Photo: sephora.com

RELATED: How to Avoid the Biggest Self-Tanner Mistakes

If you’re dealing with acne

SPF Solution: Clinique Acne Solutions BB Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 40 ($37, sephora.com)

Covering up acne while also trying to treat and protect your skin can be tricky but this sunscreen does it all. The ultra-lightweight cream glides on smooth to minimize the look of pores (without clogging them) and control shine for a clean finish that lasts up to 12 hours.

Photo: Clinique

RELATED: Sun-Proof Your Skin From A to Z

If you want to wear a full face of makeup

SPF Solution: Coola Makeup Setting Spray ($36, sephora.com)

Crap—you forgot to lather on sunscreen before putting on a full face of makeup. Gone are the days when this scenario means washing your face and starting over (or skipping SPF), thanks to this product. Just spritz this SPF spray onto skin after applying makeup to get a veil of SPF 30 protection, too. Bonus: it sets your look for all-day wear.

Photo: sephora.com

RELATED: 18 Skin Care Products That Erase Years

If you want to skip makeup

SPF Solution: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Day Tint SPF 15 ($48, sephora.com)

Now you can have your SPF and perfect coverage, too! This creamy formula is loaded with ceramides to hydrate and lock in moisture while the barely there hint of tint provides the perfect amount of coverage to even out skin tone for those days when you don’t want to wear a full face of makeup.

Photo: drjart.com

RELATED: How to Pick the Perfect Foundation for You

Could This Important Vitamin Play a Role in Acne Outbreaks?

By Randy DotingaHealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) — New research suggests that high levels of vitamin B12 may affect germ activity in certain people, boosting the odds that they’ll develop acne.

However, it’s too early to say if anyone should cut down on their vitamin B12 intake from food or vitamins to avoid getting pimples, researchers said.

“I don’t think we have studied enough to suggest that,” said study leader Huiying Li, assistant professor of molecular & medical pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Still, the research provides insight into not only vitamin B12 but also genetic activity that could prompt pimples.

“There are certain genes that could potentially influence whether people have acne breakouts or not,” she said. “These genes could be targets of future drug treatment.”

The study appears in the June 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause serious health problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Too little vitamin B12 has been implicated in anemia; digestive problems; and neurological problems, such as numbness and tingling in the extremities, vision problems and memory loss.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as dairy and shellfish. Vegetarians and vegans are advised to take supplements or eat enriched foods to get this nutrient. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “many people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods,” and weight-loss surgery can cause the same problem.

The current study looked at what factors make people more vulnerable to acne. Li and her colleagues found signs that vitamin B12 may boost acne by disrupting a type of skin bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes that’s related to acne.

After linking the vitamin to acne, the researchers then analyzed 10 people with clear skin who were told to begin taking vitamin B12 supplements. Their extra consumption of vitamins affected how genes in skin bacteria processed the vitamin, Li said, although only one person subsequently broke out with acne.

Li said this provides more evidence that vitamin B12 can affect the activity of skin bacteria. According to her, the affected germs — P. acnes — can contribute to inflammation, a crucial component of acne.

Researchers have linked vitamin B12 to acne in prior studies, Li said. But several questions remain unanswered.

While genes acted differently in the only person in the study who developed acne, it’s not clear how many people may share a similar vulnerability. However, the activity of these genes could be important for treatment in the future, she said.

Li also said it’s not clear what the study findings could mean for people with acne or those who want to avoid it.

To make things more complicated, “exactly how the bacteria on our skin contribute to acne remains to be completely understood,” said Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

“For example, the bacteria P. acnes has long been thought to play a role in acne, but there are numerous people who have P. acnes on their skin and never develop acne,” said Bowe, who was not involved with the new study.

And simply killing the bacteria doesn’t work to cure acne, she said.

So now what? “It’s too soon to tell my patients to stop eating foods or taking vitamins that contain vitamin B12 based on this study,” Bowe said. “This study does suggest that high levels of B12 in the bloodstream might make acne worse in certain individuals. Further studies are needed to confirm this result and help us to understand the clinical relevance of these findings.”

And, again, it’s important to note that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can have serious consequences throughout the body and brain, according to the CDC.

More information

For more about acne, visit the American Academy of Dermatology.