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Acne: Skin care and prevention tips

Your skin reflects your health. It's your body's canvas and one of its most valuable assets. For good skin care, start developing healthy habits that will take care of this valuable asset and protect it from attack, both externally and internally. It's the only skin you'll ever have, so your daily habits mean everything. Here are some basic skin care tips:

  • Clean and moisturise your skin daily. Wash your face twice daily - once in the morning and once at night before going to bed. After you cleanse your skin, follow with a toner and moisturiser. Toners help remove fine traces of oil, dirt and make-up that you may have missed when cleansing. Moisturising is necessary even for people with oily skin. Buy a moisturiser that is best suited for your skin type (dry, normal or oily).
  • Block the sun. Over time, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discolouration, freckles or age spots, benign (non-cancerous) growths such as moles, and pre-cancerous or cancerous growths such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. In fact, most skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
  • Seek professional help for skin problems. Skin is not going to be perfect. It can be dry or oily; it can develop rashes and acne, among many other problems. Tackle the problem with professional advice from a beauty therapist or your local pharmacist.
  • Eat abalanced diet. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid fried and greasy foods.
  • Self-screening. Over the course of your life, you should pay attention to all aspects of your skin. Familiarise yourself with it, so you'll notice any changes that might occur, such as different moles or patches that might indicate skin cancer. If you have a question or concern, make sure you seek medical advice.

10 tips for preventing spots

1. Keep your face clean. Whether or not you have acne, it's important to wash your face daily to remove impurities, dead skin cells, and excess oil from the skin surface. Use warm, not hot, water and a mild facial cleanser. Using a harsh soap (like deodorant body soap) can injure the already inflamed skin and cause more irritation.

Avoid scrubbing your skin harshly with a flannel, exfoliating glove, or loofah (a coarse-textured sponge). Gently wash it with your clean hands or a very soft cloth. Always rinse well, and then dry your face with a clean towel. (Throw the towel in the laundry basket, as dirty towels spread bacteria.)

2. Moisturise. Many topical acne products contain ingredients that dry the skin, so always use a moisturiser that minimises dryness and skin peeling. A gel-based moisturiser usually works well for oily skin. If you have dry skin, try a moisturising cream or lotion. Combination skin may need two products (cream or lotion for the dry section; a gel for the oily part). Always hydrate your skin with water before you moisturise it.

3. Try an over-the-counter acne product. Topical (those applied to the skin) acne products may contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial agent with a drying effect, or salicylic acid, an agent that exfoliates skin and gets rid of bacteria. Start with a small amount at first. Then increase or decrease the amount and how often you apply it, depending on how much peeling or drying you have. Use these ointments with caution if you have sensitive skin. Benzoyl peroxide can cause redness and scaling of the skin. It can also bleach your clothes, towel and hair.

4. Use makeup sparingly. During a flare-up, try to avoid wearing foundation, powder, or blusher. If you do wear makeup, wash it off at the end of the day. If possible, select oil-free cosmetics without added dyes and chemicals. Water-based cosmetics are available. Read the ingredients list on the product label before buying.

5. Be careful about what you put on your hair. Avoid using fragrances, oils and harsh chemicals on your hair. These ingredients can drip on the face, blocking the skin pores and irritating the skin. Stick to a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Oily hair can add to the oil on your face, so wash hair often, especially during an outbreak of spots. If your hair is long, keep it pulled off your face.

6. Keep your hands off your face. Avoid touching your face or propping your cheek or chin on your hands. Not only can you spread bacteria, you can also irritate the already inflamed facial skin. Never pick or squeeze spots with your fingers, as it can result in infection and scarring.

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