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One remedy experts recommend is chemical-free and doesn't cost a cent. The Rx: R-E-L-A-X. Stress is a major cause of zits. When you're in freak-out mode, your body reacts by pumping out cortisol (the stress hormone), which stimulates oil glands, leading to breakouts. Modern life is to blame, says Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California. The complicated juggle of a husband, kids, a job, and a household to run take a toll on skin. Exercise, good nutrition, boosting protein, and adequate sleep can all help.
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One of the best things you can do for your skin is to keep your hands off it, says Dr. Bank. In other words, don't do stuff like prop your cheek or chin up with your hand. Your cell phone also harbors bacteria that can transfer to you whenever you press the receiver up against your ear and face. A dirty pillowcase is another potential troublemaker, as is any hair product that contains pore-clogging oils or emollients. Wash your face every night, making sure to clean the hairline, where breakouts often begin.
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Uncover Radiant Skin
Clear pores are blemish-free pores, so unclog with a once-a-week scrubbing.
St. Ives Naturally Clear Green Tea Scrub, $6.
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The active ingredient, sulfur, is one of the most effective anti-acne ingredients out there, especially for those prone to redness. Use it as an allover mask or spot treatment.
Proactiv Clear Purifying Mask, $20.
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Clear Up Quickly
Swipe one over skin to remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup.
Neutrogena Acne Stress Control Night Cleansing Pads, $7.
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Alpha and beta hydroxy acids loosen clogged pores, so skin looks smoother.
Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner, $45.
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Sea-derived algin and zinc help bring down inflammation and irritation.
H20 Plus Anti-Acne Calming Corrector, $24.
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This grown-up treatment cleans pores but also diminishes fine lines and wrinkles—a welcome bonus.
Murad Acne & Wrinkle Reducer, $58.
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Seriously Spot Treat
A concentrated dose of 5% benzoyl peroxide gets you clear in nearly no time.
GloClear Anti-Blemish Treatment, $32.
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Heal on the Go
It reduces redness and swelling on contact (even over makeup), without caking or drying.
Bremenn Research Labs Emergency Zit Stick Acne Treatment, $21.
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Topical treatments can't always reach under-the-skin cysts—the kind that are more common in adult acne. See one forming? Hold this heat-based device over the area for just minutes to shrink its size.
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings, and styles are subject to change.