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What is acne cosmetica and how do I treat it?

Acne cosmetica, characterized by many small, white or skin-colored bumps on the skin, is a fairly common acne-related skin condition. It’s typically found primarily on the face, but sometimes occurs elsewhere on the body (like the neck and shoulders).

Many people think these little clogged-pore bumps are the start of a breakout. And, in some ways, they are. But what many people don’t realize is that these bumps specifically – raised but generally not red and inflamed unless picked, popped, or prodded– are caused by the skin and hair products they’re using. 

The good news is, these bumps are highly treatable, once you know what you’re looking at. They can even be healed without ever becoming an angry, red breakout. 

Here are 6 things you can do to help clear up acne cosmetica:

1. Double check your cleanser (and use it!)

This is probably the single most important thing you can do to clear up any acne cosmetica. Make sure you have a good, gentle cleanser (like our CLEANSE with benefits!) that has good, skin-soothing, acne-bacteria-busting ingredients. Cleansing both when you get up in the morning and before bed will keep many skin ailments – and especially acne cosmetica – at bay. Be sure to thoroughly remove any makeup and hair products at the end of each day.

2. Try to identify the cosmetic culprit

If you’re struggling with acne cosmetica, as hard as it might be, cutting down on your products or cutting them out entirely is one of the best ways to start clearing up these pesky papules. But, if going bare-faced isn’t an option (we get it), you can also try leaving one product off for a few weeks at a time and seeing if you notice a change. You may be able to make skin-friendly swaps of just one or two key products and reduce issues dramatically.

As the name suggests, acne cosmetica is frequently caused by cosmetic products, and particularly makeup products, so people often think of their foundation and concealer first. However, blushes and shadows (and anything that sparkles, for our glitter fans out there) often contain comedogenic ingredients as well. And the list of suspects doesn’t end there – some hair products and fragrances can be the cause of skin trouble. 

Word to the wise: Words like “non-comedogenic” on your skincare products can be a good indication that they’ll be easier on your skin. However, the vetting process for adding this and similar labels is unfortunately not as stringent as one might hope. If you’re serious about finding products that don’t irritate or clog, read the ingredients on everything you put on your skin and put a little time into researching those ingredients. Or you can even start making your own products! It might cost you a little time and money upfront, but your skin will thank you.

3. Rinse after pore-clogging activities

As well as AM and PM cleanser use, it’s important to wash your face after any activity that can clog your pores. For example, working out and wearing a mask or other face covering (hellooo, pandemic) can both wreak havoc on your skin and feed bad, acne-causing bacteria. Being diligent about not letting dirt, sweat, and other nastiness build up on your skin will help prevent breakouts and bumps of all sorts, including acne cosmetica.

4. Give your skin a little pampering (and don’t skip the basics!)

Despite the name, cosmetics aren’t the only thing that factor into the development of acne cosmetica. Your skin needs to be moisturized and protected from the sun to stay healthy, so make frequent use of a gentle moisturizer and put on face-friendly sunscreen anytime you’ll be out in the sun. And don’t stop there! Include regular exfoliating in your routine and the occasional gentle peel or mask. If you have acne cosmetica right now, exfoliation and a peel or mask can help clear up bumps and give your skin a nice reset. Then, you’ll have a fresh canvas and can take it from there with preventative measures.

5. Don’t pick or pop

Ok, we know this, you should never pick or pop a pimple. Never! But, since acne cosmetica, while it does indicate some growth of acne-causing bacteria, is largely caused by clogged pores and skin irritation, you especially don’t want to start picking at these little bumps. Popping this little fellas can bring on skin infection and inflammation that aren’t already there. Instead, leave the bumps alone and follow these tips. That way, you can clear your skin without ever getting red, cranky zits. 

If you need a little support, chronic pickers say our PATCH Me If You Can pimple patches help them stop the pop – while clearing blemishes.

6. Get your microbiome in balance

Last but certainly not least, if you know Dermala, you know that we’re big believers in the science of skin and, particularly, in the gut-skin connection. If you want to help your skin fight off acne cosmetica and all the conditions that C. acnes can contribute to, then get your microbiome in balance. Boosting your body’s good bacteria is a great place to start the fight against skin blemishes.

And there you have it! With all these tips in mind, you can win the battle against acne cosmetica, no problem. If you’re a Dermala subscriber, use the app to track your skin’s before and after and let us know what worked for you. (And if not, why not {try the kit}?)

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