Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, but it can appear for a variety of reasons. In most cases, acne begins to develop when skin pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This clogging leads to the development of bad bacteria, which is then attacked by white blood cells, leading to inflammation in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Most people will experience acne at some point in their lifetime, but coping with the condition can be difficult – regardless of age.

Over 20 million teenagers, around 85% of American teens, have acne in the United States alone. Many turn to drugstore products to combat breakouts, whether they’re chronic or occasional. That said, some of the most powerful anti-acne medications are sitting in the kitchen pantry or refrigerator. Below, we’ve explored some common and helpful alternative acne solutions.

Zinc Supplements

Zine is important for cell growth, hormone production, and immunity. Research shows that those with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc than those with clear skin. Taking an oral zinc supplement up to three times per day can help significantly reduce acne.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This vinegar, made by fermenting apple cider or unfiltered juice, is known for its ability to fight several types of bacteria and viruses. The vinegar contains the organic acids necessary to kill the bacteria that causes most acne. To try, mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 3 parts water and apply the mixture to the skin using a cotton ball. Rinse and pat dry.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, extracted from the leaves of Melalueca alternifolia, is known for its ability to fight bacteria and reduce skin inflammation. To try, mix 1 part tea tree oil with 9 parts water and use a cotton swab to apply to the affected areas. Repeat daily as needed.

Adult Acne and Dermatology

The number of adults who report having acne has increased significantly in the past decade. In most cases, typical over-the-counter products and alternative methods, like apple cider vinegar and zinc supplements, will treat the problem. But acne can be both personally and professionally detrimental for adults, and these remedies might not work in severe cases.

Knowing when to visit a dermatologist can be difficult, especially if you experienced the condition as a teenager. For some, it might still feel par for the course – an embarrassing yet relatively innocuous condition. But for others, a recurring skin disorder can be difficult to cope with, sometimes leading to a lack of confidence and the development of an anxiety disorder. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that adults who experience acne have a higher likelihood of developing psychological, social, and emotional problems.

Mild to moderate acne will typically go away in 4 to 6 weeks with the use of drugstore creams and cleansers, many of which contain benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid. More severe acne will resist these treatments. This is when a dermatologist should step in.

A doctor can prescribe more powerful acne combatants, like antibiotics and isotretinoin. Doctors are also trained to know when an acne breakout is the result of topical bacteria or an indication of something more serious. As a rule of thumb, if adult acne has not subsided in 4 to 6 weeks, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to figure out what’s going on.

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