Dealing with acne-prone skin can be frustrating, and for most of us, there’s no overnight fix for clear skin. But it is possible to find a skincare routine that reduces the number of breakouts and minimizes the appearance of blemishes.
Understand different types of acne
There are several different types of acne, and understanding what kind you're experiencing will give you a better idea of how to treat it.
- Blackheads: This is when the hair follicle has become clogged usually with dead skin cells and excess oil, which oxidizes to appear black.
- Whiteheads: Dead skin cells, oil, and dirt clog up your pores and form a white lump under the surface.
- Pustules: These are infected pores that look yellow in color.
- Papules: Smaller red spots that are caused by bacteria underneath the surface of the skin.
- Cystic: Larger, swollen lumps underneath the skin that are inflamed and often painful.
- Hormonal: This is usually identifiable as papules and cysts around the mouth, chin, and jawline.
Know your skin type
It's also important to know what type of skin you have when choosing skincare products so that you don't start using ones that make your skin worse.
- Dry skin: Your skin looks dull and dry, and you might have flakey skin in places. Dead skin cells can end up clogging your pores so it's important to exfoliate and moisturize.
- Oily skin: If your skin gets shinier throughout the day then you have oily skin, which can cause acne. Stick to products that are lighter and oil-free, but remember that it's still important to moisturize regularly, and don't try to dry your skin out.
- Combination skin: Your skin is both dry and oily in different places, or changes depending on the season — you should use skincare products designed for combination skin or switch your skincare products in summer and winter.
Choose treatments with acne-fighting ingredients
A lot of acne treatments promise clear skin and quick results, but for an effective anti-acne skincare routine there are a few key ingredients you should look for in products:
- Salicylic acid: This helps to remove dead skin cells and reduce inflammation and is a good treatment for whiteheads and blackheads, but will have some effect on all acne.
- Benzoyl peroxide: This kills the bacteria that causes acne so helps prevent further outbreaks. It can also reduce oil on the skin and clear away dead skin cells.
- Retinoids: These also help remove the build-up of dead skin cells that can block your pores and help to prevent inflammation from acne.
You'll find these ingredients in a lot of anti-acne over-the-counter products, but if you find that they don't work well enough then you might need to consider prescription treatments.
For example, Duac gel contains higher strengths of benzoyl peroxide, and Clindamycin, which stops bacteria from reproducing. However, as you can read about in this guide from The Independent Pharmacy, it's important to understand Duac gel side effects such as dryness and peeling skin, so that you can be careful using it and identify if any problems arise.
Establish a morning and evening routine
Finding an effective anti-acne skincare routine is going to be different for each individual, however, there are a few steps that you should try to follow using products appropriate for your skin type:
- Cleanser: Use a suitable cleanser so that you start the day with clean skin.
- Toner: This is a good step for oily skin as toners will help remove excess oil.
- Moisturizer: Whatever skin type you have moisturizing is an important step in keeping skin hydrated and clear. This guide from Look Fantastic outlines the best moisturizers to use for different skin types.
- Sunscreen: It’s especially important to protect your skin against harmful UV rays, as many acne treatments will increase sensitivity to sunlight. If you use a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide it can actually help your acne as well.
- Makeup: If you want to wear makeup then choose lighter products that won't block your pores as much. There are many make-up ranges designed for blemished skin that contain ingredients to tackle acne — read about some of the best options in the article from Cosmetify.
- Make-up remover: If you're wearing makeup then the most important thing for your skin is removing it properly at the end of the day. Choose a gentle face wash or micellar water that's not going to irritate your face.
- Cleanser: This will help to remove any last traces of makeup or dirt from your skin.
- Spot treatment: Apply any spot treatments at the end of the day so that they can properly soak into your clean skin and work overnight.
- Moisturize: This is particularly important if any of your spot treatments are drying out your skin.
To build an effective anti-acne skincare routine you need to understand the type of acne you have as well as your skin type. You then need to invest in products with acne-fighting ingredients and find the products that work for you.
It's important to find and stick with a good routine, there are no quick fixes and you may need to use products for a month or two before you see significant results.