- A skin care routine may not always get rid of your acne, but it can help you manage it
- Maintaining a daily skin care routine can improve the effectiveness of your acne treatments and medications
- You should tailor your daily routine to your skin type
Is Skin Care Effective for Treating Acne?
An effective skin care routine is necessary for good skin and can actually help with certain types of acne. It may successfully treat mild-to-moderate inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne, but not so much severe acne or acne that is triggered by hormones, stress, or dietary habits.
A skin care routine may be beneficial for the former because they are caused by factors that can be addressed on the skin’s surface level. The latter types (severe acne and hormone, stress, or diet-triggered acne), however, typically require treatment with in-office procedures, oral medication, or lifestyle changes. In reality, It is usually not clear cut. People can have acne that’s caused or triggered by a myriad of factors.
There are many skin care products available that are formulated to treat and manage mild to moderate acne. And so a daily skin care routine can help get your acne under control.
Finally, not having a stable skin care routine or changing products frequently can worsen your acne by inflaming and irritating your skin.
6 Step Skin Care Routine for Acne
A skin care routine for acne should be used daily. However, depending on your skin type, some steps may only be needed every other day or once or twice a week.
Your routine will keep your skin clear of excess oil and ensure that your pores remain unclogged—reducing the viability of acne-causing bacteria. It can also reduce inflammation as well as speed-up and optimize your skin’s healing process, lowering your chances of being left with hyperpigmentation acne scars.
For severe acne, a good skin care routine can complement the acne medications your dermatologist may have put you on.
If you are using topical or oral medication prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist, it is essential that you run your skincare routine by them. This prevents negative interactions between the products in your routine and your medications. And, just as important, it will ensure that your dermatologist’s treatment protocol is as effective as possible.
Cleansing should be the very first step in any skin care routine for acne. Throughout the day, and even when you’re asleep, your skin picks up dirt and bacteria from your hands, hair, and pollutants in the environment. Cleansing removes all of these things from your skin’s surface.
When choosing a cleanser, you should look out for ingredients proven to treat and prevent acne safely. The major ones are benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, retinoids, and salicylic acid. Some cleansers also market themselves as acne-specific and may be worth investing in.
Avoid cleansers and face washes with artificial fragrances and colorings because they can irritate and exacerbate your acne.
You can apply cleansers to your skin using your clean fingers. You can also use cleansing sponges and pads. However, you should ensure that they are not abrasive to avoid inflaming your acne further.
Toners are used to clear the skin of dirt, oil, and makeup residue that might have been missed during the cleansing stage. Toning is an optional step.
Some toners are also formulated to hydrate the skin and/or fade acne scars. They’re typically very thin liquids applied to the skin with cotton pads. A toner that contains acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide will likely be more effective than other kinds.
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be drying to the skin, so it’s important not to use too many skin care products that have them in it. Or at the very least, they should not be in particularly high concentrations in the products. Make sure your toner has dried completely before you move onto the next step
Dead skin cells clogging pores contributes significantly to the development of acne. Exfoliants help to prevent breakouts by manually sloughing off dead skin cells from your skin’s surface before they have a chance to clog your pores and aid inflammation.
However, since one of the keys to treating acne successfully is to avoid irritation and inflammation, over-exfoliation should be avoided. This means that exfoliation should probably not be a daily step in your skin care routine for acne. Avoid physical exfoliants like scrubs. Instead, opt for chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. These chemical exfoliants can be applied with cotton pads.
This step should be done right after cleansing and toning. Some exfoliating products are meant to be washed off, while others are gels, lotions, or liquids that are intended to be left on. To prevent your skin from developing phot-sensitivity, It is advisable to only use chemical exfoliants at night.
If you have severe acne, make sure to check with your dermatologist before you start using any chemical exfoliant.
Apply topical medications
Apply your acne medication to your face with very clean hands. This topical medication may be the one(s) prescribed to you by your dermatologist or an OTC treatment.
Depending on the directions for use given to you by your dermatologist or written on the label, the product may be for use all over your face, or it may be a spot treatment.
Spot treatments are used to target specific breakouts (individual pimples, pustules, or inflamed areas). They’re usually antiseptics, antimicrobial agents, or antibiotics. The spot treatments could be applied with your fingerprints and applied directly onto affected areas leaving out unaffected areas. Acne spot treatments typically dry out the skin, so you should not use them too liberally neither should you skip out on moisturizing after using them.
With mild acne, you can skip this step if you use a moisturizer that is also intended to fight acne.
A good moisturizer will help introduce moisture into the skin and help retain it. It can help soothe the itchiness and discomfort acne sometimes causes.
More so, acne medications and spot treatments tend to be drying, so moisturizing cannot be skipped in a skincare routine for acne. Some acne medications also impair the functioning of your skin’s surface barrier. Moisturizers can help to repair this damage, if any.
Moisturizers can come in the form of creams, lotions, serums, or gels. For this step, use clean fingers to apply your chosen moisturizer all over your face. Use the quantity that the product packaging recommends. You may eventually adjust it to amounts you feel is optimal for your skin.
Apply Sun protection
While it doesn’t exactly help to clear breakouts, using sunscreen is an essential element in a skin care routine for acne. When using topical acne treatments, oral antibiotics chemical exfoliants, your skin is at an increased risk of photosensitivity and needs to be shielded from the sun and its harmful UV rays more than ever.
Acne also sometimes leaves scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation on the skin, and sun exposure without adequate protection can darken them and slow down the healing process. Finally, sunscreen is necessary to give maximum effect to acne scar and dark spot treatments.
Cleansing, using topical medication, moisturizing, and using sunscreen are the four essential elements of any skin care routine for acne-prone skin.
Tips for Your Skin Type
The particular products you should use in your skin care routine for acne somewhat depends on your skin type. This is because some skin types respond better to some ingredients than others, and are conversely, more easily irritated by some ingredients than others.
Oily acne-prone skin
Avoid harsh cleansers and toners as they can excessively strip your skin of oil, causing your oil glands to overcompensate and produce even more oil.
Although it may not always be true, moisturizers labeled water-based, oil-free and/or non-comedogenic are less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts. This is especially important, as oily skin is the most prone to acne.
Dry acne-prone skin
If you have dry acne-prone skin, you should choose gentle, cream-based cleansers. You should also stay away from toners that are astringent as they can further dry out and inflame your skin. Finally, avoid using hot water to wash or rinse your skin, warm or cold water is preferable.
Combination acne-prone skin
Combination acne-prone skin can be tricky to cater to. You should use cleansers that are not too harsh but not too creamy either. Your moisturizers should be neither heavy or light, but somewhere in the middle.
If your oily and dry areas are clearly delineated, you can use products formulated for oily skin on the oily parts, and products for dry skin on the dry areas.
Sensitive acne-prone skin
Make sure that all your skincare products are mild and contain simple ingredients, known for their non-aggravating nature. If possible, opt to only use products that are formulated for sensitive skin.
Mature acne-prone skin
Mature skin tends to require more moisture, so you should opt for skin care products that are hydrating and contain acne-fighting ingredients.
Addressing Acne Scars in Your Routine
Your skin care routine for acne can be designed to address scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation effectively. Many skin care products contain ingredients that prevent and/or treat acne scarring. In cleansers, toners, and exfoliants, look out for ingredients like glycolic acid, retinol, kojic acid, as they’re effective at fading acne scars. In moisturizers, look out for ingredients like hydroquinone and retinoids, as they are the most effective topical ingredients for hyperpigmentation.
A daily skin care routine may help treat mild-moderate acne. Give products time to work—preferably 6-8 weeks— before switching them out. This does not apply to skin care products that cause you to experience allergic reactions, severe irritation, and pain.
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