Doctor, my pimples just don’t go, what is the best acne treatment?

The best acne treatment is oral antibiotics or Isotretinoin along with topical benzoyl peroxide and Differin gel.

But, most patients get pimples back after stopping these acne treatment. Moreover, you can’t eat anti-acne medications for 10 years of life!

Do you want pimple free skin without eating lot of medicines?

Then, get geared up for 3 months diet and skin care challenge to clear those zits. We have implemented this diet for acne free skin and skincare routine for pimples in hundreds of acne patients in our clinic with good results.

Dermatocare cater to readers across the globe. Therefore, we have included brands that are available in India, United Staes, United Kingdom and Canada in this article. So are you ready for 3 months acne challenge ?

How to get rid of pimples?

If you want to get rid of pimples, then you need some really effective weapons. Isn’t it? Besides stringent lifestyle,  following are your weapons in this 3 month challenge of getting rid of pimples:

Wondering how to make use of these weapons? Here comes role of dermatologist, your commander in chief!

-Acne face wash that removes excess oils without disturbing skin barrier.

-Salicylic acid for exfoliation of pores to avoid clogging.

-Niacinamide for soothing and spot prevention.

-Adaplene or Benzoyl peroxide to treat of red or pus filled pimples.

-Azelaic or glycolic acid for prevention of post acne dark spots.

-Allium cepa based gels for prevention of depressed scars.

-Light weight sunscreen that does not clog pores.

-Multivitamins with zinc to boost up healing process.

Skin care routine for pimples

In this article, I have highlighted various permutations and combinations to fit above anti-acne weapons in your CTM  (Cleansing, toning and moisturising) regime. Not sure what is CTM?

Watch this video to know how to do each step of the CTM regime properly, especially how to wash your face in the right way:

You have to CTM regime 2-3 times a day, with products recommended below.

Morning regime

Begin your day with cleansing, toning and moisturising followed by sunscreen (if you go out). Put make up at the end.

Step 1: Face wash

Washing face 2-3 times is absolutely essential in acne prone skin. Acne face wash should only remove excess oils without disturbing the skin barrier. Wrong weapon can actually destroy your skin! Therefore, if your skin feels dry, flaky or irritated, then you should switch to milder face wash.

Dry skin in acne prone skin can occur because of following reasons:

-Using harsh face wash

-Washing face more than 3 times a day

-Dry weather

-Acne medications

-Harsh home remedies

We have listed face wash in sequence of oil control capacity, starting from mild to strong below:

Sebamed Clear Face Foam

Sebamed face wash for pimples

Recommended for combination skin type

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Cetaphil PRO DermaControl Wash

Cetaphil pro face wash for pimples.

Recommended for oily to combination skin type with red pimples.

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Avene Cleanance Cleansing Gel

It is calming face wash with anti-acne ingredients. Recommended for oily to combination skin type with red pimples.

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Forest Essentials Facial Ubtan Multani Mitti

Recommended for oily non sensitive skin type. Idea for organic lovers. It is 100% natural face wash

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Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser

Recommended for oily skin that is not very sensitive.

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Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash

Recommended for very oil skin prone to clogged pores.

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United KingdomAmazon.co.uk

Step 2: Rose water

Pat dry your face after washing and spray rose water. Massage rose water until it gets absorbed. Rose water hydrates and soothe your skin without clogging your pores. Click on this link to find the best pure organic Rosewater.

Step 3: Serum

Your morning weapon to handle acne should not react with sun. Azelaic acid, Salicylic acid, Niacinamide are sun friendly anti-zit agents. The choice of each agent depends on key skin concerns:

Niacinamide for sensitive skin: 

It is first choice for red pimples with dark spots in sensitive skin type. Niacinamide at concentration of 10% has skin lightening effect, anti-inflammatory and anti-acne action.

Salicylic acid for comedones: 

Salicylic acid is star ingredient for reducing black/white heads and open pores. It also reduces oil secretion. Go for salicylic acid 2% serum if your skin is very oily with open pores and comedones. Do not combine salicylic acid with Adapalene or retinoids, because both have similar action and combination is too drying.

Azelaic acid for post acne dark spots: 

Azelaic acid is one of my favourite ingredient. It soothes sensitive skin, prevents acne and reduces dark spots. It can be applied for 2-3 months without side effects. However, avoid Azelaic acid if your skin is dry, red, irritated or burning.


The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% has advantage of zinc PCA along with niacinamide that has anti-acne action.

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The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution comes with advantage of witch hazel extracts that has anti-microbial action on acne.

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Sesderma Azelac Ru Serum

Sesderma Azelac Ru Serum is liposomal preparation that delivers the actives near skin cells. This contains many active ingredients-Azelaic acid, 4-butylresorcinol, Tranexamic acid, Glycyrrhetinic acid, Retinol encapsulated in liposomes, Niacinamide, Vitamin C and Morus alba extract. Therefore, this serum is complete package because it has anti-acne, anti-aging, anti-tanning and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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Step 4: Sunscreen

Sunscreen tend to clog pores and trigger pimples. I do not advocate use of sunscreen in acne prone skin indoors. But it is absolutely essential before stepping out. Apply a light-weight sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in sun. Repeat every 2-3 hours if needed.

Your sunscreen should pass following criteria:

  • Light weight formula
  • First ingredients should be water
  • Avoid silicon based sunscreen because they occlude pores
  • Gel/lotion/fluid preparation are best
  • Should get absorbed in skin rather than forming a thick layer on top
  • Zinc based sunscreen might reduce acne as well
  • SPF 30 is enough for every day use. Higher the SPF oilier is sunscreen.

Make sure you apply atleast a coin size amount on full face. Sunscreen take 30 minutes to act. So apply them 30 minutes before going out in sun.

Cetaphil PRO Oil Control Moisturising Lotion

Sunscreen for acne

Cetaphil PRO Oil Control Moisturising Lotion SPF 30 is a good option for acne prone skin. It fulfils all of the above criteria. It has anti-agent(zinc gluconate), Anti-oxidant (Vitamin E) and anti-inflammatory agents(allantoin and panthenol).

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Step 5: Make-up

Make-up sits on the top of all the products. If you use make up daily, then make sure you use thin fluid based product. Even better is to use a compact powder that gives coverage of foundation and absorbs extra oil. Below are product recommendations:



Noon Skin Care

Step 1: Most of you would feel that your looks greasy and dark by mid-day. In this case, wash your face again. If you can’t wash your face at work place, then wipe your face with cotton dipped with micellar water. This remove excess oils and give an instant matt look.

Garnier Skin Naturals, Micellar Cleansing Water

Micellar water for acne
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Step 2: Spray chemical-free pure rose water on your skin and massage your skin.

Step 3: Put sunscreen only if you plan to go out in next 30 minutes.

Night Skin Care

Night skin care begin by remove make-up (if needed) with micellar water, followed by face wash and rose water.

Step 3: Acne treatment product

Night is time to use most effective anti-acne weapons. Moreover, they tend to react with sun. Again, your weapon strategy depends on type of enemy you are dealing as discussed below:

-Black/whiteheads: Retinoids

-Red or pus filled pimples: Benzoyl peroxide

-Post acne dark spots- Glycolic acid

-Post acne red marks- Allium cepa

-Skin coloured depressed acne scar respond to procedures like micro-needling/LASERS only

We have discussed in details about these agents in this article, Best acne or pimple cream- Dermatologist recommended


Retinoids are available in 3 different forms:

Retinol or Retinaldehyde: They are used for anti-aging and have boatload of research to prove its efficacy in reducing fine lines. They also help in oil control, open pores and comedones. If you breakout once in a while due to greasy skin, then this is best choice for acne above 30’s. Dermatocare team has reviewed the retinol cream available across the globe, click here to know the best retinol or retinaldehyde cream recommended by Dermatologist.

Adapalene: Adapalene is the most commonly used medicine to reduce acne. It is available  on prescription in India. However, it is OTC in United States by name of Differing gel. Click below to buy on amazon:

Tretinoin: It is most potent retinoid. It is prescribed by dermatologist if Adapalene does not show results or if patient has lot of black/whiteheads.

Retinoid looks like a good choice. But, they work by drying your skin and exfoliating the dead skin cells. It is important to start them gradually especially if your skin is on dry side, or get irritated easily. Here are the steps:

  • First night: Apply adapalene/tretinoin gel only on pimples at night.
  • Second night: Put on the area where you are getting pimples.
  • Third night: If you don’t notice any dryness, redness, irritation, peeling or stiffness, then apply on full face except the under eye area, and area around the nose and mouth.
  • Every night before applying adapalene or tretinoin, looks for subtle signs of retinoid dermatitis like dryness, redness, irritation, peeling or stiffness. In this case, put a non-comedogenic moisturiser first on dry skin and then put adapalene or tretinoin on active pimples. Skip if these signs become worse.

Stop adapalene/tretinoin for few days if you notice rash, itching or bumps. Restart gradually once the skin feels better.

Benzoyl peroxide:

It is available in combination with Adapalene or as face wash. Benzoyl peroxide works primary on red or pus filled pimples. Put it only as spot treatment on pimples at night. It is available OTC in United States. Click below to buy:

Glycolic acid:

It is worth trying for stubborn post- acne dark spots. Glycolic acid help in exfoliating your skin. It  reduces acne, dark spots, tanning and dull skin. It is available OTC in various countries in concentration ranging from 3 % to 10 %.

Start with 3% if your skin sensitive, dry or irritated. Move on to 10% if your skin tolerates lower concentration. Glycolic acid might not suit sensitive skin, In this case you can try azelaic acid or Kojic acid based product. We have listed recommended brands below:


Mars by GHC Skin Correct Gel For Acne Scar

It has many ingredients that work in unison to reduce acne and dark spots: Tea tree oil, Niacinamide, Glycolic and Salicylic Acid, Zinc PCA, ACV Extract. 

Pilgrim Salicylic Acid 1% + Glycolic Acid 3% Anti Acne Serum

This has combination of 1 % salicylic acid and 3% glycolic acid. Both are beneficial for acne prone skin.


Murad Environmental Shield Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum

It is a unique product that has goodness of Vitamin C and Glycolic acid. Worth try for giving radiant look to skin.

Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel

This has 10% Glycolic acid that can be tried for stubborn dark spots in non-sensitive skin.

Take multivitamins for pimples daily

We at our clinic prescribe multivitamins rich in Zinc and Vitamin D for 3 months in acne patients. Lot of studies support role of Zinc in acne.


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Tips for acne-prone skin

Skin care tips

Do not use a harsh face wash that makes your skin over dry. I see a lot of patients who first use harsh face wash and then put a cream to moisturise. Well, that’s a disaster for acne-prone skin. Instead, use a face wash that removes excess oils from skin, so that skin feels soft and supple, rather than dry or stretched.

Avoid washing face more than 3 times a day. If your skin secrets oil even after using strong face wash, then you need a retinoid-based product to control your oils.

Over-layering of skincare products because they will clog your pores. CTM is best for you!

Most sunscreens clog your pores, so avoid using sunscreen indoors.

Give way temptations of popping or squeezing pimples: It is easy to remove pimples, but very difficult to remove scars left after pimples

Do not scrub your face, if you are breaking out.

Avoid facials in acne-prone skin.

Never sleep without washing your face. Face wash at night is absolutely necessary to remove oil, dust, and pollutants that can clog your pores.

Do not put moisturiser, if your skin is hydrated.

Do not use thick make-up, instead use a lightweight BB cream

Mobile phone tip

The dust, greasy and pollutants on the phone screen can trigger acne. Clean mobile screens daily. Make sure you clean the screen of your mobile phone, if you have acne on the side you hold your mobile phone.

Lifestyle tip

Yoga especially Suryanamsakar and pranayam can help in stabilising your hormones.

Follow the diet plan for acne-free skin.

When to consult dermatologist?

Well, I don’t  want to raise false hope for this who are not ready for this 3 month pimples challenge. You are ready to enter this challenge if:

  • Your have less than 5-10 red or pus pimples on face at this moment.
  • Blackheads/white heads do not cover more than 30% of face.
  • Black/whiteheads are not more than 0.5 cm in diameter. Macro-comedones can be removed by dermatologist by RF machine.
  • No cystic or nodular acne.

In this case consult, near be dermatologist. You can still embark on this challenge for a month if you don’t want to consult a dermatologist immediately. If you wish to consult Dr Surbhi, MD, click here.

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