Dr. Pimple Popper Reveals the 9 Acne-Fighting Rules Everyone Should Memorize

Dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper), might be famous for getting rid of zits, but her advice can keep them from creeping up at all.

If you must pop, do it right

poppingpimplewavebreakmedia/Shutterstock Leave the pimple popping to the pros. Doing it yourself could make the swelling worse or lead to scarring, says board-certified dermatologist Sandra “Dr. Pimple Popper” Lee, MD. If you can’t resist, follow Dr. Lee’s mantra: “Know when to pop and know when to stop.” Messing with the red zits deep under the skin will only leave them even more inflamed. Wait until your pimple has come to a head, with a white center, or apply a warm compress to speed the process along, says Dr. Lee. When you’re ready to attack that sucker, start by washing your face and hands, and sterilize the pin with rubbing alcohol. Squeeze the pimple from all directions. The white and a bit of red will start to come out, but try not to overdo it, warns Dr. Lee. “The more you push, the more swelling you have,” she says. “But if you can, get all the pustules out.”

Keep your hands off

acneCRM/ShutterstockEven if you aren’t trying to pop a pimple, absentmindedly picking at it can be just as bad. If you tend to touch your face or scratch at your blemishes, try putting a small circle bandage over the spot to block your itchy fingers, suggests Dr. Lee. You could also add a dollop of a thick or tacky spot treatment, she says. Not only will it fight the pimple, but it will also remind you to keep your hands off. Don't miss these other body parts you should stop picking at.

Use a lower SPF

sunscreenfizkes/ShutterstockSome greasy sunscreens can clog pores, but you don’t want to leave your skin vulnerable to sun damage. Still, this is one time when you might actually want to dial the protection down a notch. The higher the SPF, the heavier and more likely to clog pores, says Dr. Lee. Even though the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher, Dr. Lee suggests SPF 15, the minimum recommended from the FDA, for daily use. “SPF 15 is actually a very good amount of sunscreen protection,” she says. “When you get higher than 15 or 30—which are pretty similar—50 or 100 is silly because it doesn’t protect you much more.” Try the daily moisturizer from Dr. Lee’s product line, SLMD. If you’re spending the day in the sun, though, go higher with SPF 30 to stay safe, she says.

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Know your acne type

acnefrank60/ShutterstockAll acne is not created equal, and what worked for your best friend might not work for you. Still, you might be able to figure out the right regimen without a dermatologist. “If you understand what kind of acne you have—more blackheads or whiteheads or pustules or cysts—and why you get it, a person can take control in their own hands,” says Dr. Lee. For instance, people with blackheads and whiteheads will probably have success with acne meds that have retinol or salicylic acid, she says. OTC topical products probably won’t go deep enough to address cystic acne, though, so you might need a derm to prescribe oral antibiotics or creams. Learn more about what your acne breakout means.

Don’t give up on moisturizer

moisturizerRido/ShutterstockYou might think moisturizer is the last thing your oily skin needs, but even acne-prone people should keep it in their skincare regimen. After all, starting a new acne treatment could put you at the opposite extreme: dry, red, and flaky. “You will probably need more moisturizer because they’re designed to decrease oil on skin,” says Dr. Lee. “Moisturizer keeps skin moisturized and supple and looking good.” Don't miss these other acne myths to stop believing.

Stick with lotion moisturizers

moisturizergoodluz/ShutterstockYes, you want to moisturize, but not any hydrating product will do. Moisturizing creams are oil-based, which is not ideal to someone with acne-prone skin, says Dr. Lee. Use a lotion instead. “Lotion is water-based, so it’s going to be lighter and not as occlusive,” she says. She recommends dermatologist-approved products like Cetaphil, CeraVe, Aveeno, or Eucerin. Learn more skin-care ingredients that cause breakouts.

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Push your bangs back

bangsAnna Kraynova/ShutterstockOils from your hair can travel to your skin, clogging your pores and causing acne. “People have bangs that sweep their face, and you lift that up and see black heads or white heads,” says Dr. Lee. She recommends using a headband or clip to keep your hair off your face when you’re at home to give your skin a breather. Check out these other surefire ways to get rid of acne.

Go light on the hair products

hairproductDmytro Zinkevych/ShutterstockIf you’re a hair product nut, you might end up with “pomade acne,” says Dr. Lee. Those heavy products get on your skin, clogging your pores. “Stay away from more heavy, greasy products like oils or gels,” she says. Instead, try something lighter, like mousse, she suggests.

Bring towelettes to the gym

towelettesYevhen Prozhyrko/ShutterstockA sweaty gym session is great for your body—but not so great for your acne. “When you sweat like that, you’re going to get clogging of pores,” says Dr. Lee. Even if you don’t have time for a full shower after your workout, you should still wash your face. Stash face towelettes in your gym bag so you wipe your face and go, she says. Check out what else dermatologists keep in their gym bags.

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