For many acne sufferers – maybe you? – the words “everything” and “nothing” go together like peanut butter and jelly.

As in “I’ve tried EVERYTHING to clear my acne and NOTHING works.”

And while you may get some relief here and there, it’s never lasting – even prescriptions like Accutane don’t do the trick.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because I’m sharing what I hear all the time from new clients. Yet when I ask them if anyone has ever explained what acne actually is and why they have it, nobody ever knows the answer.

Hint: this is the reason that you really haven’t tried everything. It’s also why there is definitely something that you can do that will not only clear your acne but also will keep your skin blemish-free.

What causes acne?

While there are lots of things that can trigger acne, such as a bad diet, hormones or using the wrong products, these aren’t the actual causes.

The true culprit and root cause of acne are usually genetic.

As you approach or reach puberty, if you have the “acne gene,” then the lining of your pores start to hyper-shed dead skin cells that then get stuck in your pores. This creates your acne. It can either be inflamed (i.e. with pus, like pimples, pustules, cystic, hormonal, etc.) or not (i.e. blackheads, clogged pores).

While you can’t change your genetics, you can improve your skin by taking care of it effectively and consistently.

Why skincare products and makeup that say they will clear or at least not make your acne worse often do the opposite of what they promise.

Truly fighting acne means ensuring that there are NO pore-clogging ingredients at all in your skin care and makeup products. This is a task easier said than done; there are approximately 80+ commonly used ingredients with complex names that you theoretically have to know to avoid (i.e. Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Ethoxylated Lanolin), otherwise, you’ll end up with clogged pores and acne. So even if a product claims to take care of a breakout—and some of them may work for a while — if it contains pore-clogging ingredients, your blemish relief won’t last.

You may already know all of this, so perhaps you routinely look for the word “non-comedogenic” (non-pore clogging) on skin care and makeup packaging. You have to be careful, however, because clever marketers will use that word to make it sound like it will actually clear acne… but not gumming up your pores isn’t the same thing as getting rid of your acne. And many labels are misleading or even inaccurate anyway, as the market for skin cleansers and acne relief isn’t governed well enough for you to simply look at the front of a product and be able to tell whether or not it will provide lasting acne relief.

The truth about food, supplements, and acne.

Certain foods and supplements don’t necessarily cause an acne breakout, but some can certainly make it worse. This includes dairy, soy, foods high in iodine (i.e. shellfish, sushi), peanut butter, certain oils (i.e. corn, canola, peanut) and highly processed foods. The thing is, not every nutritional item is the same for every acne sufferer; the only way to truly know what food or supplement makes your acne worse is by a careful process of elimination.

Not all birth control helps get rid of acne; in fact, some make it worse.

You may have heard that birth control pills will clear your acne, but the truth is some actually create it and make it harder to treat. As a general rule of thumb, pills with the potential for higher androgenic symptoms (testosterone-like effects) should be avoided if you’re prone to acne because they promote breakouts.

How to finally achieve clear skin – and keep it blemish-free.

As you can probably tell, figuring out the best strategy to tackle your unique skin care needs is a complex undertaking. From genetics to what you put in your body and on your skin all factor in and must be considered and addressed.

And then the kicker is this: you have to be 100% consistent in your diet and skincare routine — including evolving over time — to clear your acne and keep it from coming back.

Clearing acne is a beast, and the only way to tame it is to get on the right program for your skin and acne type. This includes adjusting the acne products you use at home every few weeks in order to keep the clearing process going.

Need proof? Have you ever wondered why an acne product you love at first suddenly stops working?  That is because your skin and acne got used to it.

So if you think you’ve tried everything to get rid of your acne, you haven’t, because you still have acne. Just like people serious about getting in shape work with a personal trainer, you need an expert skin care coach to analyze your acne and skin, customize a program that includes diet and other outbreak-control approaches and holds you accountable every step of the way. And like getting into a fitness routine that works for the long haul, you have to build up to get consistent results. So when it comes to clearing your acne, it’s critical to avoid starting off with a high product does because once your skin gets used to it, you and your skin care coach will have to make adjustments in terms of treatments and products to keep your skin improving and your acne clear.

At our clinic, we do a “Skin Care Boot Camp,” starting with an initial consultation where we determine your skin type and type of acne, give you a treatment and send you off with easy at-home instructions for a daily regime featuring the right (relatively low dose) acne-clearing products for you. Every couple of weeks you’ll come in for another treatment, and we’ll keep on top of increasing or changing your at-home regime to clear your skin and keep it acne-free. Even if you can’t make it into our clinic, we can still give you all the tools and products to achieve clear skin without a treatment from us, although it may take a bit longer than our Boot Camp.

If you have questions about acne and why until now, nothing has ever worked for you, let us know in the comments. And we’re always here if you have questions, so contact us.