Those creams, cleansers and gels are expensive enough on their own, and you usually have to experiment with multiple products before finding one that actually works. If you're really unlucky, you'll have to see a professional for more advanced treatment.
Thankfully, many of the most popular and effective acne treatments can be purchased with your FSA funds. Here are some of the best options.
Use a Spot Treatment
A spot treatment is a cream or gel applied directly to the pimple, designed to reduce the blemish quickly. Spot treatments are FSA-eligible.
Most people prefer to use a spot treatment while they sleep, because it can leave a small white residue on your face. In the morning, use your cleanser as normal and wash away the spot treatment. Follow the directions listed on the package.
Acne spot treatments have different active ingredients. The most common are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. You may have to experiment to see which product reduces your breakouts most effectively. Different people respond to different treatments, so you may have to try both.
Give each treatment at least a few weeks before deciding if it works. Never layer multiple spot treatments on top of each other, as it can cause serious irritation and damage to your skin.
Use a Pimple Patch to Treat Active Breakouts
Having a pimple is bad enough. Having a pimple in public? That can be downright humiliating.
If you're having an active breakout, you may be tempted to use makeup to conceal the zit. But that will only clog your pores and prolong the outbreak.
Acne patches, like the Mighty Patch Original, are clear, adhere to your pimple and are FSA-eligible. They may be slightly visible in public, but less so than most spot treatments.
Here's how they work. First, wash and dry your face and place a patch on each individual pimple. The ingredients in the patch will work to absorb the liquid in the pimple, ultimately shrinking it. Keep the patch on for at least six hours. After that time has passed, you can remove the patch, wash your face and put another on.
These patches are usually less irritating than a standard acne spot treatment and can sometimes work faster. They're available in different sizes, depending on the size of your individual pimples. Many people choose to wear these at night, as the patches are adhesive enough to stick to your face while sleeping.
Visit a Dermatologist
If you've already tried different over-the-counter remedies with no success, it may be time to visit a dermatologist. A dermatologist can prescribe you stronger topical and oral medications that may be able to clear up your acne.
This visit will be covered by your FSA, along with any medication the dermatologist prescribes.
A dermatologist can also diagnose other skin conditions that could be contributing to your acne. For example, fungal acne requires a different course of treatment than regular acne, and only a dermatologist will be able to determine which type you have.
You may need to visit a dermatologist multiple times to make sure the prescription is working. You can get a referral from your primary care doctor or through your health insurance network.
How to Treat Body Acne
If you suffer from acne on your body, you need a different approach. The skin on your body is thicker than the skin on your face, so you can use stronger products without irritation.
After you shower, use the FSA-eligible Glytone Acne Treatment Spray on your body acne. Let the spray dry before putting on clothes, which should only take a minute or so. If you prefer using pads instead of a spray, you can use the Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads on any body part experiencing acne. Both of these products have a 2% salicylic acid concentration.
You should also keep using a moisturizer on your body to prevent oil overproduction, which can lead to more breakouts. Start by using these treatments every other day to avoid drying out your skin.
Both prescription and over-the-counter acne products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's still important to use sunscreen. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or more, like the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. This is especially crucial if you're getting a lot of sunlight.
Make sure to use a facial sunscreen, which is designed not to clog your pores.
Phototherapy is the concept of using targeted light rays to kill the bacteria that causes acne. Phototherapy for acne performed at a dermatologist's office is FSA-eligible. You may need several treatments depending on the severity.
A common misconception is that you should attack acne hard, but a gentle approach is usually better. Start by using a gentle cleanser once or twice a day. Use a cream or moisturizing cleanser instead of an acne-fighting one. You should wash your face before you go to bed to remove the grime and dirt on your face.
If you have a lot of breakouts, you may think that adding a moisturizer will only make your skin greasier. But the reverse is often true.
Once you start moisturizing your skin regularly, it will respond by producing less oil. This will usually result in fewer breakouts.
What Isn't Covered by your FSA
There are many skincare services that are not FSA-eligible, even if you feel like they improve your acne. Facials, chemical peels, laser resurfacing for acne scars and microdermabrasion are not covered by your FSA, even if you have them done at your dermatologist's office. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if a service is primarily for cosmetic purposes, it probably won't be covered by your FSA.
Only acne-specific products are FSA-eligible. Regular face wash, moisturizer and toner also won't qualify, even if your dermatologist recommends them.
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Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor, she also works as a money coach helping people one-on-one at Conscious Coins. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.