FYI: Here's how to deal with the four stages of having a breakout

Here's what you should know about me: I've suffered from breakouts since I was 12. Unfortunately, I enjoyed picking at them and because I was barely a teen and didn't know any better, I didn't have a skincare routine. For years, I was basically the living epitome of what NOT to do if you don't want to make your breakouts worse!

I had to learn my lesson the hard way, earning a couple of dark spots and some scars along the way, but thankfully I realized the importance of good skincare. Instead of relying on heavy foundations and high coverage concealers to cover the problem up, I decided to actually do something about my acne before my skin condition worsened. I'm still learning but I've picked up a couple of tricks on how to deal with these nasty bumps on each stage as they rear their ugly heads.

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Stage 1: Prevention

You know the cliché; prevention is always better than cure. In this case, it starts with not allowing pimple-causing bacteria to thrive on your skin in the first place! Whether you wear makeup on a daily basis or not, cleansing is not optional but rather crucial first step for any skincare regimen. Dirt, oil and yes, even cosmetics, can clog up your pores and provide an environment for bacteria to thrive. Use a separate makeup remover before washing with a gentle facial cleanser to thoroughly get all the gunk off your face. Exfoliate at least once a week to remove dead skin layers and get a deeper cleanse.

Our lifestyle and habits can also trigger the eruption of pimples. Touching your face often and talking on the phone a lot is actually a common culprit! Your hands tend to carry a lot of bacteria that get transferred to your face when you touch it, and phones are even worse because most people don't make a habit of cleaning them. Look into your diet, too; lactose intolerance can cause cystic acne. I've personally found that laying off the dairy (a huge challenge for a cheese lover!) has helped to prevent the development of sore and painful pimples.

Got good skincare habits but still having problem? Breakouts are also sometimes called hormonal acne because they come out before or during a menstrual cycle. During this time, testosterone (yes, both men and women have it!) is higher than usual and oil production goes into overdrive, thus encouraging the development of acne. For cases like this, medication may be required. There are pills you can take to help prevent pimples. If your problem is caused by hormones, your doctor may prescribe for you to take birth control pills to regulate them.

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Stage 2: The impending breakout

Let's say the pimples are just too stubborn and they still appear even after taking preventive measures. Resist every urge to irritate them further! Pimples usually start off as sore bumps lurking under your skin. I know the frustration that comes along with it because you just want them to grow a head so you can drain and treat them. You may think of using products with strong acids or peeling properties to spot treat your pimples but doing so, especially if the products are not meant to be used on a regular basis, can worsen things.

Trust me on this as I once suffered from some sort of chemical burn when I tried spot treating my pimples with a strong astringent. The area around the pimples got red and irritated so I had even more problems to deal with aside from the pimples. It's better to just wait it out and lay off the harsh products.

Instead, you can incorporate products with pimple-fighting ingredients like tea tree oil and salicylic acid into your regimen. There are also gentle spot treatment formulations that won't dry your skin out.

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Stage 3: Ripe and ready

It’s tempting to pop that minuscule mountain on your face and just be over it but being hasty about it can make things worse. There’s right way to go about popping that pimple! I personally prefer to use a clean or treated Q-tip and gently pushing the pimple open. This way, I’m assured that my fingers, which probably still has unseen dirt despite looking clean, are nowhere near my pimples.

Pimple extracting tools are also good options - Liz demonstrates how to properly use them here! Pimple patches are another option as they can hasten the development of the pimple and prevent them further damage to your skin. Just take note that some are designed to apply a leave-on treatment while others (like the PV fave CosRX patches) are best used after a pimple has been popped, to thoroughly and safely drain the swelling.

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Stage 4: Bid blemishes goodbye

Remember to treat your newly popped pimple as they are: wounds. You can continue using pimple patches over the affected area until they heal fully as these may be medicated and act as protective coverings. If you already have marks and dark spots though, they're honestly more difficult to deal with compared to treating the pimples themselves.

For topical application, vitamin C has been proven effective for lightening blemishes and creating an overall brighter complexion. You can't just apply citrus juices or DIY solutions though; there are specially formulated products for this.

Regular exfoliation can also help to lighten marks, with acids being the most effective option. AHA, BHA, and retinoids work by increasing the rate of cell turnover, so you get rid of the dead (and damaged) skin layers faster. Be warned though that this process can also result in some purging, so you may get some more pimples before your skin starts to clear up!

How do you deal with breakouts? Share your tips in the comments below!