If you’re looking to achieve clearer skin, our list of the best products for treating acne is of course the best place to start. However, a clear complexion depends on a variety of other factors as well, so to assist you in your journey to clearer skin we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you attain the complexion of your dreams.
Types of acne:
Now, first things first, in order to determine the best course of treatment for acne you must first identify the root of the cause. The most common types of acne are comedonal acne, inflammatory acne, cystic and hormonal acne.
- Comedonal acne ranges from mild to moderate. Comedonal acne is caused by a buildup of oil on the skin, along with old skin cells, which blocks pores and results in blackheads and whiteheads. Comedonal acne will most commonly develop in the “T zone."
- Inflammatory acne is a more severe form of acne and is caused by the area under the blackhead or whitehead becoming inflamed. Inflammatory acne will appear as red, inflamed bumps on the skin.
- Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne and develops as a result of a breakout becoming infected. This type of acne is less common, but can be very painful.
- Hormonal acne is essentially inflammatory acne caused by hormonal fluctuations that occur during the menstrual cycle. Hormonal acne will usually occur at the same time each month in the same spot every time, most commonly on the chin and cheeks.
What to look for in an acne treatment:
The most effective acne treatment will definitely vary by skin type, as well as the type of acne being treated, but regardless of skin type we recommend something with a good pH balance. Now, what does that mean to you? Believe it or not, the health of your skin is completely dependent on maintaining the right balance between acidity and alkalinity. According to Women’s Health, a slightly more acidic balance of 5.5 is the sweet spot. Too much alkalinity will result in dry, sensitive skin (sometimes even eczema), while too much acidity (though less common) will cause intense, painful breakouts. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to equalize the levels, just be sure to find a product advertised as pH balanced.
Once you narrow it down to only pH balanced products, it’s time to determine what type of acne treatment to invest in. Foaming or gel cleanser is best for oily skin, while creamier cleanser is better for dry skin. But no matter what type of skin you have you should never use bar soap, ever. It’s just too drying. Spot treatment is another option, but only if you’re looking for something to supplement your regimen. Spot treatment cannot be used to cleanse the whole face, so application is a bit more limited.
Now, let’s talk ingredients.
- Mild to moderate comedonal and inflammatory acne can be easily treated by topical creams or gels. We recommend looking for something with retinoids such as Retin-A, Differin, Renova, or Tazorac, which work to unclog pores. For those with more moderate comedonal or inflammatory acne, an oral antibiotic—doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline, and erythromycin are a few of the most common—combined with a retinoid will help to kill the bacteria clogging the pores in the first place.
- Severe inflammatory and cystic acne will require more extreme options. One of the most common treatment options for severe acne is Isotretinoin, which has the ability to clear up severe breakouts and scarring within a matter of months. Do be aware that this medication can result in a host of unwanted side effects, so we recommend talking to your doctor if you think this may be a viable option for you. Another option for clearing up severe inflammatory and cystic acne is laser or light treatment, which will reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. While there are over-the-counter light treatment products available, we highly recommend discussing this option with your doctor as well.
- Hormonal acne can usually be cleared up by an oral contraceptive. Again, we suggest talking to your doctor about the best option for you.
Creating a skincare routine:
Developing a skincare routine and sticking to it is essential to achieving clearer skin, but skin can become dry and irritated with too much washing. So while there is strong debate surrounding how many times to wash your face daily, cleansing once a day is likely fine for most people. If you wear makeup, however, you will want to always remove that before bed. Additionally, sweat can clog pores, so we recommend always washing your face after exercise as well.
To no surprise, the most effective skincare routine or regimen will vary by skin type. So below are a few pro-tips to help you achieve the most effective skincare routine for your skin type.
- Dry skin: Dry skin will respond best to anything without alcohol or fragrance. Gently wash, rinse with warm water, and pat dry. Avoid hot water as it removes natural oils from skin. Additionally, exfoliating once a week will help to clear and even out skin.
- Oily skin: First, be sure you’re using an oil-free cleanser. When washing, lather gently and rinse with plenty of warm water. Also consider using a toner or astringent after washing to remove extra oil and reduce shine.
- Normal skin: Gently wash, do not scrub, your face. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. If you’re lucky enough to have normal skin just keep your routine simple. Over washing or treating can actually result in irritation or breakouts.
- Sensitive skin: Select a very gentle cleanser, avoiding products with alcohol, soap, acid or fragrance. Instead look for calming ingredients such as aloe, chamomile, green tea, and oats. Cleanse gently, rinse with warm water, and pat—don’t rub—dry.
Additionally, something all skincare routines should include is a good moisturizer. There’s a common misconception that you should not use moisturizer if you have oily skin, but that could not be further from the truth. Failing to use moisturizer may actually dry skin out, resulting in the production of even more oil. If you have oily skin just look for something lightweight and oil-free. Apply moisturizer while skin is still damp after washing to lock in moisture all day.
Don’t forget sunscreen! Even if you use a moisturizer that contains SPF you should still be applying sunscreen anytime you spend more than 15 minutes outdoors. We recommend something with an SPF of at least 30 that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours.
Tips to clearer skin:
Now that you know what to look for in the most effective acne treatment and how to create a foolproof skincare routine, we will leave you with a few skincare tips that will help you attain clearer skin in no time.
- Start with a clean slate: If you’re washing your face with your hands be sure to wash your hands first, and then wash your face, so you’re not just transferring dirt from your hands to your skin. If you’re using a towel or washcloth, make sure to use a fresh one each time you wash your face. Washcloths can redeposit dirt onto the skin, which is why doctors often recommend just washing with your hands.
- Be gentle: While it may seem like the more you wash the cleaner your skin, it’s really important to avoid over-exfoliating. This may seem to contradict the importance of creating a skincare routine in the first place, but over-exfoliating can actually lead to more oil production. So don’t make that mistake.
- Rinse thoroughly: Be sure to rinse away cleanser completely. Leaving behind residue can dry out skin and cause irritation.
- Don’t skimp on suds: First, lather your cleanser in your hands before applying; it will help activate ingredients so they are more effective when applied to your face. Then, lather your face for 30-45 seconds, anything less than that will not be enough time to remove dirt and oil.
- Consider an exfoliate: Products that contain alpha hydroxyl and lactic acids work to remove layers of dead skin and dirt blocking your pores, restoring your skin to its healthy, natural glow. Exfoliating brushes may also help to loosen and remove dirt and makeup, cleansing deeper into your skin than your fingers or a washcloth could. Be sure to always wash before exfoliating; exfoliating in the shower is also an effective technique.
- See spot treat: Benzoyl peroxide spot treatments can be great for treating pimples as they begin to develop. However, spot treatments should always be used in combination with a cleanser and moisturizer routine. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can be very drying, so just be sure not to use a spot treatment more than once a day (or even every other day if you notice your skin becoming dry).
- Invest in a clay mask: Clay masks have the ability to deeply penetrate skin, opening pores and clearing out excess oil and bacteria. Just be sure to only use the product as directed; overusing masks may result in dry skin or irritation.
- Don’t pop: Although we’re all tempted to do it, try to avoid popping pimples. Popping can result in infections, so instead try a sulfur treatment which will reduce swelling until the pimple fully heals.
- Be proactive rather than reactive: Don’ wait until you see a breakout to treat it. Using a benzoyl peroxide face wash or applying a thin layer of spot treatment before bed will kill bacteria that could cause zits before they develop.
- Clean makeup brushes regularly: It’s super important to wash your makeup brushes regularly, as they can accumulate bacteria which can lead to breakouts. Washing makeup brushes with brush cleanser or baby shampoo will not only prevent breakouts, but will also extend the life of brushes.
- Hands off: Do your best to keep your face clean throughout the day and night. What do we mean? Try not to touch your face throughout the day, and if you spend a lot of time on the phone at work think about disinfecting between uses. While you’re likely not touching your face much at night, be sure to change out your pillow cases as frequently as possible. Pillow cases are a breeding ground for bacteria, so sleeping on a dirty pillow case night after night will undoubtedly lead to breakouts and pimples. Additionally, keeping your hair off of your face will prevent oil, dirt, and product from your hair from clogging pores.
Do you have a pro-tip, favorite product or effective routine? Please share it with us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!