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Complexion Perfection: Fight Acne and Hide Pimples Like a Pro

Sweat and dirt can bring on breakouts, but that's no reason to bench your workout. Instead, try these skin-saving solutions from top dermatologists to zap zits for good.

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Jack Miskell
Noncomedogenic and mineral-based makeup
Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
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Pimple Problem: Blackheads That Won't Budge

Clear Fix: Those dark dots, often found on your T-zone, "can be precursors to pimples," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. The oil in the pore attracts bacteria. Dead skin can further clog the pore, causing a whitehead. At night, sop up sebum and exfoliate with a pad presoaked in glycolic or salicylic acid.

What to Use: Glotherapeutics GloClear Complexion Pads ($34, gloskincare.com). Or use a mask that contains both ingredients (we like Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner, $45, sephora.com).

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Pimple Problem: Exercise-Induced Acne

Clear Fix: Blame your habits, not your heart rate, for those post-gym pimples. "Bacteria in sweat gets trapped between your workout clothes and your skin. If you don't wash it off right away, it will clog pores," says Jeannette Graf, MD, a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. Wearing makeup while exercising can also breed blemishes. Stash a packet of cleansing towelettes in your gym bag, and swipe them over your face, including your hairline and jawline, before and after your routine. While working out, be sure to blot sweat with a clean towel. And switch to noncomedogenic (anti-pore-clogging) or mineral-based makeups, which are less likely to cause acne.

What to Use: We like Maybelline New York Mineral Power Finishing Veil Powder ($8.99, drugstores) and Fresh Umbrian Clay Freshface Foundation SPF 20 ($42, sephora.com).

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Pimple Problem: Breakouts at That Time of the Month

Clear Fix: Estrogen, a natural oil suppressant, plummets just before the start of your period, explains Howard Murad, MD, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and a FITNESS advisory board member. Head off the oil overload with a scrub. "The week before your period, use one with salicylic acid every other day," says Jillian Wright, owner of Glow Skin Spa in New York City.

What to Use: Buff with Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Pore Refining Scrub ($9.99, burtsbees.com) or St. Ives Blemish & Blackhead Control Apricot Scrub ($3.99, drugstores).

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Pimple Problem: A Deep, Cystlike Blemish

Clear Fix: Woke up with a whopper? Apply a warm compress to help drain it, then follow with a spot treatment. For a two-pronged attack, use bacteria-killing benzoyl peroxide in the morning and oil-dissolving salicylic acid at night, Dr. Graf recommends. Your skin should be clearer in about three days.

What to Use: Fast-acting finds: Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. Serum Gel, $70, obagi.com, and DDF Acne Control Treatment, $42, sephora.com. DIY devices such as the Zeno Mini ($89, myzeno.com) may be even speedier. The heated tip, applied directly to the pimple, "kills the bacteria and attracts 'fighter cells' to destroy it," Dr. Fusco says. The product lived up to its promise in a FITNESS test: "It gets rid of any pimple -- especially cystic ones -- in one or two days," says Beauty Club member Carisa Tierney of Lincroft, New Jersey.

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Pimple Problem: Shiny Skin by Lunchtime

Clear Fix: Oil levels spike at 11 a.m. every day, explains Laura Goodman, a senior scientist for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. Shine may be worse if you're in your 30s, when "oil-pumping hormones peak," Goodman says. Premakeup, apply a clay mask or mix a dollop with your face wash, says Jessica Liebeskind, a New York City makeup artist. Clay clarifies pores and reduces oil production.

What to Use: Try Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque, $22.50, kiehls.com, plus ANSR: PREP Exfoliating Cleanser, $22, ansr.com.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2009.

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