In our previous blog, we looked at skincare regimens for preventing acne and acne scars with some helpful advice from doctors and experts in the industry. In this article, we continue with a guide on how to choose the best cleansers, moisturizers, toner, sunscreen, and facial products. We will also go over their roles for the treatment and prevention of acne. We interviewed top doctors and experts of skin care. Here’s what they had to say.
How to Choose the Best Face Cleanser for Oily and Acne Prone Skin
Your face goes through a lot of punishment during your day. Dr. Goodman of Bella Vi Spa & Aesthetics explains: “throughout the day, our skin is exposed to makeup, dirt, debris, germs, and environmental toxins. If not removed daily, this debris will build up in the pores, leading to break outs.”
This is where facial cleansers come in. A good cleanser will help to regulate oil production, prepare your skin for other acne-based medication, and break down and wash away dirt, sweat, dead skin cells, and debris that could clog pores and cause more acne.2
Ms. DeeLisa Sacco, a licensed paramedical aesthetician and facial specialist and owner of Palm Beach Wax Studio and Skincare suggests that the goal of a face cleanser should be to clean the skin without stripping it of its natural oils. She recommends a cleanser that contains salicylic acid or combined with glycolic acid to optimally control oil production, reduce the spread of bacteria, and remove debris from the pores. She also emphasizes the importance of patience for acne care.
Ms. Erin Murphy, a licensed aesthetician for recommends a two-step cleansing process for the best results. She says, “The first cleanse will remove any makeup, dirt, or environmental debris on the skin, and the second cleanse will help to clean out the pores. A foaming cleanser is generally best for acne.”
It’s important to be gentle with your skin cleansing. Cleansing too intensely or too many times a day could dry out the skin or cause irritation and damage. The general rule is to cleanse your face no more than twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.3 “Although there is little consensus on how often an individual with healthy skin should cleanse, scientific study has shown that acne patients have fewer inflammatory lesions and fewer flareups when they cleanse twice daily,” says Dr. Fayne Frey from Fry Face.
Ms. Sacco said, “One of the most important things is to stay on a regime for at least 3-6 months. It usually gets worse before it gets better. If my client won’t commit to that, then I prefer not to treat them. Many people with problematic skin (I know I was one) want instant results and jump from product to product which makes the problem worse because the skin is always reacting instead of adjusting & regulating.”
How to Choose the Best Face Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin
Those newly suffering from acne may find it hard to believe that moisturizer is a necessary step in the skincare process. “Moisturizer is one of the most important and difficult products to get a client/patient to use,” says Ms. Sacco. “Most think because their skin is oily they don’t need to moisturize.”
On the contrary, Ms. Sacco says that without moisturizer, the body overproduces oil, and that overproduction can cause breakouts. The right moisturizer will help to regulate oil production while staving off dry, irritated skin. Ms. Sacco recommends hyaluronic acid as the best moisturizing ingredient that hydrates skin without an oily feeling.
Ms. Jane Nassar, a beautician working in the business for 30 years, recommends moisturizer for everyone with acne as acne naturally causes dehydration.
Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse of Rapaport Dermatology of Beverley Hills suggests that moisturizers also balance out the drying effects of acne treatment products. “Drying acne treatments can leave skin irritated and peeling,” Dr. Shainhouse says. “Add back some hydration by using an oil-free moisturizer, as needed. Look for lighter lotions and sensitive skin formulations, if you are acne-prone.”
Dr. Goodman also supports this claim. “Our skin needs moisture to remain healthy and acne products are often quite drying,” she says, “If we dry the skin out with acne products, the skin's oil glands will work in overdrive to replace that protective barrier. This often leads to even more clogged pores. If we apply a light, oil-free moisturizer the skin will maintain is protective barrier, preventing our own oil glands from overproducing.”
How to Choose the Best Toner for Acne Prone Skin
There’s a great deal of mystery surrounding toners and what they actually do for your face, which in part comes from the amount of variation in toner products. As Dr. Frey puts it, “Toner, the skincare product that is as varied in formulation as is the list of their alleged benefits.”
Dr. Goodman has a different opinion on facial toners: “Facial toners function to complete the cleansing of your skin, removing impurities that can be left behind by cleansers. They also help to restore the skin's natural pH balance.”
Toners do come in a variety of different formulations and methods of application. “Toners can be sprayed on, dabbed on with a cotton ball, applied with gauze or a washcloth, or with the fingers. Some are used with water, some without,” Dr. Frey says.
One thing that some of our experts agreed upon was against the use of alcohol in toners. Toners can come with no alcohol or with small amounts of alcohol (up to 20%). Some toners are formulated with higher concentrations of alcohol ranging from 10 to 60 percent. These are known as astringents or drying agents. Dr. Frey reported that these high-alcohol toners “may cause redness, irritation, or burning in individuals with sensitive or normal skin.”
Ms. Murphy offered similar advice, “Toners can help to dissolve oil in the skin and tighten the pores. They are generally made with alcohol and can be extremely drying, so you either want to use them on the areas you feel oiliest or look for a toner that has witch hazel instead of alcohol.”
How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Acne Prone Skin
The sun’s UV rays naturally cause damage to exposed skin. Skin suffering from acne is even more vulnerable to sunlight. Ms. Nassar suggests that the sun can cause acne to develop pigmentation spots. Certain acne medications and treatments also leave your skin more sensitive to sun.
All of this makes sunscreen an essential part of maintaining healthy skin. The hard part is finding a sunscreen that does not exacerbate your acne or otherwise clog your pores. All of the experts we spoke to suggested going with a light, oil-free formulation. Dr. Bryan Tran of DrFormulas emphasizes, “the regular use of sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30 is important to protect against sun damage and hyperpigmentation from acne scars.”
“There are a lot of sunscreens available, which is amazing because it’s the best thing you can do for your skin,” says Ms. Murphy. “A physical sunscreen that reflects the UVA and UVB waves often contain zinc, which is great for soothing inflamed skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb the UVA and UVB waves but generally have a lighter texture. If you have oily skin, a lot of times sunscreens are uncomfortable to wear because you produce enough oil that you feel like it’s sliding off. For this, it’s best to use a mattifying sunscreen. If you're dry from acne products, it’s sometimes best to use a primer/sunscreen in one to help minimize flakes and give your skin a smooth appearance.”
Dr. Goodman keeps it fairly simple. “Choose a sunscreen like you would choose your moisturizer,” she says. “Look for ‘oil free’ or ‘noncomedogenic’ formulations.”
How to Choose the Right Facial for Acne Prone Skin
Facials refer to an in-depth skincare treatment process, though according to Dr. Frey there currently are no standard guidelines that define exactly what constitutes a facial, nor the products used. Dr. Frey explains, “The process usually involves a steaming, a cleansing, an extraction, and application of one of hundreds if not thousands of topical creams, sometimes followed by a mask.”
Many of the other doctors and experts agreed on the general facial process. “In general, facials consist of cleansing, a mask, steam to open pores, exfoliation, extractions if necessary, and moisturizing,” says Dr. Goodman. According to Dr. Goodman, the loose guidelines allow for more customized treatments tailored to different skin types and conditions.
How to Get Rid of Redness from Acne
In terms of acne, facials can provide invaluable support for reducing acne and improving overall complexion. Ms. Murphy claims that “facials are a great tool to get a good, deep cleanse from the skin . They can benefit people with acne as the specialist can help to un-clog your pores, and even perform extractions in a safe and clean environment.”
Acne extraction refers to the process of removing liquids and solids inside a whitehead or blackhead comedone. This is more than simply popping a zit at home, which may result in scarring, infection, and pushing the contents of a pimple deeper into your skin. Extractions from a licensed aesthetician or dermatologist involve the proper tools, a sterilized environment, and the right technique to relieve acne.1
Ms. Sacco recommends facials to help clear and heal skin: “sometimes pores really need professional extractions, especially for blackheads so those pores don’t continue to stay enlarged.” Dr. Goodman also recommends facials as a tool to help calm acne flairs.
Ms. Murphy does warn people to be aware of the products used during a facial. “You do want to watch out for ingredients though,” Ms. Murphy says, “Some can be very harsh, and some can be very gentle, so it’s best to discuss your situation with your provider first.”
With the right facial, cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen, you may effectively reduce your acne and support clear, pristine skin.