Category Archives: acne treatment

The Best (and Worst) Home Remedies for Acne

Updated March 31, 2015.

Seems like everyone has a few acne home remedies that have been passed down from family members or read about on a website somewhere. Effective or not, acne home remedies remain popular.

Honestly, if you have more than just an occasional pimple, most acne home remedies aren’t going to have an appreciable effect on your skin. You’ll save yourself a lot of disappointment, frustration and (in some cases) money, by seeing a doctor about your acne first.

That said, many people like using acne home remedies. Are any acne home remedies actually helpful? Here are the best (and worst) acne home remedies.

Does Windex Get Rid of Zits?

Updated March 30, 2015.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See’s Medical Review Board.

Question:  Can you put Windex on a pimple?  Will it help clear acne?

Answer:  I’m not sure where this idea came from.  It might have started off as a joke.  Or maybe it was from that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding Remember the dad who thought Windex was a cure for just about anything?

Wherever this idea came from, you should never use Windex on a pimple!

Windex is a potent household cleanser, and

household cleansers aren’t meant for the skin.  It contains chemicals that shouldn’t be applied to your skin, especially the delicate skin on your face. 

The Material Safety Data Sheet for Windex recommends that you avoid getting the cleaner on your skin. 

Besides, despite what you may have heard, Windex does absolutely nothing for acne.  Nothing.  It won’t clear up acne, and it won’t make your pimple heal faster.

What Windex can do is irritate the skin.  Instead of making that pimple look better, it’s likely to make your skin look (and feel) much worse.

But you want that pimple gone, and fast!  You’re willing to do whatever it takes to heal it quickly.  I totally get it.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help heal a pimple fast, without resorting to Windex.

Instead of putting Windex on a pimple, try this instead:

Grab a spot treatment.  Unlike Windex, these products are especially designed to treat breakouts.  The most effective spot treatments contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid

Spot treatments that contain sulfur or tea tree oil are also popular.  

Dab a bit of spot treatment on the blemish in question one to three times a day (according to the directions on your product).

Use a warm compress.  If your pimple has a white head, you may be able to get it to drain.  Try using a warm compress over the pimple.  Often the heat alone is enough to help the pimple drain without damaging the skin.

You can do this a couple of times a day if needed.  Just make sure your compress is comfortably warm, not scalding hot.

This works less well if your pimple doesn’t yet have a white head, though.  And if the pimple is especially inflamed or deep, a warm compress might make it look bigger and more red.

These are definitely safer options than putting Windex on your pimple.  You should generally avoid putting anything on your skin that isn’t really meant for your skin.  This includes some often suggested pimple “treatments” like toothpaste and garlic.

Also, remember that while these tips are good to help you heal individual pimples that pop up, they won’t help clear acne long term.  To do that, you have to get on a treatment regimen and use it reliably.  You have plenty of options, from over-the-counter products, to prescription topical treatments and oral medications.  These treatments will help stop breakouts before they start.

Now that you know that Windex isn’t a great pimple treatment, you need some options that are.  These articles will help you get rid of that stubborn zit quickly and safely: 

How To Heal Pimples Fast

Help! I Have a Big Zit that Won’t Go Away!

Types of Inflamed Pimples and How To Treat Them

Video: Top Quick Treatments for Pimples

Source: SC Johnson and Son, Inc.. (2012, June 2). Windex® Complete Glass & Multi Surface Cleaner. [Material Safety Data Sheet]. Retrieved from

Can Milk of Magnesia Clear Your Acne?

Milk-of-Magnesia-and-Acne-Chris-Pelliccione-Getty-Images.jpg - Photo: Chris Pelliccione / Getty Images

Can milk of magnesia clear acne?.  Photo: Chris Pelliccione / Getty Images

Updated March 30, 2015.

Beauty bloggers and internet makeup gurus are going to flog me for this one – but milk of magnesia isn’t good for acne.  It doesn’t treat acne; it doesn’t clear acne.  In fact, I’m hard-pressed to say it does much of anything for the skin.

I know, I know… many people are touting the benefits of milk of magnesia.  But before you go hanging your acne-clearing hopes on milk of magnesia, let’s take a

look at the research.

What the heck is milk of magnesia anyway?

Milk of magnesia is an over-the-counter medication for constipation.  Yes, it’s a laxative.  It’s used to  treat gas and indigestion,too. 

The active ingredient in milk of magnesia is magnesium hydroxide.  It also contains water and sodium hypochlorite.

What does the research say?

The idea that milk of magnesia clears acne probably comes from a letter that was published in the Archives of Dermatoloy back in the 1970’s.  The author of the letter said he had been getting good results with his acne patients by prescribing topical milk of magnesia along with 250 mg of oral tetracycline.  

So, even though I find it intriguing, the letter just stated one dermatologist’s experience; it isn’t a formal study of any kind.  It’s also very possible that the antibiotics alone were causing the improvement of acne, not the milk of magnesia.

There have been no formal studies done on milk of magnesia and its effects on acne acne.  So, any source

that claims milk of magnesia has been proven to clear acne just isn’t accurate.

Can milk of magnesia reduce oily skin?

Another (rather old) study, published back in the 80’s shows that magnesium hydroxide is a darn good degreaser.  It could break down the oil on the skin’s surface, leaving your skin looking more matte.

Milk of magnesia doesn’t reduce sebum production, though.  Meaning, it won’t make your oil glands produce less oil.  It just removes oil on skin’s surface. 

But since acne isn’t caused by oil on the surface of the skin, that alone won’t be enough to clear up acne.  Acne is actually caused by a host of different factors.  (To find out exactly why your skin is breaking out, check out this article: What Really Is Causing Your Acne.)

Try these milk of magnesia alternatives.

Are you going to harm your skin if you use a milk of magnesia mask?  Probably not (although for some people it can cause contact dermatitis.)  It just isn’t a great acne treatment.  If it was, I’d personally hand out bottles of the stuff.

There are plenty of other options out there, though, that can deliver much better results.  

Looking for an acne treatment that actually works?  Instead of milk of magnesia, you’d be much better off trying an acne treatment that has some science behind it.  Not sure what treatment is right for you?  Here’s a good place to start: An Overview of the Most Effective Acne Treatments.

Looking for an oil-absorbing mask?  Our Skin Care Expert has made a list of some fab skin care masks.  Check them out here: 12 Splurge-Worthy Face Masks for Oily Skin.

Looking for an all-natural way to fight oily shine?  For the all-natural skin care junkie, you might like these DIY masks from Beauty.

Looking for an oil-reducing makeup primer?  Leaving milk of magnesia on your face all day, under makeup, probably isn’t the best idea.  There are products that are meant specifically for that purpose, and since they’re designed for the delicate skin of your face they’re much less likely to cause irritation.

The Beauty Expert has hand-picked some of her fav foundation primers: 9 Best Foundation Primers

And our Makeup Expert has some tips for choosing a primer specifically for your skin type: The Truth About Foundation Primers.


Bayer Health Care Consumer Care.  (12 Sep 2014.)  Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia – Original.  Retrieved from .  Accessed 28 Mar 2015.

Sigal R.  Letter: Milk of magnesia treatment for acne.  Arch Dermatol.  1975 Jan; 111(1):132.

Stewart ME, Downing DT.  “Separation of wax esters from steryl esters by chromatography on magnesium hydroxide.”  Lipids. 1981 May;16(5):355-9.

Which Acne Medications Cause Sun Sensitivity?

Updated June 30, 2014.

Question: Which Acne Medications Cause Sun Sensitivity?

Can acne treatments make my skin more sensitive to the sun? Which ones? And what should I do if I’m currently using these medications?


Yes, certain acne medications can absolutely make your skin more susceptible to the sun. Photosensitivity, or sun sensitivity, can be caused by a variety of different medications. Some of the worst offenders


When using these medications, you’ll be more susceptible to sun burn and sun damage.

Certain treatment procedures can also increase sun sensitivity. This includes microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and some laser treatments.

Protecting your skin from the sun’s rays is always important, but it becomes even more so when your acne treatments cause photosensitivity. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 every single day. Choose a brand that is labeled oil-free and noncomdogenic or non-acnegenic, so it won’t trigger more breakouts. Apply your medications first, and wait for 20 minutes or so to allow the treatment to dry completely. You can then apply your sunscreen over the top.

The sun also increases your risk of skin cancer and

causes premature aging, so using sunscreen every day is a skin-healthy habit even if you don’t have acne.

As much as possible try to stay out of the sun, especially during midday when the sun’s rays are at their fiercest. If you’re going to be spending the day outdoors at the park or by the lake, you’ll probably want to wear a wide brimmed hat (at least 4 inches wide) as well as your sunscreen.

And tanning beds and booths are off-limits too. Contrary to what the nice lady at the tanning salon will tell you, tanning beds are just as damaging as the sun.

Don't Pick at Acne! (But If You Do, Here's How…

Updated December 04, 2014.

Excoriated Acne:

Most people have, at some point or another, given in to the temptation to pick at a blemish. But for some, the picking goes on to the point where skin tissue is damaged, sometimes severely.

Excoriated acne occurs when pimples have been scratched, or picked, to the point of wounding the skin. The picker is unable to stop him/herself from picking. Although anyone can develop excoriated

acne, it tends to occur more frequently in women.

Excoriated Acne is Caused By:

Excoriated acne is quite literally caused by picking, squeezing, or scratching at blemishes. Sometimes, excoriated acne begins as a common case of acne vulgaris. Other times, the sufferer picks at imagined blemishes, or miniscule comedones that are barely visible.

Those with excoriated acne have a compulsive desire to pick at the skin. They may spend hours in front of a mirror, picking at their blemishes. The constant squeezing and picking can cause open sores. When these sores scab up, they lend themselves to more picking. It becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

Excoriated Acne Looks Like:

Depending on how severely the sufferer has picked at the skin, excoriated acne may look like angry red bumps or scratches, to open red sores, crusting and scabs.

At the very least, the constant squeezing makes blemishes more inflamed. At worst, picking at the skin can cause open wounds. These wounds can become quite

large and deep, as the sufferer continues to pick at the sore.

Excoriated acne is often accompanied by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Where the skin has been picked to the point of permanently damaging the tissue, scarring can occur.

How Excoriated Acne Is Treated:

Acne breakouts that do occur can be treated with an over-the-counter product or prescription medication. Antibiotics may be needed if the lesions are infected. But these treatments won’t combat the most significant source of concern: the constant picking at the skin.

People with excoriated acne sincerely wish they could stop picking at their skin. Sometimes, a dermatologist may be able to help by explaining the importance of a “hands-off” policy. But often it isn’t a matter of willpower. This form of acne may also be accompanied by anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression, or other mood disorders.

Treatment for excoriated acne is tailored to the individual. In addition to acne medications, those with excoriated acne may benefit from psychological counseling, drug therapies (for those with underlying mood disorders), or substitution therapies. Another helpful step is getting rid of that magnifying mirror!

If you have the compulsive desire to pick at your skin, you need to talk with your dermatologist or family practitioner. Don’t be embarrassed. This is a recognized medical condition. There are many people just like you who have overcome excoriated acne. With help, you can too.


“Excoriated Acne.” AcneNet. 2008. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed 24 Oct 2008.

Gupta M, Gupta AK, Schork NJ. “Psychosomatic Study of Self-Excoriative Behavior Among Male Acne Patients: Preliminary Observations.” International Journal of Dermatology, 2007; 33(12): 846-848.

Create the Perfect Blemish-Busting Skin Care…

Photo copyright Sean Justice / Getty Images - Photo copyright Sean Justice / Getty Images

You can create an acne skin care routine with whatever brand products you choose.  Photo copyright Sean Justice / Getty Images

Updated April 01, 2015.

A good acne skin care is so important for blemish-prone skin. A daily skin care regimen helps remove excess oil, keeps pores clear, and speeds healing of breakouts.

But, your daily acne skin care routine doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Follow the guidelines below to help keep your skin feeling refreshed and clean.

The best part? No need to buy expensive products. Use what you have in your bathroom

right now.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Ten minutes, twice a day.

Here’s How:

  1. Cleanse twice daily with a mild cleanser. Using only your fingertips or a soft washcloth (no rough scrubbing pads, please) thoroughly cleanse the face, including your jaw line, neck, and in front of and behind the ears. Use a gentle foaming cleanser, such as Dove or Neutrogena or, if you have inflamed breakouts, choose a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide. Do a double-wash at every cleansing: Cleanse, rinse well, and repeat.

  2. Use a toner or astringent. Apply toner to a cotton ball or pad and gently smooth over the face and neck to remove any leftover makeup or cleanser residue, and excess oil. Choose an alcohol-free toner if your skin seems overly dry. Alcohol can be drying and irritating for some people, especially to skin that is already irritated by breakout activity.

  3. Apply any acne medications or creams, if needed. After your toner has dried completely, smooth on your treatment creams as directed. This could be a medication prescribed by your doctor, or an over-the-counter acne gel or cream. Let the medication absorb or dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

  1. Apply an oil-free moisturizer or gel. It may seem counterintuitive to moisturize your already oily skin, but don’t skip this important step. Many acne medications over-dry the skin, leaving the skin thirsty for moisture. To reduce the chance of dry and peeling skin, apply a light moisturizer twice daily. Moisturizing gels and lotions are generally lighter than creams. Either way, choose one that is labeled oil-free and noncomedogenic.


  1. If toners or astringents seem to over-dry your skin, don’t use them. You aren’t going to harm your skin by not using a toner.
  2. Always let the skin dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

What You Need:

  • A gentle cleanser
  • Toner or astringent
  • Cotton balls or cotton pads
  • Topical acne medications or creams
  • Moisturizing lotion or gel

Acne Treatment Tips for Brown Skin

3.  See an Experienced Professional

Make an appointment as soon as you notice breakouts, even if they are relatively mild. Don’t delay or you’ll risk developing pigmentation problems. Your dermatologist can tell you if you’re experiencing common acne, rosacea, or another skin disorder, and get you on a treatment routine that will work for your skin type.

One survey has shown that dermatologists need more training treating diseases in skin of color. So be sure to ask if your doctor has experience treating people with darker complexions.

And if you are thinking about going to a salon for facial treatments, make sure your skin therapist knows the ins and outs of treating brown skin: Don’t be afraid to ask.

How to Choose the Right Dermatologist

What's the Difference Between Retin-A and…

Updated April 01, 2015.

Question: What is the difference between Retin-A and tretinoin?

I’ve heard good things about Retin-A, so I asked my dermatologist and she said it could help my acne. But when I picked up my prescription it was for tretinoin, not Retin-A.

What’s the difference between Retin-A and tretinoin? Did I get the wrong acne medication?


Not to worry, you’ve got the medication you’re supposed to have. Retin-A

is a brand name for the drug tretinoin. (Yes, even medications have brand names.)

Retin-A has become the most popular term used when referring to topical tretinoin treatments. But many companies manufacture topical tretinoin. Some offer tretinoin treatments under brand names that you’ve probably heard before: Retin-A Micro, Avita, and Renova. Generic tretinoin is also available, which is the medication that you have.

And don’t think that generic medications are of lower quality, or that they won’t work as well. Generic tretinoin will give you the same type of results as brand name Retin-A. All tretinoin products work in the same way, by speeding cell turnover rates and keeping pores free from blockages, or comedones.

Next Steps:
Is There a Difference Between Name Brand and Generic Medications?
Everything You Need to Know About Retin-A (Tretinoin)
What To Expect from Tretinoin Treatments: A Week-by-Week Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Cleansing…

How Often Should I Cleanse?

Cleansing too often isn’t going to help the skin. The skin needs some natural oil to be healthy (yes, oil can be a good thing). Cleansing too often can strip the skin of its natural oil, leading to over-dryness and irritation.

Generally, a twice-daily cleansing is enough to remove dirt, excess oil, and makeup without stripping the skin. If you’ve been exercising, are sweaty or especially dirty (like, after working in the yard) you can throw an extra cleanse in there for good measure.

And make sure you always wash your face before bed to cleanse away the grime and oil from the day, and leave your skin ready for those topical acne medications.


“Acne.” AcneNet. 2007. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed March 31 2008.

Gerson, Joel; Ph.D.. Standard Textbook for Professional Estheticians. 8th edition. Albany, NY: Milady Publishing, 1999.

United States. NIAMS. Questions and Answers About Acne. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 2006.

More »

4 Topical Prescription Acne Treatments

Updated December 16, 2014.

It would be great if acne could always be taken care of with over-the-counter products. But, as you may well have experienced, that’s not always the case.

More than likely, to get some real results you’ll need to turn to your physician for a prescription acne treatment. The good news is, there are plenty of topical medications that are super effective in treating acne.

So, if OTC acne products just

aren’t helping, it’s time to move on to the prescription options. (Not sure if you’re ready for a prescription acne medication? This article: Do I Need a Prescription Treatment? will help you decide.)

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a prescription cream or gel for mild to moderate acne. It is believed that azelaic acid works by reducing Propionibacteria acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. It also helps normalize shedding of dead skin cells, and decreases inflammation. Azelaic acid has the added benefit of improving post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the discoloration left after an acne lesion has healed.

Azelaic acid is sold under the brand names:

Topical Retinoids

Retinoids are popular and effective acne treatments, derived from synthetic vitamin A. Topical retinoids rapidly exfoliate the skin, thereby keeping pores unclogged and preventing comedones. Retinoids adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin are prescribed for those with moderate to severe acne.


especially tretinoin, have other advantages. It is often used to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, making it a popular treatment choice for adult onset acne sufferers.

Some common topical retinoids include:

Topical Antibiotics

Topical antibiotics improve acne by inhibiting the growth of bacteria. They may also help reduce inflammation and decrease the amount of blocked pores, depending on the form used. Topical antibiotics are most often prescribed to treat moderate to severe acne.

Common topical antibiotics used to treat acne include:

Topical Combination Therapy

Topical combination therapy, as the name suggests, include medications which contain combinations of topical antibiotics with other acne-fighting ingredients. The benefits of these medications include the ability to kill acne-causing bacteria, normalize the shedding of dead skin cells, keep pores clear, and reduce the number of comedones. An important feature of topical combination therapy is the fact that less antibiotic is often needed to kill bacteria compared to using topical antibiotics alone.

Topical combination therapy medications include: