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Skincare Routine for Acne
Acne is also a condition that isn’t just limited to teenagers going through intense hormonal changes. It can affect anyone regardless of age, skin type, or gender. The truth is, everyone who has lived on this green earth has undergone acne at some point in their lives. Okay, maybe not everyone, but I don’t want to think about people who just never seem to get acne because first of all, how dare they.
But if you think about it, the silver lining is that acne is such a common problem that so many studies have been dedicated to finding solutions for it over the years. With all that time spent, there’s bound to be a cure for even the most stubborn kinds of acne! So if you’re someone who still hasn’t found the right treatment for their acne or crafted the perfect skincare routine for acne-prone skin, then don’t worry. Here, we’ll give you the basics on how to build and perfect your skincare routine if you have acne-prone skin.
Why Do I Get Acne Even if I Have Dry Skin?
Oily skin and acne are usually linked, since excess oil and sebum is one of the biggest contributors to breakouts. Acne is formed when the skin’s cell turnover rate, or the rate at which dead skin is shed from the face, is slower than usual. People with oily and acne-prone skin find it hard to shed away all that dead skin and oil that is built up.
But anyone can get acne, even if they don’t have oily skin. Normal to dry skin types can experience acne for many reasons. It could be because of a poor skincare routine, skincare products and makeup that are hard to wash off and stay in the skin, or a poor skincare routine that causes irritation.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Yoram Harth, working out your skin type is easy. Just wash your face with a mild soap (preferably a baby soap) then gently pat it dry without applying any skincare products. Wait a few hours before taking a good look at your skin. Does it look shiny? Then you have oily skin! Does it look dry, red, or flaky? Then your skin may be dry.
But skin types are complicated, and your face may look shiny on the forehead, nose, and chin, but dry on the cheeks. This is called having combination skin. If there are no visible issues and your skin looks healthy and glowing, then you have normal skin. But again, don’t think your skin type will save you from having acne. “The vast majority of people have had acne once in their lifetimes,” says dermatologist Dr. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin.
Find Out What Type of Acne You Have
Skincare experts say that one of the simplest ways to split acne is into broad types: noninflammatory and inflammatory.
Noninflammatory acne refers to clogged pores that appear as blackheads or whiteheads.
Noninflammatory acne is the mildest form of acne, and it’s not hard to spot. Blackheads are small, dark bumps that appear flat on your skin and are caused by clogged hair follicles. Whiteheads, on the other hand, are small skin-colored bumps.
Both of these forms of acne are created when dead skin cells and oil start to collect on the skin follicle’s opening. These dirt, dead skin cells, and oil will form a bump called a comedo. If the skin over the comedo stays closed, that’s when you’ll see a whitehead. Sometimes the skin over the comedo stays open, and all that buildup mixed with exposure to air and pollutants causes it to look black.
In this case, anything that is red or looks stronger and is more painful is classified as inflammatory acne, and it ranges from pustules and papules, to more severe and painful acne such as nodules and cysts. If you’re seeing small reddish bumps on your skin, then they’re probably papules, and after a while you’ll see that these bumps contain a pus-like substance. That’s when they turn into pustules.
Another type of acne you might have experienced is the deep kind that feels like it’s underneath your skin. These ones are my personal enemy — as if it wasn’t enough that they hurt like crazy, they’re also gigantic.
The Perfect Skincare Routine for Acne-prone Skin
We can’t recommend a clear-cut skincare routine for everyone with acne, because everyone’s skin is different. Even those with the same skin types might not have the same routine because there are a ton of factors that affect what happens beneath and on the surface of our face.
What we can give is a guide for your routine, and from here, you can experiment, see what works for you and what doesn’t. We give you quick morning routine and night routine tips so your whole day is covered, as well as recommend a few skincare products with specific ingredients that are dermatologist advised and will keep your pores oil-free daily.
Read on to find out our day and night skincare routine guide for acne.
Step 1: Look for a Gentle Cleanser
If you’ve experienced acne and breakouts way before beauty or skincare influencers became popular, you’ve probably based your cleanser purchase off of a commercial you saw on TV. I remember years ago when the most popular products on TV were these alcohol-laden, super strong cleansers (looking at you, Eskinol) that had harsh cleansing formulas. What we’re here to tell you is that any skincare product with too much alcohol is NOT good for you! In fact, those products probably did the opposite of clear your skin or keep it oil-free, and instead kept your pores clogged and damaged. Huge no-no.
What you should opt for instead is a gentle cleanser that contains mild ingredients and won’t strip your face of its hydration. It might feel great to wash your face and remove all that grease with a strong cleanser because it makes your skin feel clean, but stripping your skin can lead it to produce more oil to compensate for the lack of hydration. This can lead to pimples, breakouts, clogged pores — everything we’re trying to avoid in the first place.
So stay away from those harsh products and look for a mild face wash instead to cleanse your skin twice daily. Look for a hydrating cleansing formula, as a hydrating cleansing formula will keep you feeling fresh and oil-free.
Our tip: before purchasing a cleanser, look for ingredients like active salicylic acid — this ingredient is your best friend. Salicylic acid is an active acid that will chemically melt away dirt and oil from inside your skin cells, as long as you make sure the cleanser is mildly formulated.
Another ingredient that’s popular is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide (BP) is hailed as the ‘gold standard’ of acne treatment today. We’ll get more into these ingredients in the next part of this skincare routine for acne.
To clean the face, use only your fingertips or a very, very soft washcloth. Do not scrub your skin aggressively as this won’t make it clear and might even exacerbate your problems. If you use makeup or are exposed to a lot of dirt and pollutants throughout the day, you can double cleanse with a gentle oil cleanser, then a gentle foaming or water-based face wash.
If you have dry and acne-prone skin, you can opt for a cream-based salicylic acid cleanser — it can clear your skin’s clogged pores and clear pimples without removing all the moisture.
Step 2: Find the Right Treatment(s)
Treatments are the part of your skincare routine that goes after the cleanser and specifically target your acne and breakouts. These products are incredibly vital to your routine, and you usually apply them at night. Acne treatments are a critical part of handling acne and breakouts, and they’re usually composed of serums, a toner, solutions, exfoliating products, and masks. These are composed of acne-fighting ingredients like niacinamide, beta hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid), alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid), vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and many other products that you’ve probably heard of.
These treatments can remove excess oil and sebum that get stuck in your pores. As with every skincare product, the right one will depend on multiple factors, but these products generally have a formula that’s safe to use for most skin types. Treatment isn’t usually used daily, and you can use more than one kind of product for acne treatment as long as you apply them on separate days of the week.
Like we said earlier, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are great and effective acne treatments. A small warning about benzoyl peroxide, though: it’s a wonderful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, but because of those properties, it also doubles as a powerful oxidizing agent that could harm healthy surrounding skin cells over time. We recommend seeking out this ingredient if nothing else is working, and if you do use it and like it, pair it with an antioxidant serum, an uber-hydrating moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Another popular treatment product is a niacinamide serum, which is a treatment that’s great for calming inflammation, redness, and reducing acne marks. This also serves as a great hydrating serum for your day and night, and works well for any skin types, including sensitive skin. Just get a few drops to apply on your face in the morning after cleansing and at night after the same step.
Retinol is another well-known ingredient that can be used to treat acne, and it’s a popular product because it’s so effective. This can be found in a toner form. However, this product is a little trickier to use, as the wrong application and frequency of use may lead to irritation and burning. Talk to a dermatologist to find out if retinol is a good option for you and your skin needs.
Step 3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
If you have oily skin, you might have doubts about using a moisturizer. At first glance, using a moisturizer doesn’t seem to help if you already feel greasy and oily the whole day. That’s a common misconception, especially if you’re using acne medication which can easily dry out the skin. Your skin needs hydration and moisture, and keeping it plump and hydrated makes it less likely to overproduce oil and sebum. In order to avoid dry, flaky skin from your acne treatment, you can use a light oil-free moisturizer twice daily — the right moisturizer won’t leave your skin feeling slick. A light moisturizer will keep your skin feeling fresh all day.
We recommend getting a moisturizing gel or lotion, which are usually lighter than creams. As long as your moisturizer is oil-free and non-comedogenic, you’re good to go.
Step 4. Sun Protection
This step isn’t necessary for your night skin care routine, but if you’re doing your morning routine, then sunscreen is absolutely vital to protect you from sun damage.
Because the ingredients in your acne treatment are usually pretty sensitizing (especially exfoliating acids, retinol, etc.), and make your skin a lot more sensitive to the sun’s negative effects, you’d want to double up on sun protection daily.
The next time you go to your local beauty bar, scrounge around for a broad spectrum SPF 30-50 sunscreen. We recommend getting one that’s at least 50 SPF. Make sure to look for one that’s gentle and also non-comedogenic, and is also specifically made for your face as those tend to be less greasy and fragrance-filled than sunscreens for the body. For acne-prone skin, we recommend getting a broad-spectrum sunscreen in order to help protect your skin from both types of harmful UV light (UVB and UVA).
As we said, there is no clear cut skincare routine for acne, but these four components — gentle cleanser, treatment, moisturizer, and sunscreen — should be the basis of your skincare ritual.
If you can, seek the help of a dermatologist, because this condition is incredibly tricky to try to relieve on your own. At the end of the day, remember that acne is perfectly normal!
I know it’s hard to love your skin on days like this, but know that whatever your skin’s condition is doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Love your skin enough to give it time to heal, and gift it with only the best products (as in, not the products that claim to work overnight). Skincare and beauty is a journey, and we’re with you along the way!
Wondering what your night skincare routine should be? Read our guide here.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.