SKIN SERIES | A Skincare Routine for Acne (2019 Update!)
I originally titled this post a “A Basic Skincare Routine for Acne,” but given that it includes a few steps, I figured many of you might balk at my use of the word “basic.” Then again many of you following a multi-step routine might wonder why there aren’t more treatments, essences, etc. So consider this the skincare routine that has most dramatically helped my own acne-prone skin and we’ll leave it at that.
I want to preface this routine and my recommended products with some general advice. For starters, remember that everyone’s skin is different. What works for me might wreak havoc on your skin and visa versa. That being said, I used to be someone that thought if something was good for me, then more must mean better. This applied to everything from spinach to fish oil to exfoliation. I urge you not to follow this philosophy. Especially when it comes to your skincare. Here’s why - acne prone skin tends to be sensitive and easily irritated. It may not seem that way on the oily surface, but trust me when I tell you that less really, really is more. Let’s use my skin as an example and talk about something as simple as hot cloth cleansing. I found a clay and honey-based cleanser that I love and that works really well for my skin, but recently I stumbled upon a number of articles about the benefits of hot cloth / balm cleansing as a first step in your nighttime skincare routine. This was not new to me. And I’ve tried it before with no success. But I was lured back in. Within a few nights of using a washcloth on my skin, I noticed little red bumps next to my nose and on my cheeks. I used to assume those were simply new breakouts, but this time I did a little experiment and stopped the hot cloth cleansing, resuming my simple one-step cleansing ritual. Lo and behold, the bumps disappeared within a day or two. In the past, I would have persevered with the hot cloth / balm cleansing because two cleansers has to be better than one right? Now I recognize irritation when I see it. And most of the time it’s not acne, it’s irritation.
In that same vein, don’t mess with your skin too much. Don’t pile on the masks and spot treatments. If you like masking, once or maybe twice a week is enough. Remember what I said about acne prone skin being sensitive skin. Treat it as such.
Additionally, remember to give your skincare time to work. The biggest mistake I see those with acne making (myself definitely, definitely included) is constantly rotating and trying new products. Changing products when you don’t see results overnight or when a new breakout pops up sets you up for failure and frustration. Your products are only one aspect of your clear skin journey. They are not an end in and of themselves. They are not a “cure.” They are a supplement that will help you achieve your healthiest skin. Not perfect skin, healthy skin. And there is science to support the use of skincare. But you don’t have to use all the skincare. The basics are fine - cleanse, treat, hydrate, protect (and some of these steps can be combined!)
Finally, remember that cyclical hormonal changes are normal. They are not a sign of a hormonal imbalance. So a few breakouts here and there does not necessitate an entirely new diet or skincare routine or suggest in any way that you are doing something wrong. As human beings we are primed to want a quick fix, pill, cure, etc. for all of our problems. It’s just not that simple. We are complex creatures that are constantly changing.
Without further ado, I give you “A Skincare Routine for Acne” (with a few variations to accommodate different needs). While I think this skincare routine can work for basically everyone, it does include gentle daily exfoliation that might not be appropriate for super sensitive or very dry skin types.
Oiler Skin Types
Acure Incredibly Clear Cleansing Stick
Dry Skin Types
Allies of Skin Clay & Manuka Honey Cleanser
Super Sensitive Skin Types
Graydon Face Foam
Tone (optional, but I love this step)
Peach & Lily The Good Acids Pore Toner - I tried countless “acid” toners and always ended up with red, bumpy cheeks after a few days of use. A number of brands stated this was normal and was all part of the adjustment period, but that didn’t sit right with me. I wanted a toner that I could use morning and night, in addition to the other exfoliating products in my routine. This is THE ONE. With only 1% glycolic acid, it never burns or stings and actually leaves my skin hydrated! (I’m intrigued by Pixi Glow Tonic and may try that next if you are looking for a lower cost item that you can find at Target!)
For All Skin Types (especially those dealing with hyperpigmentation)
Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35% Collagen Rebuilding Serum
If Hydration is Your Main Concern
Allies of Skin Triple Hyaluronic Antioxidant Hydration Serum
Marie Veronique Barrier Restore Serum
Kypris Antioxidant Dew
If Controlling Oiliness/Excess Sebum is Your Main Concern
Marie Veronique Treatment Serum
Heart of Gold Mykonos Clearing Serum
If Redness/Sensitivity is Your Main Concern
Marie Veronique Soothing B3 Serum
Allies of Skin Molecular Multi-Nutrient Day Cream
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
Heart of Gold Northern Lights (oil)
Marie Veronique Treatment Oil
Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil
I actually like to combine a few drops of oil into a cream-based moisturizer (I’m currently mixing the Heart of Gold Northern Lights oil with the Allies of Skin Multi-Nutrient Day Cream and it’s pure magic!), but you can absolutely use one or the other.
Suntegrity 5-in-1 Face Sunscreen
Josh Rosebrook Tinted Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30
Coola Sun Silk Drops
These are hydrating enough that if you don’t have particularly dry skin, you can skip the hydrate step entirely and jump straight to protect!
Simply use the same cleanser as in the morning. Recently I’ve been combining mine with the Foreo Luna 2 for Sensitive Skin at night for a deeper clean (which I’ve been absolutely loving), but no gadgets are necessary here. If you wear makeup, you might consider using a makeup remover like this one as a first step.
Again, use the same toner as in the morning.
Allies of Skin Mandelic Night Serum followed by Allies of Skin Retinal + Peptides Overnight Mask
Marie Veronique Intensive Repair Serum followed by Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum
Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum and Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream (alternate nights with these)
I have found great success combining a gentle chemical exfoliant with a gentle retinol for this step. If you choose to use more potent products then either alternate nights or use your chemical exfoliant for 3 nights and then your retinol for 4 nights. For example, Wednesday through Saturday, I use the Allies of Skin Mandelic Night Serum followed by Allies of Skin Retinal + Peptides Overnight Mask and Sunday through Tuesday, I use the Allies of Skin Bright Future Sleeping Facial (a more potent acid exfoliator + retinal in one). If you prefer an entirely botanical option I recommend trying Kypris Moonlight Catalyst for this step.
Hydrate (necessary only if you have dry skin or crave extra hydration)
For All Skin Types (especially those dealing with hyperpigmentation)
Truth Treatments Transdermal C Balm
For Very Dry Skin that Tolerates Shea Butter
Heart of Gold Moon River Renewal Balm
For Oilier Skin that Craves Extra Hydration
Apply one of the oils mentioned in the morning lineup.
I’ll close with the caveat that this combo of products is what I’ve had the most success using. My skin glows and the congestion that I just could not get a handle on is gone. It took a lot of trial and error and a cabinet full of products that I’ll never use again, but I’m finally very, very happy with my skincare routine! Remember, give new products time to work. This is key. Cheers to clear, comfy skin!
The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.