Good hygiene habits, avoiding oil-containing cosmetics, and in some instances, medication can all help to prevent acne and pimples from forming.

Acne is a common skin disorder that can cause pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules and inflamed cysts. There are many ways to prevent acne.

In this article, we detail 15 ways to prevent acne and pimples and tips for managing breakouts when they occur.

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Acne occurs when oil, dead skin, and other substances block pores in the skin. Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria can infect these blocked pores, causing inflammation.

Some people get acne when their skin produces too much oil, leading to blocked pores. However, multiple other factors can contribute to the development of acne, including:

  • genetics
  • excess sunlight
  • certain medications
  • oily cosmetics
  • tight-fitting clothing
  • endocrine or hormonal disorders

A doctor or dermatologist can help to identify which factor or combination of factors is causing acne. However, many treatment and prevention methods are similar, regardless of the cause. The following tips can help to protect against acne and reduce the number of breakouts.

Learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of acne here.

There are many things a person can do to try to prevent pimples and other forms of acne, including:

1. Wash the face twice daily

Acne is rarely the result of a dirty face, contrary to popular belief. However, it is important to remove excess dirt and oil from the skin by washing regularly and after sweating.

Many people prefer to use a mild cleanser and warm water. Applying an oil-free moisturizer after washing can keep the skin from becoming too dry. Overwashing the face may cause the skin to become dry, which can aggravate pimples.

However, over-washing of the face can dry the skin out, causing oil overproduction. This can result in more acne.

Discover 13 of the best wash options here.

2. Refrain from harsh scrubbing

Some people scrub the skin with rough cloth pads or washcloths. This can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, making acne breakouts worse.

Applying a gentle cleanser with clean hands or a soft brush for use on the face can help prevent pimples.

3. Keep hair clean

If excess oil in the hair travels to the skin, it can worsen acne. Regularly washing the hair may stop acne from developing, especially close to the hairline.

Haircare products that contain oil can also cause pimples on the head and hairline. Avoiding these products can lower the risk of developing pimples.

Discover 7 of the best shampoos for scalp acne here.

4. Refrain from popping or picking at pimples

It may be tempting to squeeze a pimple, but it can cause inflammation and scarring.

To reduce the appearance of blemishes, use a topical treatment instead. They may take some time to work, but they can also prevent new pimples from forming.

5. Apply topical treatments

Over-the-counter treatments, such as creams or serums, can reduce breakouts, particularly when they occur in certain areas.

The following problem areas are common:

  • the chin
  • the nose
  • the forehead

Treatments often contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These products are not as potent as prescription-strength treatments, but they can help prevent mild acne and reduce breakouts.

Discover 6 of the best acne spot treatments here.

6. Consider topical retinoids

Topical retinoids are products containing medicines derived from vitamin A, and dermatologists prescribe them to manage and prevent acne. These treatments help to shed and produce new skin cells faster, which helps to reduce pore-clogging.

Most topical retinoids are only available by prescription, including tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova) and tazarotene (Tazorac). However, some topical retinoids, such as adapalene (Differin), are available over the counter.

7. Talk to a dermatologist about antibiotics

Topical antibiotics can fight an overgrowth of P. acne bacteria in the skin. Examples of antibiotics that treat this inflammatory acne include erythromycin and clindamycin, which are available by prescription.

Alone, these antibiotics can cause bacteria to become resistant to treatment. As a result, doctors will prescribe antibiotic treatments in combination with benzoyl peroxide to reduce the risk of developing resistant bacteria.

A person can identify inflammatory acne by its discolored, irritated appearance. It can also be painful.

Learn more about inflammatory acne here.

8. Talk to a doctor about hormone pills

In cases of female hormonal acne, birth control pills can help prevent breakouts by helping to regulate the hormones that may make acne worse.

However, these pills carry risks, so it is essential to review the benefits and side effects before deciding.

Spironolactone, a medication doctors use to treat high blood pressure, may also help in cases of severe female hormonal acne. However, spironolactone has many possible side effects, so it is best to speak with a doctor to discuss all options.

Doctors do not recommend either of these medications for use in males.

9. Cut back on foods linked to acne

Doctors are not certain of the connection between foods and acne. However, a growing body of research suggests that some foods may trigger acne in certain patients.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, foods with a high glycemic index may increase the risk of developing acne or make acne worse.

These potentially problematic foods are sugary and high in carbohydrates. Some examples include:

  • cookies
  • cakes
  • pies

Dairy products, especially skim milk, may also increase a person’s risk of developing acne. A person may want to cut back on a particular food group to see if their skin improves.

Learn more about high GI foods here.

10. Wear sunscreen when going outdoors

Too much sun has many damaging effects on the skin. Sunburn can also lead to an overproduction of oils that make acne worse. However, a person should ensure their sunscreen is noncomedogenic and safe for use on the face.

11. Consider light or laser therapies

A dermatologist may recommend photodynamic therapy to treat acne and pimples.

In photodynamic therapy, a medical professional applies a topical solution that makes the skin more susceptible to light. Following this, they will target the acne area with a focused light source. This can destroy dead skin cells and bacteria.

There are many other light and laser therapies that can reduce the appearance of acne blemishes and pimples through similar means.

Learn more about photodynamic therapy here.

12. Avoid skincare products that contain oil

Skin care products containing oil can clog the pores. This can worsen acne symptoms and increase the likelihood of developing pimples.

Using topical products, such as moisturizers and sunscreens that do not contain oil can help to reduce the risk of blocking pores.

People refer to products that do not contain oil as noncomedogenic.

Learn more about noncomedogenic skin care products here.

13. Refrain from excess exfoliation

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the skin.

While some exfoliation can help improve acne, too much can worsen breakouts. This happens when a person removes too much natural oil from the skin. The skin may compensate by producing more oil, which clogs pores and produces more pimples.

If a person exfoliates too much, the skin may become irritated or feel very tight after washing.

14. Reduce stress

Stress often causes inflammation, which can make breakouts worse.

Below are some means of reducing stress that may help to prevent acne:

  • meditating
  • exercising
  • doing yoga
  • relaxing before bed by reading or taking a bath
  • spending time in nature
  • engaging in hobbies

Discover the link between stress and acne here.

15. Keep facial care products clean

To keep the skin as clean as possible, people should clean makeup, facial sponges, and brushes regularly with soap and water to prevent bacteria buildup, which could lead to breakouts.

Make sure that brushes dry completely before use.

It is not always possible to prevent pimples from forming. The following can help people lessen inflammation around pimples and ultimately reduce their appearance.

Things to doThings not to do
Wash the face before touching it.Pick at, or pop the pimple.
Use a warm compress on pimples.Apply untested home remedies, such as toothpaste, to the area.
Apply ice packs to reduce swelling.Wash the face more than twice per day.
Apply products with benzoyl peroxide to kill acne bacteria.

Cleaning the skin regularly and gently, selecting skin care products carefully and avoiding contact with oil can help reduce acne.

If none of these methods show improvement in 6 to 8 weeks, see a dermatologist for further recommendations.