At-Home Acne Mistakes to Avoid

At-Home Acne Mistakes to Avoid


Spending more time at home has shifted the way we solve our problems. More than ever, people are turning to online platforms and social media, like YouTube and Instagram LIVE, as primary resources for mastering new skills and finding solutions. However, some problems are more complicated than a quick fix how-to video, especially when it comes to treating acne.

If you have started to break out or noticed your acne has worsened over the past few months, there is a good chance that heightened stress levels are a factor. “Stress increases hormone levels to prepare our bodies for that environment. The same hormones can impact the skin, leading to an increase in oil production which causes breakouts,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It also could be from wearing a face mask, says Dr. Zeichner. “We know that wearing a face mask has several negative impacts on the skin. Direct friction can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even promote acne breakouts.”

With breakouts accelerating and in-office visits on pause, a DIY approach to treating acne has surged, with people testing solutions at home. “There’s a downside to experimenting with too many products because more often than not it leads to skin irritation. This can cause more harm than good in treating acne,” says Dr. Zeichner.

“If you develop skin irritation while using multiple products, it may not be easy to figure out which product is the culprit. Plus, you won’t know if one product is blocking penetration or breaking down the other one.”

To un-do the DIY damage, Dr. Zeichner shares the best tips to clearer skin:

  • Keep it simple: If you notice breakouts and irritation including flakiness, inflammation, redness or burning, it’s likely you’re over doing it with your skincare routine. Pare down the number of products you’re using to eliminate the cause of the irritation. Your routine doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. A cleanser, an Rx product if your dermatologist deems appropriate and a moisturizer is a simple and effective regimen. Also, remember to always wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • Consistency is key: Once you’ve simplified your routine, be sure to stick with it for 6-8 weeks to allow time for the products to work.
  • Consider a prescription product: If you’re suffering with acne over an extended period of time and over the counter products aren’t getting the job done, you may need a prescription option from your dermatologist. One product I often prescribe is ALTRENO® (tretinoin) Lotion, 0.05%. As a topical retinoid it increases collagen production and regulates skin cell turnover to help with the prevention and treatment of acne. This medication is an effective option for many patients to treat acne, which can result in long-lasting marks or even permanent scars on the face if left untreated. As an added bonus, ALTRENO is available via delivery through national in-store or online pharmacies. ALTRENO may cause irritation or other side effects. To learn more visit
  • Listen to the experts: If you can’t get an in-person appointment right now, you’ll find many board-certified dermatologists are sharing helpful tips, tricks and product recommendations daily on social media and through virtual appointments. Tutorials and peer forums are useful, but if you aren’t seeing the results you want, reach out to an expert—they’ll find a way to connect with you.