The Best Skincare Products for Acne-Prone Skin
It doesn't matter if it's a single whitehead on your cheek or a cluster of cystic zits on your jawline, there's nothing fun about dealing with acne. When you first break out, it's almost second nature to layer on all of the lotions and creams you have in your medicine cabinet — and you may even think of sticking a pimple patch on that throbbing blemish.
However, over-medicating is exactly what you don't want to do when caring for acne-prone skin. "Many of my acne-prone patients believe that drying out their skin with harsh products is the key to stamping out acne," says Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in New York City. "One can have acne in addition to having sensitive or dry skin, so it is important to consider your skin type when developing an acne regimen."
Instead, Dr. Henry says to keep things in moderation, picking one or two products that are specifically formulated to fight acne. "The other products should be moisturizing (like a hydrating cream) to fortify their moisture barrier and allow them to tolerate their acne treatments," she explains.
With the help of Dr. Henry, we've broken down the best everyday products for acne-prone skin.
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Cleanser: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser for Acne Prone Skin
A cleanser formulated with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid will help unclog pores in addition to removing dirt, oil, and makeup. This La Roche-Posay wash gently exfoliates and helps control excess oil for less breakouts.
Toner: Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid
If your skin gets easily irritated from using potent acne treatments, Dr. Henry suggests including a toner in your routine. "They provide an additional step in one’s regimen to add acne fighting ingredients and are often more tolerable than very concentrated acne treatments," she says.
This glycolic acid-based toner from Mario Badescu gently exfoliates and refines pores to improve skin tone and texture.
Daytime Serum: L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum
A hydrating serum will help counteract the drying acne treatments you're using at night. Hyaluronic acid is a dermatologist-approved ingredient because it draws in moisture, plus it plumps and firms skin. L'Oréal's lightweight serum quickly absorbs without any tacky or sticky residue, so it's ideal for pre-makeup morning skincare routine.
Nighttime Serum: CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Cream Serum
Retinol: the most famous word in the world of skincare ingredients. While it can be transformative for treating the signs of aging, it can also minimize breakouts. But since retinol typically makes skin sensitive to UV exposure and can cause irritation, it's best to use it at night. CeraVe's serum-cream is powered by retinol, but also contains hydrating ceramides to protect the skin barrier, which lowers the odds of experiencing that retinol flash burn.
Eye Cream: Belif Moistruizing Eye Bomb
Sure, you're not really using dehydrating acne treatments around your eyes, but this area of your face still needs moisture, too. A lightweight, but nourishing eye cream like Belif's Moisture Bomb is your best bet. You'll get all of that hydrating, skin-plumping goodness without the greasiness.
Moisturizer: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture Sensitive Skin Ultra-Gentle Facial Moisturizer
Controlling your breakouts might be the focus of your skincare routine, but taking steps not to exacerbate acne is just as important. That's why Dr. Henry recommends using a moisturizer that's non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores. Neutrogena's oil-free formula is gentle and free of potential irritants.
Spot Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Acne Spot and Area Treatment
Getting to the root of what's causing your acne is necessary in order to get rid of it. In the meantime, a spot treatment can help zap those annoying zits. Look for a treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur — three FDA-approved acne-fighting ingredients. Peter Thomas Roth's treatment includes sulfur, plus aloe vera and allantoin to soothe any irritation and dryness.
Post-Breakout Treatment: Renee Rouleau Post-Breakout Fading Gel
Dark spots are the memory of a past bad breakout that no one asks for. While they can go away on their own, a post-acne spot treatment can help fade dark spots more quickly. With a mix of brightening exfoliating acids, Renee Rouleau's cult-favorite gel improves the appearance of discoloration and reduces inflammation.
Face Mask: Embryolisse Masque-Creme Hydratant Hydrating Cream Mask
Because acne treatments can be harsh and dehydrating, Dr. Henry suggests a hydrating facial mask as a recovery step. Embryolisse's rich cream nourishes skin and locks in moisture with emollient botanical ingredients like beeswax and sweet almond and sesame oils.
Sunscreen: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Wearing sunscreen is essential for every routine, but acne-prone skin should especially not skip this step. Many active ingredients increase the skin's sensitivity to sun exposure. The only problem? Many sunscreens can clog pores. Look for an oil-free formula like this mineral sunscreen from Neutrogena. Although it is zinc-based, it sheer enough that it doesn't leave that infamous mineral SPF white cast.