10 Things to Stop Doing for Better Skin

Although acne is completely frustrating, there are things you can do to get it under control. There are also a few things you shouldn't do if you want to see improvement, and just feel better about your skin in general.

acne treatment mistakes
​Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Acne

Acne doesn't happen because of something you did or didn't do. Acne just is. Some people are prone to it, while others aren't.

In fact, acne appears mainly because of your genes. It tends to run in families, so if your parents had acne you're more likely to break out, too.

Acne isn't your fault and you're not causing your acne. So, stop blaming yourself and instead spend that time finding a treatment that works for you.


Stop Picking at Your Skin

While gently squeezing a pimple every once in a while probably won't do much harm, constant picking and forceful squeezing definitely will.

You can inadvertently push the plug of debris deeper into the skin, which will make the blemish worse in the long run. And picking at pimples or scabs prolongs healing time and can cause scarring.

As hard as it may be, fight the urge and don't pop or pick at your pimples. If you absolutely must self-extract those blackheads or pimples, at least extract them safely.

Already gone too far and picked that blemish? Keep the blemish clean, don't disturb the scab, and allow that popped pimple to properly heal.


Stop Scrubbing and Over-Cleansing

Is your skincare routine full of harsh scrubs, abrasive exfoliating pads, and lots and lots of cleansing? Constant cleaning and scrubbing can do more harm than good.

Vigorous scrubbing can irritate the skin, cause inflammation, and tear the tops off pimples. A good indicator that you're scrubbing too hard: your skin looks really red or burns and stings afterward.

Some exfoliation is needed if you want clearer skin. Regular exfoliation helps keep your pores clear of gunk and makes your skin softer, too. However, you shouldn't use an exfoliator more than two times per week. Gentle scrubs are usually okay, as are washcloths and soft facial brushes—just be sure to keep them clean, as they can harbor bacteria.

Be aware that many acne treatments (like Retin-A Micro, Differin, and other topical retinoids) already chemically exfoliate the skin. So if you're using one of those acne treatment medications, you generally don't need an additional physical exfoliant.

Over-cleansing is another common problem. A clean face is important, but don't wash so much that your skin becomes overly dry.

Cleansing two to three times per day is usually plenty. Much more and you're probably overdoing it.

Scrubbing and frequent cleansing won't clear up acne. All you'll get for your troubles is irritated skin.


Stop Buying Into the Myths About Acne

It's hard sometimes to separate fact from fiction, but knowing the truth about acne, its development, and its treatment is key in getting acne under control.

Acne isn't caused by dirt. You don't have acne because you touched your face with your hands.

Having sex or masturbating doesn't cause acne. And contrary to what your mom told you, acne isn't caused by not washing your face.

What about your diet? The jury is still out on that one. While conventional wisdom still holds that diet doesn't play a role, some doctors are questioning that notion.

There is no definitive proof that diet plays a role in acne, however some studies have shown that low-fat dairy and high glycemic index diets can worsen acne.

Probably the biggest myth of all: You have to outgrow acne or wait for it to go away on its own. Acne can be treated and your skin can be cleared.


Stop Spending Money on "Miracle Cures"

There are plenty of supplements, herbs, vitamins, and "special formulation" creams that claim to completely cure acne. But no matter how slick the website or how convincing the claim, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for acne.

Acne medications just keep breakouts in check. They don't stop the factors that cause acne from developing in the first place. Even the best acne treatments at our disposal simply control acne, not cure it.

In order to keep acne at bay, you'll have to continue to use the medication even after acne has cleared up. The notable exception to this rule is isotretinoin. This medication is used short-term and does a good job of keeping acne from returning. It's the closest thing we have to a cure.

So don't spend your hard-earned cash on treatments that will only give questionable results, at best. It's better to spend money on proven over-the-counter products (like benzoyl peroxide) or prescription acne medications.


Stop Letting Acne Rule Your Life

You're all set to go to a party, but then you change your mind because you get a bad breakout or you find yourself not wanting to go out with friends. You avoid mirrors. Do any of these sound familiar?

Acne can change the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel self-conscious, embarrassed, ashamed, and angry. To a large extent, these feelings are completely normal.

It's OK if you feel this way. You don't have to pretend acne doesn't bother you. Acknowledge these feelings. Bring them out into the open. Talk to someone who is supportive. Often, just opening up helps you feel better. Stop letting acne dictate your social schedule. It's easier said than done, but it's important that you not let acne rule your life. You're so much more than your skin.

There are things you can do to help protect and build your self-esteem. The good news is, just starting treatment often gives you a boost because it helps you feel more in control. If acne is affecting you to the point where you feel like it's taking over your life, let your doctor know. It may mean you need to treat your acne more aggressively to get the improvement you’re looking for.


Stop Sabotaging Your Acne Treatment

We all want clear skin, and we're ready to do anything to get it. But are you unwittingly sabotaging your treatment?

First and foremost, you have to use your treatments consistently. It's all too easy to get busy in the morning and rush off or be so tired at night you just fall into bed. Sometimes you just plain forget, but every missed dose means less effective treatment.

Don't jump from product to product. Weeks of waiting can seem like a lifetime, but by jumping around with your treatments you aren't allowing enough time for improvement. If you want to see if a treatment really works, you have to wait it out.

Make sure you understand how your treatments should be used. Should they be applied only at night? Can you take your oral medications with food? Is it OK to use an OTC acne product at the same time as your prescription?

Ask your dermatologist and follow the directions to a "T." You'll be rewarded with better results.


Stop Putting off Seeing a Dermatologist

Most of us head to the drugstore when we start breaking out. There's nothing wrong with trying an OTC acne product first; if you're really lucky, that's all you'll need.

But if you've used OTC products without much success for more than 12 weeks, it's time to make a doctor's appointment. It's easy to put off seeing a dermatologist. You get busy; you think acne isn't that serious, or you just keep holding out hope that something on the store shelf is going to work.

The longer you wait, though, the longer it will take to get your acne under control. Acne may get worse, and you run the risk of scarring. If cost is an issue, consider the amount of money you can spend on OTC products that aren't working for you. Also, acne treatment is covered by most insurance. Most people with acne wish they had seen a dermatologist sooner. So, stop putting it off and make that call!


Stop Letting Others Make You Feel Bad About Yourself

Sometimes people say or do things that hurt your feelings or make you really angry. Whether it's a careless comment, well-meaning but insensitive "advice" or a not-so-subtle glance at the skin, it can be a blow to already shaky self-esteem.

Keep it in perspective. Is the person really trying to help you and just doing it in a clumsy way? Thank them and forget it. Is the person just being a jerk? Ignore them.

Try to let these situations roll off your back. Instead, you may want to vent to your best friend or go for a run to blow off steam or write a nasty letter to the offender (and then tear it into a million little pieces).

Don't allow others to have power over how you feel about yourself. Remember, you define who you are, not anyone else and certainly not acne.


Stop Thinking Treatments Can't Work for You

It's so hard to stay positive and motivated when you have tried dozens of treatments, and you still have acne. It's natural to want to give up and be confused about why your chosen treatment isn't working.

There are so many acne treatments available today. Maybe you haven't hit on the right combination yet. Maybe you need to see a dermatologist. Maybe you need to switch dermatologists.

There are treatments out there for everyone. It may take longer than you expected, and it may mean using medications you hoped you'd never need (like oral antibiotics or isotretinoin), but your acne can be successfully treated.

A Word From Verywell

Having acne is incredibly frustrating, there's no doubt. But with the right treatment, the right physician in your corner, and the patience and perseverance to keep trying, you can control your acne.

Don't give up! Success may be right around the corner.

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Article 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. American Academy of Dermatology Association, "10 skin care habits that can worsen acne"

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Can the Right Diet Get Rid of Acne?

  3. National Health Service (UK), "Isotretinoin capsules (Roaccutane): medicine to treat acne"

  4. Cleveland Clinic, "Prescription Medications for Skincare"

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