Today, the shopping by skin type and concern series is going out with a bang…or rather a pop because the last topic is acne.
Acne is a huge topic that spans more information than I am willing to a) write in a single post and b) subject you to reading that much information in a single post. If you would like a comprehensive read on pretty much everything you would ever wish to know on both the subject of acne and treating acne, please let me know. (I’ve been tossing around the idea of an anti-acne ebook/guide/megapost for a little while now. If it would be helpful, tell me!)
What I will be covering in this post is the basics of creating an acne routine and some of my favorite products.
Acne isn’t fun to have and can seem to never fully disappear. One second your skin is clear as glass, the next morning its a minefield of angry red dots. Or perhaps your are a woman and you jawline hates you certain days of the month. Or maybe your skin is just a hot (haute?:P) cystic mess year round. Whatever acne woe you’ve got, chances are a whole lot of factors both in and out of your control are at play, so a solid routine alone will not solve the problem. Building an acne routine is like building a support system for your skin. It holds the plane on auto-pilot while you rummage about in the cabin looking for what is really causing the acne (fun stuff like stress, genetics, medications, etc).
Keeping in mind that a routine can only do so much, your skin can only take so many anti-acne products. An entire routine of nothing but tea tree oil and Retin-A will only cause your skin to rebound. Its best to make sure that none of your current products are to blame (but if you patch tested and introduced them slowly you can skip this step for obvious reasons), and then introduce 2-3 products designed for killing the buggers.
Depending on your acne, you may want to go the derm/prescription route. I’ve talked a lot about Curology on the blog because they deserve it based on my experience with them and their product. As always, here is my invite link that will get you your first month free with them: click me for a free month! Using a prescription has done wonders for my own individual stubborn acne.
Acne has three sides of treatment: preventing more acne, treating symptoms existing acne, and cleaning up after acne (aka scars and PIH)
For preventing acne, azealic acid is probably my favorite ingredient as it is gentle, yet effective, and does not cause a lot of photosensitivity. Lots of acids like glycolic, Vitamin C, lactic acid, and malic acid are also great at keeping skin cells in check, telling them to “slough off” and stop clogging pores. Tea tree oil is a classic ingredient and works well in both treating and preventing acne. Niacinamide (while better for lightening acne marks) also helps treat and prevent acne.
For dealing with the redness and inflammation that comes with acne, look for soothing ingredients like snail mucin, aloe vera, honey, propolis, and yogurt. Another thing that can help is by applying either cold sheet masks or actually ice (like a bag of peas wrapped in a washcloth) to help take down swelling. This works well as both a full-face treatment and for specific, nasty spots.
Speaking of specific nasty spots, an unorthodox-but-effective way of killing redness is to use eye-redness relief drops on the spot. Don’t use too much because, just like eyes, rebound redness can happen. So if a big spot crops up and you need to kill it fast? Ice it down and give these drops a few minutes to get it concealer-ready.
When dealing with the aftermath of acne, the good news is that many of the same ingredients you use to prevent and treat it ALSO help reduce the appearance of scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These ingredients include niacinamide, azealic acid, any of the acids listed in the above section, retinoids, and snail secretion filtrate. Ingredients used to brighten and even tone are also good ideas; some not already listed include morus alba (mulberry extract), licorice root, and lemon.
Regular exfoliation is also key in managing dead skin cells and keeping cell turnover rate high. Don’t be tempted to over do it; 2-3 times a week should be enough.
Lastly, perhaps counter intuitively, oil cleansing and moisturization are both essential components an acne routine can’t do without. Oil cleansers will remove excess sebum and makeup which can cause acne. Moisture will ensure the moisture barrier stays in tact, your skin stays healthy and less acne prone, and helps manage things like redness, swelling, etc. The skin that isn’t acne-ridden will look even more amazing as well.
Some of my favorite acne products (excepting my Curology script) include:
-A great anti-acne toner is Papa Recipe’s Trouble AC Toner. Its so cool and refreshing in this hot, nasty weather!
-CosRX power essences that you can get based on your acne. I personally love the pore-minish serum, but there are many AHA, BHA, blackhead, and whitehead versions as well. The CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is my go-to snail product and biggest, holiest, holy grail product (it just seems to treat all skin concerns, seriously, just grab yourself a bottle and give it 2 weeks).
–Innisfree Broccoli Clearing Lotion is lightweight and smells so crisp and light. Its great at providing the quick-absorbing moisture acne-ridden skin needs and craves.
–D’RAN’s Wonder Tea Tree Essence is awesome to apply right after toning and get this 5% tea tree concentrate right into your pores! I can’t seem to find it anywhere but the D’RAN site (whom I haven’t ordered from before) at the moment. I’ve seen it kicking around on Memebox and Amazon before though. Its really great at managing acne; I’ve been using it for about four months now and am loving its extra acne-kicking boost.
-you can’t forget hydrocolloid bandages. CosRX’s seem to work the best for me.
I’ve probably tried upwards of 100 products meant *just* to deal with the aspects of acne over the course of my lifetime. These are only a few of the better ones I’ve recently tried. Acne changes as you age and your lifestyle/diet/stress levels/etc change. I remember that my middle school acne didn’t budge until I came at it with Proactiv. Six months later and Proactiv just stopped working for me and I played around with varying success with much, much trial and error with drugstore products like Clean and Clear, Clearasil, and Neutrogena. It wasn’t until sophomore year of high school that I stumbled on Cure Natural Aqua Gel and for awhile, that and spot treatments seemed to do the trick. Once my adult acne broke the “I’m free of puberty and acne forever!” spell, that approach only made it worse and I had to look at more moisturizing, snail-based options and serious retinoid-based help. I’ve had everything from mild cystic acne to armies of pustules. That’s a pretty big journey for one person’s skin!
With these products, YMMV (well, YM Will V) and its important to know your skin and treat your specific acne needs with your skin’s tolerance level in mind. I can handle actives pretty well with high-potency levels and almost daily application (how do I still have any face left? lol), but I know people who can’t even tolerate a little salicylic acid as a spot treatment. Some people have reactions to tea tree and niacinamide while others are totally fine at the more effective, higher concentrations. Start small if you don’t know and gradually build up.
As a final note, acne routines need not be all anti-acne products as I briefly mentioned earlier. Skin still needs moisture, and maybe there are other issues like dullness that your routine needs to treat as well. Two or three quality products will get your skin back on the right track with acne. If your acne still hasn’t improved after some lifestyle changes and trying some effective products, you may just need to talk to a derm and get something a little stronger (like a temporary antibiotic pill or cream, or a heavier-duty retinoid, etc)
Alright, that concludes this series. Thank you all so much for reading-I really, truly hope you found it at least somewhat helpful. If there is anything you are curious about or would like me to cover in future posts, please let me know! .
Well, that’s all folks! See you soon 🙂