Daily Care Routines for Acne-Prone Skin

A good daily skin care routine is important for everyone, but especially so when you're prone to acne. These six steps will help you create happy, healthy skin and control breakouts, too.

Young woman cleansing her face.
Photo: Michael H / DigitalVision / Getty Images

The backbone of your skin care routine has to be good cleansing. Thorough cleansing keeps the skin free of excess oil, dirt, sweat, and makeup, and leaves a nice, clean base for your acne treatment products.

But good cleansing goes beyond just soap and water.  First, you have to start off with the right cleanser for your skin—nothing too harsh or drying. (Antibacterial soaps aren't a good choice for just this reason.)

For most people, a twice-daily cleansing is the goal. Don't forget to wash your face before bed.

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In order to fight acne, you need to hit it where it starts: in the pore.  Exfoliation is how you can do this.

Regular exfoliation helps to keep the pores free of excess skin cells and oil. Exfoliation removes dead skin cell buildup, reduces the formation of comedones, and helps smooth and soften the skin.

Grainy face and body scrubs immediately come to mind, but they might not be the best exfoliating products for acne-prone skin. Scrubs can irritate the skin if you're not using them gently.

You might not need a separate exfoliating product, though. Many acne treatment products, both over-the-counter and prescription, have exfoliating properties already.

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Toners and astringents are used after cleansing, to leave your skin feeling fresh. Astringents are ​specially designed to remove extra oil from the skin. Some also contain blemish-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid.

But these aren't a necessary part of your daily skin care routine. Deciding to use an astringent, or not, depends on many factors.

If your skin is sensitive, dry, or irritated from your acne treatments, toners and astringents may do more harm than good.

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Many people with oily skin steer clear of moisturizers. But moisturizing is a good thing, even if you're acne-prone.

A good, oil-free moisturizer won't trigger breakouts, but will help ease dryness, flakiness, and peeling. And, let's be real, acne treatments can completely dry out your skin!

The trick is choosing the right moisturizer for your blemish-prone skin.  One that is labeled oil-free and noncomedogenic is your best bet.

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Protect Your Skin from the Sun, Always

Last but certainly not least, your skin needs to be protected from the sun. Sunscreen prevents more than just sunburn; it reduces your chance of developing premature lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer.

There are plenty of good sunscreens out there today that aren't heavy or greasy, and won't clog your pores and make acne worse. Since many acne medications make your skin more sensitive to the sun, wearing sunscreen daily is extra important for good skin health.

And don't think sunscreen is just for summertime skin care.  Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen year-round for the best protection. That means your wintertime skin care routine should include sunscreen too!

Your skin care regimen doesn't have to take a lot of time, just a few minutes twice a day. To really clear up acne, though, good skin care is just one piece of the puzzle.

Controlling acne relies on a two-pronged approach: a consistent daily skin care routine plus effective acne treatment medications.

Acne medications help clear up existing breakouts while keeping new blemishes from forming. Over-the-counter acne treatments can help with milder forms of acne. Stubborn cases will need a prescription acne medication.

Your dermatologist can get you the right acne treatment for your skin, and help you create the right skin care regimen for you.

Sources:

"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5): 945-73.

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