The Only Skincare Routine For Acne-Prone Skin You’ll Need

Acne-Prone Skin

Are you sure your skincare routine can clear out your acne?

Since you’re here, I’m betting that it isn’t.

Don’t worry. A lot of people actually struggle with that.

Acne-prone skin is so tricky to care for that you may need to search for and test out several routines before you can find one that will work for you.

But, guess what?

Your search actually ends here as we present to you a highly effective skincare routine that can finally put an end to your breakouts.

Feeling excited? Let’s get started.

The Only Skincare Routine For Acne-Prone Skin You’ll Need
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Step # 1: Cleanse

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Do: Morning and night

If you want to treat acne-prone skin, it only makes sense to start with a clean slate. No matter how great your products are, they won’t work if you have a dirty base to begin with.

Makes sense, right?

So, to get started, make sure to choose a facial wash that’s fit for your skin type. Pick one that contains acne-fighting ingredients.

Mild acne can be solved with over-the-counter cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. However, if your acne is a severe case, you may want to check with your dermatologist first.

If you’re prescribed with topical acne medications, skip those cleansers and pick one that’s non-medicated. This is to make sure your skin doesn’t get excessively dry.

Skip anything that contains alcohol, too.


Well, alcohol is drying. It can make your skin more vulnerable to irritation and damage.

Now, you’re probably wondering: How should I cleanse my skin?

It’s pretty basic actually. You simply use your fingertips in gently massaging the product on your face.

You can use a soft washcloth if you want to, but make sure not to scrub too hard.

Here’s a tip:

If you really want your cleanser to work, don’t rinse it right away. Give your cleanser a few seconds to work its magic.

And make sure to include your neck and jawline when cleansing. These areas can also break out if you don’t take good care of them.

Ideally, cleansing should be done twice a day- in the morning and before you get to bed. However, for days you’ll be exposed to excessive pollution or you’ll be working out, try to wash your face right away.

Sweat and dirt are sneaky causes of acne.

Step # 2: Exfoliate

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Do: Twice to thrice a week, at night

Did you know that 50,000 skin cells are shed by an average adult every minute?

Now, imagine if you don’t buff away those dead skin cells.

You won’t just get dull-looking skin but acne and clogged pores, too!

This makes exfoliation that one step you shouldn’t miss no matter what your skin type is.

Apart from removing those nasty dead skin cells, exfoliating can also help with your skin’s cellular turnover. It also allows your other skincare products to penetrate your skin easier and faster, making them more effective.

A word of caution:

Although exfoliators are great for your skin, it doesn’t mean that all exfoliators can work for your skin type. Remember, acne-prone skin gets easily irritated so you need to be careful in choosing products.

Stay away from physical exfoliators like those products that contain granules and scrubs. They are harsh and can cause more damage to your skin.

For your skin type, products with chemical exfoliators work best.

I know they sound intimidating but, trust me, they are not what you think they are.

Chemical exfoliators are gentler in the sense that they only loosen the bond that holds dead skin cells together. They help reveal brighter and smoother skin without compromising it.

Take note that you only need to exfoliate no more than thrice a week to avoid further skin irritation and inflammation. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

If you have sensitive skin, twice a week may be too harsh so do it once per week only. In case you have very oily skin or are living in a warm climate, exfoliating more than twice a week is actually recommended.

This is because dead skin cells accumulate a lot quicker under those conditions.

Step # 3: Tone

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Do: Twice to thrice a week, at night

If you skip toners because you think your skin doesn’t need them- think again.

Toners are actually a big help if you have acne-prone skin.

They can help restore your skin’s lost moisture and bring back your skin’s natural pH. They can also lift any impurities your cleanser may have missed.

But beware:

There are toners that can cause dry skin, like those that contain alcohol.

This is the reason why you feel some tightness after using a toner or an astringent. That tightness is a sign of dehydration and not necessarily that your skin is clean.

For a safer choice, go with a toner that has witch hazel. It is both an antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory agent which can help fight and soothe acne.

Why witch hazel?

This ingredient has tannins. A study shows that tannins can inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and fungi.

Packed with antioxidants, witch hazel can tighten the skin and help defy aging, too. It contains polyphenols which can protect the skin from free radicals caused by stress, a poor diet and pollution.

Apart from witch hazel, toners with essential nourishing oils are great options, too. 

Step # 4: Nourish/Repair

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Do you really need a face serum?

Well, the short answer is yes.

Although serums seem like a luxury product, it’s actually a necessity if you have acne-prone skin.

Serums have smaller molecules that enable them to penetrate deep into the skin. There, they deliver potent ingredients to target specific skin issues.

Take, for example, Vitamin C serums.

These products can help stimulate collagen production that can plump out acne scars, making them less noticeable. They can also reduce inflammation and promote faster wound healing.

Now, listen.

Not all vitamin C serums are guaranteed to work. With so many brands claiming to be the most effective, you need to know the right criteria to use when picking.

To help you out, we actually have an in-depth review of the best Vit C serums. You can check it out or you can just go and see our most recommended product.


You’ll be able to save as much as 10% if you use this link.

Step # 5: Treat

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Do: As directed by dermatologist; according to product instructions

Obviously, if you want to get rid of acne, you have to treat it and this is where spot treatment fits in.

Spot treatments are those products that you use to directly treat acne, relieve inflammation and calm redness. They are so potent that they shouldn’t be used on your entire face.

You can get them over the counter or from your dermatologist.

Now, this is where it gets tricky.

Although there are OTC spot treatments, you should avoid self-medicating with them or using them without doing any research. Even though they are OTC and don’t require prescriptions, they can still cause considerable damage if not used the right way.

Retinoids are perfect examples for this one. Derivatives of Vitamin A, they are available OTC or in prescription form.

For OTC products, retinol creams are your way to go. Though their main goal is to fight aging, most brands double as an effective acne-buster.

They increase cell turnover and boost collagen for younger-looking skin. For acne-prone skin, they unclog your pores and help control oil production.

So, it’s like having an acne medication and an anti-aging treatment in one bottle.

On the other hand, Retin-A (tretinoin) is a prescription medication that comes in cream form. It works by unclogging the pores and by soothing inflammation caused by those zits.

It is effective against whiteheads and blackheads, too.

Its oral equivalent is known as Accutane (Isotretinoin.) It is used for treating severe acne that often leaves scars once it clears up.

Around 85% of acne patients have reported clear skin after using Isotretinoin for a 4 to 5 months. It is really an effective acne treatment but should only be your last resort.

Here’s why:

It comes with a lot of side effects, like nosebleeds and extreme skin dryness. You also shouldn’t use it if you are pregnant or expecting to be pregnant as it can cause serious harm to your unborn child.

Whether prescription or not, you have to remember that retinoids can increase your sensitivity to the sun. This is why it’s important to wear sunscreen to prevent your skin from getting burned.

Step # 6: Moisturize

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Do: Morning and night

Putting moisturizer on an oily face?

It may sound like a bad idea, but let me explain first.

Moisturizing oily skin is as important as moisturizing dry skin. You see, when your skin is dry and dehydrated, it’s forced to produce more oil than necessary.

This can cause your skin to breakout and your pores to get clogged.

Moisturizing is also important if you are using acne medication. These products can leave your skin dry and patchy if you don’t pair them with the right moisturizers.

Now, you’re probably wondering about which moisturizer to use.

As a rule of thumb, acne-prone skin should stick with products that are non-comedogenic and oil-free. Avoid those heavy and thick creams as they can suffocate your pores.

Step 7: Protect

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Do: Morning

I hate to break it to you but the idea that sunscreens cause acne is just a myth.

Well, not entirely.

You can actually end up with acne if you use the wrong type of sunscreen so you need to be extra careful with this step. Pick one that’s really formulated for your skin type and go with sunscreens that have SPF 30 or higher.

Use it every morning, before you head outdoors. And by every morning, I mean every single morning.

Staying indoors or a cloudy day doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to UV rays. They can actually pass through your windows and even the clouds so make sure you’re protected all the time.


Well, UV rays aren’t just bad for the skin because they can speed up the aging process; they are also bad for your acne spots as they can cause darkening and dryness.


The bottom line is this:

Getting clear skin isn’t that easy, particularly if you are dealing with acne. It can take a lot of time, patience and discipline before you can get the skin you’re dreaming of.

The good news is that it’s possible.

With the right set of products and a good skin care routine that’s meant for your skin type, you can actually get rid of acne.

So, what are you waiting for?

How are you taking care of your acne-prone skin? Let me know in the comments below!

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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