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If you're a sun worshipper who heads poolside when acne erupts, you might want to think twice before exposing your tender skin to damaging ultraviolet rays. A tinge of sun in your cheeks might make pimples fade into the background. But sun exposure only offers a temporary, cosmetic fix for troublesome acne. The best way to zap zits for good takes diligent self-care and topical and oral medications that are proven acne fighters.
Pink, sunburned cheeks or a deep tan may mask the presence of acne on your face. Sun exposure can also make your skin feel drier and less oily. However, as a cure for the pimples that plague you, file sun exposure under one of many acne myths. Some topical acne medications can make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. Moreover, the sun can make those little dark spots that linger after a pimple heals more noticeable.
After acne heals, small areas of pink, red and purple pigment can linger even longer than the zit itself. These spots are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, and while they aren't scars, avoiding the sun makes them fade more quickly. Conversely, sun exposure makes PIH darken, regardless of your skin tone. Invest in an oil-free sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and never go without it. Smear it on your face, neck and all areas of skin exposed to the sun at least 20 minutes before you head outdoors.
Tanning may hide blemishes, but the reward isn't worth the risk in the long run. Sun exposure is the primary contributing factor to premature aging -- wrinkles, saggy skin, age spots, freckles, a blotchy complexion and leathery skin. Ultraviolet rays are also intimately linked to skin cancer. Even if you only go sun seeking a few minutes a day, all of those minutes can eventually add up to a damaged, weathered complexion.
Acne goes away with the right treatment. Start by washing your face with a mild cleanser twice a day using your fingertips only -- don't scrub, as this can make your skin produce more pore-clogging oil. Keep your hair clean and pulled away from your face. Avoid picking at blemishes, as this can worsen inflammation and cause scarring. Mild acne may respond to over-the-counter topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. More persistent pimples may require treatment from a dermatologist.