It’s all fun and games until it happens to you. This could easily be said about acne and other skin challenges that people with problematic skin deal with every day. While for some acne may be just a mild annoyance, for others it can become debilitating and cause monstrous self-esteem issues and severe emotional distress. While certain skin issues need professional help and prescription products, there are certain steps that can be beneficial if you’re struggling with blemishes, acne scars, oily skin, etc.
1. Wash your face well
Washing your face is extremely important if you have acne-prone skin. You don’t want to strip your skin completely, but you still want to remove the dead skin cells, excess oil, sweat and all the other impurities that clog the pores.
If you wear makeup and/or sunscreen (and you should wear sunscreen all year round) – double cleanse. Use micellar water or some sort of hydrophilic oil to remove your makeup/sunscreen and then use a water-based cleanser, preferably one that can offer you gentle exfoliation with actives that are proven to be helpful for acne-prone skin. A couple of such actives are glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
Glycolic acid is an AHA that is both gentle and effective and is admired by scientists and consumers alike for its ability to aid in successful exfoliation and skin renewal. Salicylic acid is a powerful BHA that is derived from white willow bark. It fights inflammation and creates inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow and multiply.
Both acids can be found in various cleansers that differ in the combinations of the acids used in the formulas and their percentage. People with sensitive skin may need more gentle cleansers while combination or oily skin-owners might benefit from stronger products. Sometimes choosing the right cleanser may take some time but don’t give up – you will find your product.
2. Choose a great serum and/or moisturizer and take the layering down a notch
Your skin knows how to deal with inflammation, it just needs a little bit of help to get back on track and the right serum/moisturizer can be a game-changer in this area. When it comes to battling blemishes, acne and clogged pores, tackling the root causes is the key but it’s also extremely important to keep the skin deeply hydrated since drying it out completely may cause your skin to go into sebum overproduction mode and that is definitely not a desirable effect.
The all-time MVPs of hydration are glycerin, urea, hyaluronic acid, certain plant oils, shea butter. Yet, when it comes to acne-prone skin, oils and shea butter are the type of ingredients you should be cautious about, while glycerin and hyaluronic acid are usually acne-safe.
When it comes to specific anti-acne ingredients that you should look for in serums, opt for AHAs, such as aforementioned salicylic acid (or willow bark extract that contains salicin), lactic acid, BHAs, and PHAs.
Also, do not forget retinol. While it is a very strong ingredient that your skin might take some time to get used, it’s also very potent and intensely backed by science. Retinol aids in cell turnover, plus, it can penetrate deep enough to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Both of these compounds not only help to fight active acne but also aid in reducing acne scarring. Plus, retinol is a great antioxidant.
When it comes to antioxidants, another great one is niacinamide that is a marvelous ingredient for sebum control. Since sebum overproduction is one of the root causes of acne, getting it under control is crucial. Niacinamide also fights inflammation and helps with hyperpigmentation which can often occur after battling acne for a while.
Since many anti-acne ingredients are very potent, be very careful with layering them or mixing any two together. When it comes to problematic skin, less is most definitely more.
3. SPF… again? Yes.
There’s a great commencement speech by the famous director Baz Luhrmann floating all over the internet and it’s called “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen”. It starts with this line: “If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.“ We hear you, Mr. Luhrmann.
We fully understand that you might be tired of hearing that even the most elaborate skincare routine can be useless without great sun protection? Well, you’re going to have to hear it one more time because it is true. SPF products do not only help you avoid skin cancer, they also aid in avoiding UV-induced inflammation and oxidative stress, not to mention photodamage that causes the skin to age faster.
Also, most of the anti-acne ingredients found in skincare can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, therefore protection is crucial. It’s been scientifically proven that SPF creams and lotions are the best way to protect yourself from UV radiation. They beat sprays, powders, etc. We would also like to recommend using a mineral sunscreen since mineral filters are effective against blue light that we are surrounded by in our world that is full of screens. Yet, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen and the best sunscreen is the sunscreen you’re going to use regularly.
4. Know what to add but also know what to get rid of
1. Say a big confident ‘NO’ to abrasive scrubs;
2. Different ingredients can be irritating to different people but it’s better to avoid the things that irritate most skins: the ‘bad’ alcohols (Denatured alcohol, ethanol, methanol, etc.), perfume, intense essential oils such as lavender, citrus, etc.;
3. Avoid rinsing your face with very cold or very hot water. Lukewarm water is a trustworthy friend;
4. Bar soap. No matter what TikTok says, bar soap is not something you should use for your face since it can be very stripping and drying;
5. Physical scrubbing tools, such as scrub mittens, loofahs, etc..
Having a problematic skin may be very annoying and maintaining its optimal state may be something that you’ll have to keep in mind even after you get rid of the worst symptoms, yet do not get discouraged – there are ways to deal with your skin issues and you will find what works for you. And while you’re at it, remember – spots and breakouts do not define. You are beautiful.