Your Top Acne Questions Answered

A Q&A With Dermatologist, Dr. Brian Zelickson



Have you ever searched for the answers to your burning acne questions on Google? If you have, you are certainly not alone. While the internet may offer you some clarity (and temporary peace of mind), the reality is, much of what is out there on the web about acne is simply just not true.

We asked you what you wanted to know because at one point, we’ve probably all asked similar questions. Dr. Brian Zelickson, dermatologist and founder of MD Complete, divulged his expertise on this complicated subject matter.


Dermatologist and founder of MD Complete, Dr. Brian Zelickson


So, let’s get down to it!


Question: What products are best for a daily skin routine? - McKenzie O.

Answer: The benchmarks of a daily skincare routine should include a gentle cleanser, sun protection and a retinoid-based moisturizer. Incorporating a retinol can be effective in clearing acne-prone skin because it further enhances cellular turnover. Additionally, the inclusion of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (glycolic) or Beta Hydroxy Acids (salicylic) into a daily regimen can help keep the skin exfoliated and free of bacteria.



Question: What products can I use for a 14-year old with acne? - Tanya M.

Answer:For younger teenagers with acne, look for easy-to-use treatments that won’t cause irritation. Even mild irritation may prevent teens from continuing to use a product, and this irritation can prolong the breakouts. Benzoyl Peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and can be used daily in conjunction with a cleanser. Retinol can be very effective in clearing the pores and, if used appropriately, can be well-tolerated by most skin types. Additionally, look for treatment products with soothing antioxidants such as fruit seed extracts and green tea, because these ingredients address inflamed and irritated skin.



Question: How do you know what kind of treatment/product you need? I am guessing what's good for me may not be for my daughter. - Julie O.

Answer:What works for one person may be completely ineffective for another! Having a professional assess the skin in person is the best way to understand your specific skin type and skin needs. As a good rule of thumb—if you use a product and you feel that it is working for you, stick with it!



Question: After trying several different products, both over the counter and prescription, is there a combo of both to use for teenage acne? Or do you recommend stinking with one line and not mixing products? - Jenifer G.

Answer:It is absolutely okay to use both over-the-counter and prescription strength products! Consulting a dermatologist can help you better understand how to pick and choose certain products for a regimen that is ideal for you.



Question: Is dairy a factor in cystic acne? - @danilene

Answer:This is a question that we are asked regularly! There is recent research that suggests some types of dairy may contribute to acne. With that being said, we recommend everything in moderation and don't generally recommend cutting dairy from your diet completely. Pay attention to your skin and if you notice that dairy tends to cause cystic acne flares, consider cutting back on your intake.



Question: What is the best treatment for cystic acne? - Tiffany B.

Answer:Cystic acne should be evaluated by a dermatologist. If left untreated, it can lead to the development of acne scars. A dermatologist can determine the best treatment protocol based on the needs of your skin. Once your skin is clear, it will often remain clear with topical therapy alone.



Question: Can what my teen eats contribute to acne? Gina J.

Answer:There is some new research that shows diets high in dairy and foods that raise your blood sugar (i.e. foods with a high glycemic index) contribute to the development of acne. Paying attention to your diet and skin can be helpful. Foods that have a reputation for causing acne, like greasy french fries or chocolate, have actually not yet been shown to cause acne.



Question: What is the best product to use with pitted acne scars? - Stacy M.

Answer: Pitted acne scars are best treated by stimulating collagen production and plumping skin to 'fill in' the acne scars. Prescriptive retinoids and non-prescriptive retinol formulations, like MD Complete’s Retinol Vitamin C Concentrate, can help and can be used in combination with in-office procedures. These in-office procedures, such as laser resurfacing and chemical peels, are performed by a dermatologist and provide a more dramatic improvement than home treatments alone.



Question: I have adult acne, but I eat well, don't drink, and exercise daily. I can't use harsh "acne combatants" on my skin since it's sensitive and usually leaves me red. Help! - @sarahjlav

Answer: For many adults, acne is genetic and there is nothing that they are doing 'wrong' to cause the breakouts. Many over the counter treatments can be irritating, which is why we included plant and fruit seed extracts in MD Complete’s Acne Clearing System. We particularly like supplementing your skincare regimen with a high potency antioxidant serum like the Healthy Complexion Booster. These types of serums contain healthy, nourishing oils like Omega 3’s, which have been shown to be deficient in acne prone skin. These nutrients also soothe and restore a natural moisture balance in the skin.



Question: When I breakout, it's often there for weeks. No matter what I put on, and despite a very diligent skincare regimen, it just won't go away! How do I treat stubborn breakouts without needing a cortisone injection? - @edenlipke

Answer:While cortisone injections in a dermatology office remain the best way to clear a breakout quickly, its not always feasible to come in for an appointment. Benzoyl peroxide is a great ingredient for getting rid of the bacteria that causes acne and 'spot treating' a new breakout. Some formulations can be irritating, which is why we added calming and hydrating ingredients to the Breakout Treatment. It can be particularly helpful to supplement your regimen with a Retinol or Tretinoin based treatment, as this will help turnover the skin that has become ‘congested’ on the surface.