Regardless of your age, skin type, or gender, there's one skin concern that we've all dealt with at some point: pimples. Breakouts, while frustrating, happen to everyone (usually, at the worst possible time). Sometimes, they result from hormonal fluctuations or only appear after a particularly stressful week. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, however, blemishes may be more of a regular occurrence. Thankfully, most breakouts can be managed effectively at home, provided you have the right products to treat them.
Ahead, we'll clue you in on 10 of the best Kiehl's products for managing (and preventing) acne—from mild blemishes, like blackheads, to stubborn pimples and cysts. You'll also learn a bit about what causes acne and how different types of acne form, so you can be better equipped to care for your skin next time a surprise breakout crops up. Read on to learn how to manage acne at home with our top ten acne-fighting essentials.
First Things First: What Is a Pimple?
Acne comes in a few different forms, but generally, it can be divided into two sub-categories: Inflammatory acne and non-inflammatory acne. The former encompasses deep blemishes, like cysts and nodules, while the latter refers mainly to blackheads and whiteheads. Though the word "pimple" is often used as a synonym for acne, it technically refers to any inflammatory breakout (blackheads, strictly speaking, are not pimples but actually comedones).
What Causes Pimples?
While we can't teach you how to get rid of acne permanently—no one can—you can learn ways to manage it. But in order to do so, you must first understand what causes acne to begin with.
All breakouts, regardless of type, start the same way. Your skin is constantly secreting oil and shedding dead skin cells to keep your skin moisturized and make room for new skin. When this oil and dead skin fails to slough off, it can get trapped within hair follicle openings, resulting in clogged pores.
Inflammatory acne occurs when bacteria (specifically, Propionibacterium acnes) enter your pores, resulting in a localized infection. Your body's response to this infection is what causes inflammatory pimples, cysts, or nodules to form. Comedonal acne, like blackheads and whiteheads, develop similarly, but without the infection-causing bacteria (that's why blackheads and clogged pores don't tend to be red or swollen).
Though acne is typically most common amongst those with oily skin, it can happen to anyone—in fact, an estimated 80% of the population experiences acne at some point in their life (and it often persists into adulthood). Managing acne requires taking proper care of your skin and identifying (and eliminating, when possible) any underlying triggers (such as the aforementioned stress and hormonal fluctuations) that may be contributing to your breakouts.
10 Kiehl's Staples For Managing Stubborn Breakouts
Now that you're caught up on what pimples are, we can get into the good stuff—specifically, how to manage them. Read on to learn how to address pimples and prevent future breakouts with our top acne treatments.
Cleansers and Toners
Cleansing is arguably one of the most critical steps in managing (and preventing) breakouts. You'll want to choose a face wash suited for your skin type and specific needs that will remove dirt and oil without over-drying or irritating your skin.
For your daily cleansing needs, try Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, which is formulated with mineral-rich Amazonian white clay and diatomaceous earth. The gentle yet effective exfoliating formula deep-cleans congested pores to detoxify the skin. The non-drying cleanser is suitable for all skin types and can be used daily to promote fresh, healthy-looking skin.
Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser
If you have problem skin, reach for a mild foaming formula, like Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser. This creamy gel cleanser emulsifies with water to create a light, gentle foam that washes away impurities without stripping away skin's natural moisture. The calming formula is ideal for skin prone to redness and discomfort and can be used morning and night.
When you're struggling with persistent breakouts, swap out your daily face wash for Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment, which contains salicylic acid. The effective formula cleans pores to help clear active blemishes while working to prevent new breakouts from forming.
To ensure your skin is clean and free of pore-clogging debris, we also recommend sweeping a gentle toner over your face after cleansing. Try our cult-classic Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion, which first debuted in 1964. The iconic toner for oily skin helps soothe the skin after cleansing or shaving for a fresh, balanced feel. Use a sterile cotton pad to sweep it over your face, or splash the cooling liquid directly onto your skin and allow it to absorb before continuing your skincare routine.
Face Serums and Oils
Once you've cleansed and toned your face, address specific skin concerns (like dark spots left behind after a particularly nasty breakout) with targeted skincare treatments.
Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector
For dullness and skin discolorations, try a brightening serum, like Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector. This powerful face serum with buffered salicylic acid and stabilized vitamin C helps improve the appearance of dull, uneven-looking skin. It's clinically-demonstrated to help reduce an array of skin discolorations, including post-acne marks, and is suitable for all skin types.* Dispense a few drops of the effective yet gentle serum into your hands, then pat the fluid formula over your face, focusing on problem areas.
*This product was tested on a multi-ethnic panel equally distributed: 25% African American, 25% Asian, 25% Caucasian, 25% Hispanic. Results based on expert grading in a 12-week clinical test on 104 subjects.
If you're looking to visibly reduce pimple redness, we recommend applying a few drops of a calming face oil, like Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil. We know—the thought of putting oil on acne-prone skin can be intimidating. But there's no need to worry: This ultra-gentle face oil for problem skin is non-comedogenic and won't cause you to break out. The 100% naturally-derived formula helps strengthen the skin's natural moisture barrier and boosts hydration to help calm the feeling of stressed skin.* When used regularly, it also helps diminish redness for a calmer, more balanced appearance.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.
Moisturizer is another daily essential, especially if you have acne-prone skin. Here's why: As we mentioned earlier, breakouts result from clogged pores, which occur when excess sebum gets trapped within your pores. Though it seems reasonable to assume that drying out your skin would prevent excess oil from building up, the opposite is true. When your skin is dry or dehydrated, your body produces more oil to make up for the moisture it's missing. This, in turn, can result in excess oiliness, clogged pores, and widespread breakouts. Moisturizing can help keep your skin's natural oil production in check, which is vital for clear, healthy-looking skin.
We recommend a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer, like Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream, for daily hydration. This weightless gel moisturizer with glacial glycoprotein and micronized amino acid absorbs quickly, leaving the skin hydrated and shine-free for up to 24 hours. With continued use, it even helps visibly reduce the appearance of large pores. We recommend applying the non-comedogenic moisturizer as the final step in your daily skincare routine for skin that feels fresh and balanced.
When you're in the midst of a breakout, swap your regular moisturizer for an acne-fighting variety, like Breakout Control Acne Treatment Facial Lotion. This lightweight lotion, made with salicylic acid and niacinamide, visibly reduces the appearance of active blemishes and helps prevent new ones from forming. It also helps improve the look and feel of dull-looking skin when used regularly.
Targeted Spot Treatments
If you were to ask a dermatologist how to get rid of pimples, they'd probably tell you that there's no surefire way to eliminate acne. And they're totally right: Everyone's skin is different, and every breakout is different. That said, a spot treatment is undoubtedly one of the most critical weapons in your anti-acne skincare arsenal. These targeted treatments contain potent acne-fighting ingredients to help rapidly reduce active breakouts, including blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.
Address problem areas, including those with multiple breakouts, with Blue Herbal Spot Treatment. This spot treatment, made with 1.5% salicylic acid, targets breakouts to reduce the appearance of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. It's dermatologist-tested for safety and can be used up to three times daily to help visibly reduce breakouts and promote clearer-looking skin.
For stubborn individual blemishes, try Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment, which contains mineral sulfur and niacinamide. The effective formula is clinically-demonstrated to rapidly reduce the appearance of acne blemishes. When used regularly, the fast-absorbing formula also helps prevent new breakouts from forming. Dab a thin layer onto individual blemishes once daily as needed until the spot improves.