9 Ways to Prevent a Breakout and Get Clear Skin

Zap that zit before it even has a chance to surface.Zap that zit before it even has a chance to surface.The secret to a gorgeous complexion: Prevention. Stop breakouts before they start with simple tweaks to your daily skincare regimen-as well as your lifestyle (hint: what you eat could be sabotaging your skin). Dermatologist Howard Murad, MD, associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA and founder of Murad, Inc. skincare line, shares just how to get clear skin so you can rock a flawless complexion every single day.

By Nicole Catanese

1. Do the One-Minute Rule
Using a face wash laced with salicylic acid (from one to two percent depending on how bad, and how often, you break out) is a surefire way to stop pimples from forming. It's simple: Instead of spot treating after one pops up, you're keeping every single pore clear from the get go. Suds up in the morning and night, and then wait one full minute before rinsing so the gentle exfoliator can work its pore-clearing magic.

2. Wipe Away Oil
If your T-zone typically resembles an oil slick 24/7-or you've worked up a sweat crossing off your to do list-don't wait until you get home to degrease. When excess sebum (aka oil) seeps into your pores, pimple-promoting bacteria will quickly follow. Use a pre-moistened salicylic acid-soaked cleansing cloth directly on oil-prone zones (i.e. your forehead, nose, chin) to help keep skin clean and prevent future breakouts.

3. Don't Forget to Hydrate

Just because acne-prone skin has plenty of oil to go around, doesn't mean its water content, which is crucial for healthy skin, is up to par. Plus, overuse of oil-fighting products can leave skin parched-and wanting to compensate with more oil (eek!).

Look for a lightweight, oil-free face cream that gives just the right amount of hydration, but won't contribute to your acne issue. What you want: A formula that contains hydrators that mimic those in skin naturally, like ceramides, humectants, and squalene. If your skin is super prone to acne, opt for an even lighter gel, not cream, texture.

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4. Turn up the TLC
Sometimes even if your skin is having a good (aka clear) day, you can still see some redness. That's because acne is essentially inflammation, so some irritation all the time or post-pimple is common. Soothe sensitive skin overnight with calming botanicals such as chamomile, licorice, or aloe vera extract.

5. Exfoliate on the Regular

Once or twice a week, take your skin smoothing up a notch and use a product that contains salicylic acid (or look for willow bark extract, its all natural counterpart) along with gentle fruit enzymes. This powerful pore-perfecting combo will help rev cell turnover and prevent dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria from building up in pores.

6. Start Using Retinol

The gold standard of anti-aging also has an amazing anti-pimple track record. Apply a thin coat of a retinol-based treatment all over skin (if you've never used it before, you may need to work up to nightly; start off with three days a week to see how skin holds up to its potentially irritating effect). This vitamin-A derivative amps up cell turnover like no other so that pores have no choice but to stay clear.

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7. Go Hands Free
As in: Stop. Touching. Your. Face. Stress and hormones gone haywire are common culprits of a breakout-prone complexion but are not the only instigators. Piling on dirt all day long, like from constant contact with your iPhone or fingers, can create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Wipe down your cell phone once a day with an alcohol wipe or squirt some hand sanitizer on a tissue and rub it on the surface. And as you talk on your device, try not to press it firmly into your skin-it will only push makeup and dirt further into pores, causing you more pimple problems.

8. Feed Your Face

Diet has a huge impact on skin and skin health (including acne): Up to 80 percent of your skin is affected by what you eat and drink. Fill your plate with a healthy, well-balanced diet to keep skin in the clear. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables that are rich in vitamin A (grapefruit, mango, broccoli, and kale) to help normalize the production of dead skin cells, a key factor in acne breakouts. And add in eggs, salmon, and walnuts, which contain healthy oils that keep your complexion well nourished and help prevent pimples.

9. Chill Out
...Because the more you stress over a zit the bigger it's going to get. When the stress hormone cortisol spikes, so does oil production-one of the main causes of adult acne (along with hyperactive lifestyles, alcohol, poor diet, and too much cumulative sun exposure). Instead, spot treat the bad boy with bacteria-fighting benzoyl peroxide.

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