The Regimen

Acne 101: Treatment Tips for First-Timers

Young woman with Asian traits smiling with her eyes closed.

You’ve never had to think about your skin. You’ve been blissfully unaware of the differences between glycolic and salicylic acid. You don’t even know that mandelic acid exists. Toner? What’s that? Then, one day, it happens. You’re getting ready for your first day of high school (or even junior high), and there it is: a big, red, angry pimple. Suddenly you need to know everything there is about how to get rid of acne. But also, you’re in a hurry, so we’ll give you the Spark Notes.


It’s not you; it’s the hormones.

You probably know that acne is incredibly common among teens. But do you know why eight out of ten teens and pre-teens develop acne? It’s mostly due to changes in hormones. As you grow, your hormones ramp up your sebaceous glands and push oil production into overdrive. All that extra oil can mix with dead skin cells clogging pores and trapping bacteria. The resulting impactions become pimples.

Stress stimulates cortisol, another sebum-inducing hormone. That’s why acne often seems to get worse at stressful times. Fortunately, most people get past acne by the time they’re in their twenties. In the meantime, here are some quick tips to help you clear, control, and conquer acne.

Start early. It’s best to start an acne regimen before you even begin to see signs of your first breakout. If you get out ahead of it before bacteria has a chance to seed, you can avoid future breakouts and the scarring that can occur when acne gets inflamed.

Be consistent. Wash twice a day with an antibiotic cleanser. Use a toner to remove any cleanser residue and to help loosen and remove dead skin cells to improve absorption of additional products. Use a corrective serum to increase cell turnover and remove impactions.

Don’t slack. It takes 30 days for pimples to form and come to the surface, so just because your skin looks great today, doesn't mean you can slack off on your routine. Stick to your regimen to suppress acne bacteria and avoid future breakouts.

Don't spot treat. Spot treating individual pimples leaves bacteria brewing in the surrounding areas. Apply products to your entire face to prevent future breakouts. 

Don't pick. Picking drives the pimple deeper, spreads bacteria, and leads to scarring. 

Ice is nice! Speed up healing of a pimple by rubbing ice over the area for two to three minutes. It reduces inflammation, helps prevent scarring, and helps your acne medication penetrate.  

Use sunscreen. Despite what many people think, sun doesn’t make acne better. UV exposure creates inflammation that can make acne worse and cause dark marks to be left behind once the pimples clear. Those marks are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Beware of sweaty hats. If you notice pimples along the hairline, it could be from hats, helmets, or headbands, especially if you are wearing them during sweaty workouts. Keep these items clean and wash your face after wearing them.

Shower after exercise. Don’t let dirt, oil, and sweat sit on your face and clog pores. Wash your face or shower as soon after exercising as you can.

Give it time. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Use your products in a daily regimen for a full thirty days—the length of a complete skin cell life cycle—before judging your results to allow time for your skin to acclimate, for pimples forming under the surface to be brought up and cleared away.


First time using an acne regimen? Here’s where to start.

Mandelic acid, which has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and brightening properties, is an excellent choice for treating acne. Benzoyl peroxide, which penetrates the pore and releases oxygen to kill bacteria is a gold standard acne fighter. And salicylic acid helps to flush pores and peel away impactions. Vitamin A, with its ability to speed up cell turnover to reveal fresh, healthy skin, is also an excellent choice.


Our favorite acne-fighters:

Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Exfoliating Wash

Our award-winning scrub exfoliates, controls acne-causing bacteria, brightens and balances skin tone.

Daily Repair Pads

Mandelic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, are a power trio in these single-use, pre-moistened pads perfect for tossing in your gym bag or backpack for a clarifying swipe where ever you go.

8% Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Serum

Prevent future breakouts and increase cell turnover to bring healthy new skin to the surface with this antibacterial exfoliating formula.

Sulfur Clay Mask

Pull dirt, oil, and impactions to the surface, unclog and refine pores with this essential weekly booster. 

10% BP Gel Medication

Flush out pores and peel away impactions with our top acne-warrior.

Day Treatment Lotion SPF 15

Lightweight, non-comedogenic SPF and moisture in one.


To make it even simpler, take our skin care consultation quiz to find the complete four-step system that’s best for your skin. 


Related Articles

The Acne-Fighting Superheroes You Need to Know

The Best Acne Treatments for Every Acne Type

Subscribe to get our latest newsletter on email