How To Effectively Treat Acne

Written by Virginia Surgical Arts on .

Acne. It doesn’t care about age, race, gender, or skin type. It affects many individuals, and in various levels of severity. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 80% of people ages 11-30 have acne outbreaks at some point. Additionally, it’s becoming more and more common to see acne outside of that age range. In our medical skin center, we see and treat many patients battling acne, but do you know how to treat the skin disease?

In-Office Acne Treatments:

Our office offers an array of treatments, but our top three procedures to treat acne include:

Medical Facials– Medical facials are customized to each patients’ needs, and include extractions, exfoliation, and calming. Using medical-grade ingredients and products, we’re able to fine-tune a treatment plan for your skin. This is a popular service for anyone with skin concerns, with patients often seeing a difference after one to two sessions.

Chemical Peel– Many acne cases are helped by a medium-deep chemical peel. Our peel of choice for acne patients is the VI Peel. This peel is gentle but truly effective. Not only does it kill the bacteria within the skin, it helps to heal inflammation and quickly brings everything up and out of the skin. The actual peeling process is typically finished within 7 days of application. Gentle enough for sensitive skin types, this peel is truly amazing when it comes to acne patients.

IPL– Our Palomar Starlux IPL technology offers a wavelength just for acne! By pulsing this wavelength of light, p. acnes bacteria is killed, reducing inflammation and congestion. IPL is effective and safe in the treatment of the inflammatory lesions of acne in a variety of skin types, and doesn’t hurt like many lasers.

Topical Treatments:

Products are one of the most important players in acne treatments. Some key ingredients in fighting acne are:

Salicylic Acid- This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is essential in clearing out pores. Salicylic acid works by loosening the bonds that keep the congestion within the pore. It also fights against inflammation, as it is derived from the same source (white willow bark) as aspirin is made from. Be sure to moisturize when using this BHA, as it’s known to attract oil and can sometimes dry your skin out.

Vitamin A- Topically, Vitamin A stimulates cellular turnover. Vitamin A is like a gas pedal for the skin—it tells the skin how fast it needs to go for healthy cellular function. Continued use of it in higher, medical grade concentrations wake the cells up and puts them back to work, as well as clears out unhealthy, acneic cells. Various types of topical Vitamin A include Retin-A, Tretinoin, Retinoic Acid, Retinol, and Retinyl Palmitate. Note- Do not use Benzoyl Peroxide with a topical Vitamin A, as they inactivate each other.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BP)- This ingredient kills P. acnes bacteria and other bacteria in the skin by releasing toxic free radicals of oxygen. Since the bacteria cannot live in an oxygen rich environment, they die off. Although human skin has repair mechanisms that make it immune to these free radicals of oxygen, there has been skepticism that widespread use of BP is “good” for the skin. It’s recommended by this office to use BP to spot treat blemishes. Also beware- BP can bleach clothing and pillow cases!

Glycolic Acid- Derived from sugar, this acid is the smallest molecules of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), so it can get into all the “nooks and crannies.” Although not recommended for everyone, including those with sensitive skin and dark skin types, this acid does a great job stimulating that cellular turnover and loosening up the microlayers of skin.

Oral Treatments:

Sometimes your health care professional will prescribe antibiotics, like Doxycycline, Minocycline, Clindamycin, or even Bactrim. These antibiotics work from the inside to kill the propionibacterium acnes or acnes bacteria within the skin.

Occasionally your health provider will also prescribe other medications like spironolactone or Accutane. These methods of treatment are a bit more aggressive, and need to be done under close supervision of your doctor.


When treating acne, you must also consider your lifestyle and question if that could be causing or making your acne worse. Tips you can follow include:

Wash Your Face- Simply washing your face at night and after each experience of heavy sweating (like post workout) can be just the thing that stops your acne breakouts. We recommend using a cleanser that contains salicylic acid, such as our VSA Clear Skin Cleanser, to attract oil and clean debris off your face.

Don’t Over Exfoliate- Many patients believe that the heavier the scrubbing, the clearer the skin. This is FALSE! When you over-exfoliate your skin, you slim down the barrier on the top of your skin, allowing for bacteria to easily penetrate into the pore and causing an even bigger breakout. If you want to exfoliate at home, add baking soda crystals into your cleanser and GENTLY wash your face. Do this up to three times per week.

Change Your Pillowcase- How often do you change your pillow case? Sweat, dead cells, and bacteria travel from your face onto your pillow case while you sleep, allowing your skin to continuously be in contact with them. If fighting acne, it’s generally a good idea to switch our your pillow case every other night.

Clean Your Phone- In today’s modern technology age, we are often glued to our phones. Unfortunately though, the phone doesn’t have any antimicrobial settings to keep our the phone and its case clean. Bacteria will live on your phone, and after touching it, travels to your hands and even your face. Clean your phone with an antibacterial wipe daily to keep bacteria populations on your phone limited.

Don’t Touch Your Face- With everything we touch in our daily lives, we accumulate a lot of bacteria on our hands. Just think about the phone mentioned above. Sometimes we subconsciously touch our face throughout the day, allowing for more bacteria to colonize and settle on your skin. Similarly, picking at your face will lead to more bacteria entering your pores! Remember to wash your hands and avoid touching (and picking!) your face and regularly.

Healthy Diet- We are what we eat! Limiting processed foods or foods that can cause inflammation tend to help reduce breakouts. A diet containing fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics is ideal for an acne sufferer. Some studies even suggest Zinc may reduce the effects of acne.

“De-Stress”- One of the most common causes of acne is stress! Stress releases hormones that can cause breakouts and flare-up within the skin. Find something that grounds you and reduces your stress, whether it’s yoga or reading a good book. Easing your stress usually eases your breakouts.

If you have concerns about acne or would like to learn more, call our office to schedule a complimentary consultation with our master medical aesthetician. Our office number is (757) 430-7690 or your can email our master medical aesthetician directly at

Written By Virginia Surgical Arts

Our oral and cosmetic surgery facility in Virginia Beach serves all of Hampton Roads and offers oral/facial reconstruction, bone grafting, and facial and body rejuvenation. We are fully licensed and accredited. When you are ready to begin truly appreciating and evoking the real you, Virginia Surgical Arts is here–ready to work with you.