Common Mistakes for Acne Treatments

If you're looking for the best results from your acne treatments, you have to be sure you're using them correctly. And acne treatment mistakes are common; you might not even know you're committing them.

Here are the top five most common acne treatment mistakes, and what you can do to give your skin the best chance of clearing.


Forgetting to Use Medications

Woman washing her face

Michael H / Getty Images

In order to clear acne, you must be consistent with your treatments. This means using your medications every day.

Try not to skip days or miss doses of medications. Treatments will be most effective when they are used consistently and as directed.

If you have trouble remembering your treatments, try using them at the same time every day. This way, it becomes part of your normal routine.

And because out of sight is out of mind, It's also helpful to leave your acne treatments out on your bathroom counter where you'll see them. Next to your toothbrush is a great place – because when have you ever forgotten to brush your teeth?


Using Too Much Medication

Everyone wants their acne to clear up quickly, so you may be tempted to slather on your treatment products several times (or more) per day.

After all, they're just topical medications so using them more than directed can't hurt, right? Besides, won't your acne clear up faster if you apply your medications more often?

You may be surprised to learn that applying too much medication, or applying too often, won't clear acne up any faster. But it will most definitely cause excessive drying, redness, peeling, and irritation.

Using your medications exactly as directed is the best way to clear acne, without harming your skin.


Looking for a 'Quick Fix'

Everyone wishes their acne would clear overnight. Who hasn't, at some point, bought into those ads that promise clear skin in just days? Most likely, the results were disappointing.

Instead of trying those hyped-up "wonder" cures, you'd be better off sticking with tried-and-true acne treatments. Some you can find over-the-counter. Others you can get with a prescription from your healthcare provider. There is no one medication that works for everyone, so it may take several tries to find the treatment that's best for you.

There is no cure for acne, and no quick fix, despite what some products claim. Remember, clear skin takes time and lots of patience.


Not Using Sunscreen

The last thing you feel like using on your oily, acne-prone skin is sunscreen. But avoiding sunscreen can harm your skin in the long run.

Using broad-spectrum sunscreen daily will protect your skin from premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer. Since many acne treatments make your skin more sensitive to the sun's rays, you can't afford to not use sunscreen.

Sunscreens have come a long way in recent years. Those made for the face aren't thick and greasy and don't have that "day at the beach" smell.

Look for a sunscreen that is labeled noncomedogenic to avoid triggering breakouts. Many moisturizers today also contain sunscreen, so you get your daily dose of sun protection while you're moisturizing.


Stopping Treatment When Acne Is Clear

Hooray! Your skin is clear! But don't toss out your acne treatments just yet.

Acne medications don't cure acne. They just do a good job of controlling breakouts. You may be able to scale back the use of your topical treatments, but if treatment is stopped altogether pimples will return.

One notable exception to this rule is isotretinoin, the medication that is commonly known as Accutane. Just one course of treatment is usually enough to clear acne, and you don't have to continuously use isotretinoin to keep pimples from returning.

Isotretinoin is the closest thing we have to an acne "cure", as of yet. But this powerful drug comes with many potential side effects, and not everyone can take it. But if you have severe, cystic, or nodulocystic acne, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about isotretinoin.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rodan K, Fields K, Falla TJ. Efficacy of a twice-daily, 3-step, over-the-counter skincare regimen for the treatment of acne vulgaris. CCID. 2017;10:3-9. doi:10.2147/CCID.S125438

  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Skin care for acne-prone skin. In:

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 things to try when acne won't clear.

  4. Latha MS, Martis J, Shobha V, et al. Sunscreening agents: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 2013;6(1):16-26. 

  5. Kraft J, Freiman A. Management of acne. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2011;183(7):E430-E435. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090374

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.