It could be whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, or cysts. Honestly, if you’re trying to clear up your skin, you may not care about the kind of acne you have. What you’re looking for is a blemish-free reflection in the mirror. Now, you just need a plan of attack.
Before you target your zits for a good squeeze-fest, stop for a few minutes and reconsider. What you really need is a good skincare routine. A regimen that is kind to your skin and helps it heal. Don’t worry, the right routine doesn’t mean you have to use a half-dozen products. It’s easier than that — just read below.
1. Wash Your Face (Don’t Scrub)
Chances are you’re beyond frustrated with your irritated skin. It can be tempting to simply try to scrub your pimples away. Don’t do it. The harder you scrub, the more inflamed your skin gets, and that means more breakouts and redness. This is the opposite of your goal.
Instead, choose a gentle foaming cleanser to start the day. Non-medicated ones work well, but ones that contain salicylic acid will help remove pore-clogging dead skin cells. Ditch the rough washcloths or hand mitts when you wash your face. Warm (not hot!) water with a soft cotton pad or even your bare hands is enough to clean your skin.
2. Use Acne Medication
Once you’ve cleaned your skin and patted it dry with a fluffy towel, it’s time to go on the attack. Safely, that is. Applying (or ingesting) any acne treatment you’ve been prescribed is your next zit-zapping step. For topical applications, be sure to read the directions carefully and cover all your affected skin.
If you haven’t yet, talk with a healthcare provider about the best medication for your skin and acne type. There are several topical products, such as retinoid creams, that will unclog your pores. If bacteria is the culprit behind your acne, your doctor may recommend antibiotics. Birth control is another option if hormones are prompting your pimples.
When it comes to your skin, oil can put you in a Catch-22 situation. Too much oil clogs your pores and brews acne. Overly dry skin, though, triggers your body to kick up its oil production, causing another breakout. So what do you do?
No, it’s not a trick question — the answer is you reach for an oil-free moisturizer after washing your face. These products balance and control your oil production. Plus, they can soothe your skin when acne medication dries you out and makes your skin flaky. Look for products that won’t clog your pores (non-comedogenic) and that contain aloe and hyaluronic acid.
4. Put on Sunscreen
Yes, put some sun-blocking lotion on even if you’re not headed to the beach or the ballpark for the day. Several types of acne medications can set you up for a sunburn. So sunscreen is a critical part of protecting your skin from potential UV damage. If acne outbreaks come easy for you, though, you’ll need to be careful about which product you choose.
It’s best to choose a sunscreen that’s non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and oil-free. Look for one that contains zinc or titanium since those minerals are great UV-blockers. Products that also contain the anti-inflammatory ingredient niacinamide can help reduce any redness you might have. Whatever you choose, be sure your sunscreen is at least SPF 30, and wear it every day.
5. Wash Your Face — Again
Think about what you do all day. You walk around, get sweaty and dusty, and then touch your face with dirty hands. Cleaning your face again at night is a must if you want to prevent the pimple parade. This second wash is different — you want something to cut through the gunk that’s collected on your face all day.
A good gel-based cleanser that contains salicylic acid can help break down all the makeup and dirt on your face. Using a toner clears away any remaining residue on your outer layer. It also balances your skin’s pH level to boost the effectiveness of other skin products. Try a toner with alpha hydroxy acid if you have dry skin and beta hydroxy acid for oily skin.
Yes, the first point on this list warned you not to scrub your skin. That’s correct — there’s no need to scrub at your face every day. Exfoliating a couple of times a week at night, however, is a great idea. Even sensitive skin can handle the removal of dead skin cells when you do it properly.
To minimize breakouts, try a clay mask. They basically work like an adhesive, peeling off old skin cells that clog your pores. Look for a product with sea mud, charcoal, or kaolin. Mix the dry clay and water, apply it to your face, and let it dry for 12-15 minutes. Use your hands and warm water to rinse it (and those dead cells) away. Then, moisturize again.
Zits can pop up overnight. But making them disappear may take a few days, so be patient. Remember that life is full of dirt, oil, sweat, and stress. When it comes to acne, you’re never fully in the clear, but you can set your skin up for success. If you invest in a skincare routine — and stick with it — your reflection in the mirror will soon be clearer.