How-to: The Best Beginner’s Guide to Acne and Skincare

How-to: The Best Beginner’s Guide to Acne and Skincare
by Samantha



The skincare world can be intimidating. There are so many products, so many ingredients, and so many things to know. If you’re just starting to think about your skin and its needs, or if you’ve developed a skin problem like acne, you may not have any clue where to start. I know I didn’t! Acne can develop at any age, so don’t feel bad about your acne, no matter whether you’re a teenager or an adult.

There are a variety of reasons you might be dealing with acne all of a sudden, or maybe you just can’t seem to shake that adult acne, but no matter why it formed, you need to understand a few basics of skincare.

Thankfully, understanding the basics isn’t too complicated, and your skincare routine doesn’t have to be, either. Here is a beginner’s guide to acne that you can use to help you make the right product choices!


step one: know your skin type


First thing’s first in the beginner’s guide to acne, you’ve got to figure out your skin type.

Acne isn’t a skin type, as any skin type can be acne-prone. Despite the fact that most acne occurs in oily skin, you can have acne and dry skin, too. Skin types range from normal, dry, oily, and combination, and each of them may need a different type of product.

Knowing your skin type will help you find the right products for that skin type and avoid doing unnecessary damage to your skin. If you know your skin is oily, you can try using oil-reducing products to clear up your acne. If you know your skin is dry, you can try using exfoliating products to clear up your acne.


step two: how often do i cleanse?


A question that comes up frequently and is the source of a lot of confusion, is how often to cleanse.

Once your know your skin type, you can determine how frequently you should be cleansing (or even double-cleansing) your skin. Generally, I would recommend cleansing twice a day for all skin types. Sensitive skin types may do best with cleansing only at night, and rinsing with water in the morning. Just because you have acne does not mean you need to scrub your face off with a scouring pad three times a day. Sometimes even acne-prone skin can benefit from scaling back on cleansing.


step three: choose a cleanser


Once you know how frequently you need to cleanse, you need to choose a cleanser.

Mild acne types may do well with treated cleansers, and sensitive skin products should also be minimal ingredient and fragrance-free. Generally the amount of time a cleanser spends on your skin doesn’t merit investing in treatment at this stage in your routine, unless your acne is fairly mild or responsive to cleansing.

Cleansers should instead gently clean, and maybe even moisturize a little bit.


step four: pick a treatment


Depending on the severity of your acne and whether or not a treated cleanser will clear it up, you might opt for using a treated product after you cleanse. Most mild to moderate, and even some more severe acne, is responsive to treated products.

The more widely used treated products include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, although things like willow bark, azelaic acid, retinoids, and AHA and BHA are also not uncommon. Salicylic acid is a BHA that is highly effective for acne, and can work especially well as an anti-acne exfoliating toner. Topical antibiotics may provide temporary relief, but are not a good choice in the long-run.


step five: moisturize


No matter whether you’ve chosen to use a treated product to get rid of your acne, you’ll need to follow up your cleanser with a moisturizer. With your skin type in mind, you’ll be able to choose a moisturizer suited for your needs. If you don’t need a lot of moisture, you could opt for a light facial oil, gel or lotion. If you have dry skin, you’ll want a heavier cream.

Regardless of what you choose, you can also use moisturizing as an opportunity to fight your acne! Some people see great results with the right cleanser and moisturizer, with no need for a treated product! Pick a moisturizer with green tea for its skin benefits, or any other treated ingredient (which are usually in lower concentrations in moisturizers).


step six: spot treatment

A spot treatment is a great idea. Even with a good treated product you may still experience a few pimples, especially during early stages of treatment. When these buggers pop up, you can zap them and send them on their way with a spot treatment.

Many of the ingredients used in treated products will make an appearance in your spot treatments, too, sometimes in much higher concentrations because they’re meant for individual spots and not the entire face. What you choose will really need to be decided after trying them out for yourself, but salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil are all popular and safe products to try.


step seven: get to know your triggers


For some people, acne is just the unfortunate product of hormonal sensitivities in the body. For others, we have very real (but not always so obvious) triggers, such as stress, dairy, and even obscure ingredients. Getting familiar with your skin and how it reacts to new things will be important in finding the products that work best for your skin.


important tips to remember

You should also get into the habit of regularly washing anything that comes into contact with your skin: towels, clothes, sheets and pillowcases, pillows, sunglasses, glasses, hats, headbands, your hair, your hands, makeup brushes, your phone, helmets and straps, etc., etc., etc. Anything in extended contact with your skin, especially in a hot and moist environment, needs to be kept clean. Any of these things are possible offenders in your acne.

Remember that our skin changes as the environment we experience and things we encounter change. Be sure to adapt with your skin’s changing needs, and remember that you don’t need clear skin to be truly acne-free.

the naked truth


While we’ve covered the basics in this beginner’s guide to acne, it’s important to remember that it may take dozens of products before you find the right ones for you. When beginning a new skincare routine it may be tempting to try a bunch of new things, but I find it’s best to stick to these basics at least until you’ve learned the ropes. With the proper product selection, these should be all the steps you need to achieve clear skin.


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