How to Beat Acne If Proactiv Isn’t for You

When pimples pop up on your face, it induces a sort of frantic desperation to do whatever it takes to get rid of them—fast. That's why commercials touting a product that works for "everyone" are incredibly enticing. And while many benzoyl peroxide acne treatments such as Proactiv offer a temporary solution, they might not actually be worth it in the long run.

"All of the traditional approaches to clearing acne, while they generally offer a quick fix, are not a long-term solution," says Hillary Peterson, founder and president of  True Botanicals. "They're not addressing the causes of acne at the source." So that can lead to a slow degradation of your complexion and your skin's natural barrier.

Keep reading for what you should be using to fight pimples.

how to beat acne without proactiv
Photo: Twenty20/Musiena

The issues with traditional acne treatments

The sensorial aspects of skin care—you know, when you can feel a product tingle, sting, or bubble—often can make you think something's working. The benzoyl peroxide solutions provide that burns-so-good sensation, which is why they're so satisfying.

Though it can clear your complexion when you first start using it, your skin could ultimately adapt to benzoyl peroxide—and then it'll stop being effective and start disrupting the barrier. This happens, explains dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD because, "the bacteria that it is targeting can become resistant to it, making it no longer effective, and thus it acts as an irritant and not therapeutic."

Your skin could ultimately adapt to the benzoyl peroxide—and then it'll stop being effective.

Moreover, Peterson explains that these solutions could cause oxidative stress (which is a scientific term for what happens when the balance between free radical generation and antioxidant defenses is unbalanced)—and that could be one of the culprits behind your acne. "More and more research is coming out that indicates that oxidative stress is a root cause of acne," she explains.

how to beat acne without proactiv
Photo: Stocksy/Lauren Naefe

What actually gets rid of acne

While a number of factors contribute to breakouts—from hormones to inflammation—Peterson, when formulating her acne-combatting line, decided to zero in on oxidative stress. "Oxidative stress keeps your skin in a consistently inflammatory state," explains Dr. Gohara. "By inhibiting the process, you decrease inflammation."

So, just how do you do this? Slathering on antioxidants (hence the name) such as astaxanthin, algae extract, and green and white teas. "Getting enough antioxidants makes a huge difference in skin care," Peterson says. "Oxidative stress is related to rosacea, acne, and other complexion woes."

It's also key to nurture your skin's barrier so that it can function optimally. Peterson says that oils that are high in linoleic acid, such as hemp, grapeseed, and pumpkin, can help control your skin's natural oil production, and she prefers them to creams (which she says can be made with waxes, which are occlusive and can lead to breakouts).

If you need to tamp down the sebum production, try a natural astringent like black willow bark: "This stimulates cell turnover in the same way benzoyl peroxide does, but without the irritation," says Peterson. Because irritation isn't necessary in order to kill acne.

To fight breakouts from the inside, sip on these smoothies for healthy, glowing skin. Or try these beauty supplements from Sephora for a radiant complexion.

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