an acne pimple on a teenager's chin, fight acne

Acne is the bane of adolescent existence, but many people battle blemishes well beyond their teen years. Many different factors appear to contribute to this common skin condition. Among them is an overgrowth of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. When these bacteria predominate over other natural skin microbes, they contribute to red, inflamed pimples. No doubt that explains why dermatologists frequently prescribe antibiotics for blemishes, but this approach has drawbacks such as side effects and the development of antibiotic resistant strains (Liu et al, Current Drug Metabolism, 2015). Is there a simpler way to fight acne?

How to Fight Acne with Clean Washcloths:

Q. I have had acne since the age of 13. I have found a very simple approach most helpful.
I purchased about 20 white washcloths so I can change them daily. I use a salicylic acid cleanser before bed and benzoyl peroxide in the morning. This routine keeps my face clear. I think the twice daily cleansing plays a big part.

A. Another reader also reported success using a fresh washcloth each time she washed her face. Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are effective OTC acne medicines. Be sure to use an effective sunscreen, though. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can increase sensitivity to UV rays and lead to a bad sunburn.

Can You Fight Acne with Diet?

Some researchers suggest that cutting back on refined carbs and sweets may also be helpful (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sept. 2017). A diet low in glycemic index and glycemic load reduces insulin-like growth factor that can contribute to blemishes (Burris et al, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online April 21, 2018).

Recent research also indicates that people with inadequate circulating levels of vitamin D and those with celiac disease (elevated tissue transglutaminase) are more more susceptible to acne (Stewart & Bazergy, Dermato-endocrinology, Feb. 22, 2018). Such individuals might benefit from brief sun exposure or supplements to raise vitamin D levels into the normal range.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Bev

    In the 70’s a family friends son had terrible acne. Going from Derm Dr to Derm Dr and lots of money spent, they found a cure. Cut out all dairy products, not just the obvious like milk, butter, etc. but also curds and whey.

    You’d be surprised how many dairy derivatives are in processed food. In 2 weeks his acne was gone and once healed his skin was beautiful. It’s an allergy to dairy in many cases. Eliminating dairy will also diminish any allergy by up to 90% during allergy season. Try it, it worked for me.

  2. Barbara
    Seattle, Washington

    When I had adult acne for 20 years, I kept reading things that told me how it was my fault. Either I ate the wrong things, didn’t eat the right things, didn’t clean my face properly or often enough, cleaned my face too often, wore too much make-up, etc.

    I was too ashamed and embarrassed to mention my problem to a doctor. I thought I was to blame. My acne was obvious, but no doctor offered treatment.

    Finally, I had a doctor who prescribed Retin-A and Clindmycin. Soon my skin was clear. It wasn’t my fault after all!

  3. Barbara
    Seattle, Washington

    I had constant and rather severe adult acne for about 20 years. Nothing helped. Finally a doctor prescribed Retin-A and Clindamycin (as a spot treatment).

    The Retin-A cream was too greasy so I was switched to the gel. My skin cleared up wonderfully. I was able to decrease my use of the Retin-A to every third day, and several years later discontinued using it. Now, I have only one or two tiny blemishes per year.

  4. Monte

    My grandson, at age 17, developed acne which covered his entire face. I advised him that each night he should thoroughly wash his face with warm soap and water. He then was advised to apply milk of magnesia to his entire face with liberal coating. Leave it on all night and wash thoroughly the first thing after waking up. His face was clear within 3 weeks and has never reappeared.

  5. Alxander B
    New Jersey

    I found that applying 70% isopropanol on any developing acne or cold sore to be very effective.

  6. Lea

    My son swabbed his face morning and night with hydrogen peroxide. Cleared the acne up, and prevented new breakouts. If he got slack about it, and had a breakout, the peroxide worked almost overnight to dry the pimple up. It’s cheap, easy and effective!

  7. Nancy

    I had a painful (boil looking) on thigh area. I ended up going to a dermatologist, and he believed it may have been caused from a spider bite when I was crawling out of my hot tub. After that, I started getting painful boils.

    Dr wasn’t sure if those started as a result of a spider bite? but they would come and go for months, it was terrible. I went online and read about Cetaphil antibacterial soap. I started bathing with this soap, and bleaching all loads of towels, I stopped having them. This soap has been taken off market.

  8. Kathleen

    I suffered from “terminal” acne–I thought I’d have it until I died–from age 10 to age 26. I had taken daily tetracycline for 1 and a half years until it ruined my digestion and made me very ill.

    All the MDs I consulted swore that diet had no effect on acne, but one day, a visiting professor at my graduate school suggested I give up caffeine, including coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and OTC drugs like Excedrin. Nowadays, energy drinks would also be included!

    I gave all the caffeine up and in one week, my face cleared up. Several years later, a cosmetic kit with a “money-back guarantee” included the proviso that buyers eliminate shellfish, peanuts and dairy products in order to collect a refund.

    I gave up dairy and voila! my back cleared up! This was the same back that was used as a “teaching aid” at a major hospital since my back had every type of acne in every stage of development possible. Diet indeed made a difference for me!

    • Phil

      I had the same experience! Mine was 100% correlated to dairy, even the slightest bit of whey or lactose. Was on antibiotics for 15 years, now dairy and acne-free for 36 years!

  9. Kat

    I am in my sixties and have battled with acne since I was in my teens. I’ve used prescription medication like Acutane (twice), tetracycline, and dapsone to no avail. I’ve tried clean, white wash clothes and various OTC’s.

    Recently, I read an article that mentioned high androgen levels could be to blame and bought some organic spearmint tea. I drink one cup per day and my acne cleared up within a week! It’s like a miracle!

  10. Carey

    I had oozing sores under my chin and around my ears. Finally figured out it wasn’t acne at all, but rather an allergic reaction to scented laundry detergent.

  11. Christine

    Tea tree essential oil is a game changer for acne. I use it straight, applied only directly to the pimple, and it clears it up almost overnight. (Don’t use it straight over the whole face. It can be too strong.) Also, it reeks, but is worth it.

  12. Gina

    I find the supplement astaxanthin does wonders for the skin, and it really helps keep my skin from burning when I am out in the sun for extended periods of time.

  13. Spockmom
    Los Angeles

    Our son left home for college and quickly decided to “remake” himself. To lose his 25 extra pounds, he worked out and swam almost daily and made major changes to his diet. To lose the weight, he stopped consuming beer, sodas, junk food etc. His campus dining facility offered many healthy choices in vegetables and fruit. Surprisingly, his acne cleared up completely. Over time he noticed that if he drank beer and ate sugary foods, acne started showing up again. When I see people with acne, I wonder if they might see it clear up if they eliminated beer and sugar from their diet.

  14. Nell M.

    One simple help is to shower or at least wash hair and face at night, and sleep with a clean pillowcase.

  15. Lori

    The added Vit D and diet free of milk, gluten and sugar helped me 1000%.
    Also chemical-free organic make-up had a dramatic effect.
    Beer, wine and alcohol had to be eliminated.
    But at least the skin improved.

  16. Paula

    My daughter had very bad acne on her face and back, which persisted into her twenties despite using her prescribed Retin-A Micro and Clindamycin faithfully. She stopped eating corn because she realized it hurt her digestive system, and then her acne completely cleared up and never returned!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.