A Simple Acne-Prone Skincare Routine For Clear Skin, According To Dermatologists

From a.m. to p.m.

A lady popping her pimple (acne)

With thousands of skincare products, solutions and hundreds of suggestions, caring for acne-prone skin can feel overwhelming and frustrating – but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.

Acne can be serious and frustrating but there are few proven ways you can go about it – the first of which and perhaps most important include having a new and consistent skincare routine.

By using the right acne products and sticking to a consistent skincare routine, it is possible to achieve clearer skin.

What is Acne?

Acne is a very common skin condition that causes pimples where the pores of your skin are blocked by sebum (an oily substance produced by the skin glands), dirt, dead skin cells, bacteria and hair. If you have acne, know that you are not alone.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), up to 50 million Americans are affected by it each year, and 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 report having at least mild acne. It is the most prevalent skin condition in the United States.

Anyone can get acne but it varies in severity from person to person due to different factors like hormone changes, high humidity and genetic factors.

It can be quite frustrating to not know what to do. No matter what you do, it simply gets worse or not anyhow better. I understand you and the few sighs that come with looking at the mirror every morning. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for acne-prone skin, using the right and quality products, as well as sticking to a consistent routine (with a dash of patience), are essential to achieving clearer skin.

Keep reading to unlock our complete guide to a simple, easy-to-follow skincare routine for acne-prone skin, along with product recommendations and helpful tips.

Morning Routine

1. Cleanser

A lady washing her face

The first on the list and if not the most important thing you should never overlook in your skincare routine is “cleansing”. For acne-prone skin, dermatologists advised to cleanse skin twice a day – morning and night.

Kick off your routine with an oil-free gentle cleanser like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash. If you have sensitive skin, ELTA MD Foaming Facial Cleanser will be a better choice for you.

Avoid using exfoliant sponges or brushes to minimize skin redness and inflammation when cleansing. Use your fingertips or better still soft washcloth and gently rub in circular motions.

2. Toner

Toner helps to remove excess oils and impurities that can clog pores and lead to breakouts. It also helps rebalances the skin’s pH which might be altered due to different acne treatments. If you have less oily skin, you can skip it.

Toners like Pixi Beauty Glow help reduce redness and give smooth texture with added lil’ glow. If you have sensitive skin or need something to help calm irritated skin, try Avene Gentle Toning Lotion

Avoid alcohol-based toners. Dr. Teals Lavender Witch Hazel Facial Toner comes highly rated and is suitable for all skin types.

3. Moisturizer

Don’t be carried away by the mythical belief that oily skin doesn’t need moisturizers. Every skin type needs moisturizers. Go for moisturizers that are lightweight and labeled non-comedogenic to keep your skin hydrated.

The right moisturizer like Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer may help reduce breakouts by regulating oil production. It may also be able to lessen some of the detrimental effects that your acne-treating products (like spot treatment) and active ingredients may have. You can try Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer with added SPF 15 for sun protection. If your skin is on the dry side, Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion might just be the right key to your hydration.

4. sunscreen

Sunscreen is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked. According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist, “some acne treatment usually increases the skin sensitivity to the sun which can lead to hyperpigmentation and sunburns.

Protect your skin using SPF 30 and above. Some moisturizer like Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 already contains SPF, so you don’t need to apply sunscreen again.

If your moisturizer doesn’t contain SPF, you can invest in a proper sunscreen like La Roche Posay Anthelios Fluid Face Sunscreen for oily skin.

If you have dry skin, you can opt for Blue Lizard sensitive face mineral sunscreen

My best and personal recommendation will be Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics Sunscreen which is very suitable for every skin type and offers maximum sun protection.

Now, you can layer your makeup and go kill the day.

Belle’s Tip: Always reapply your sunscreen after every 2 hours.

Night Routine

1. makeup remover

A lady cleaning off her makeup

If you wore makeup, you need to properly remove it using micellar water like Simple Water Boost Micellar Facial Gel Wash and face wipes like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths to prevent your makeup from clogging your pores.

No matter how tired you are, never go to sleep with your makeup. Always remove your makeup at the end of each day.

2. Cleanser

Micellar water or face wipes won’t completely clean your pores. It’s always advisable for acne-prone skin to go for double cleansing whenever they wear makeup to completely remove any makeup residues that could clog pores and lead to breakouts.

Also, the skin has been exposed to dirt, dust and impurities during the day, it only makes sense to cleanse the skin of it. Use gentle cleansers like CeraVe Foaming Cleanser at night.

My best favorite go-to cleanser is the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. If you have dry sensitive skin like mine, you can never go wrong with this cleanser. It’s hydrating and very effective.

3. Serum

Treat your skin with a serum to refine pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A serum like Cocokind Vitamin C Serum helps to lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation for an even skin tone.

If you are looking for the right serum, try The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% or Be The Skin Botanical Serum which helps in skin restoration and reduces lines.

If you have dry skin and you love hydrating serums, you can go for Senallis Hyaluronic Acid Serum, it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to retain moisture in the skin.

Belle’s Tips: Slowly introduce serum into your routine and see how your skin reacts to it. Once your skin is completely fine with it, you can start using every night.

Don’t use serums on nights that you exfoliate to avoid irritation.

4. Moisturizer

The moisturizer you use at night should contain no SPF. it should be non-comedogenic, hydrating and non-greasy. It should have a calming effect to minimize dryness and irritation.

Moisturizers like Avene Cleanance Hydra Soothing Cream have a calming effect and help to minimize dryness and irritation.

5. Spot treatment

Spot treatments work by providing chemicals that combat acne to the affected area. Spot treatments can lessen pain, swelling, and redness.

Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur are common ingredients in acne spot treatments to help reduce breakouts. While benzoyl peroxide is a superior option for treating inflammatory acne like cysts, spot treatment with salicylic acid or sulfur is helpful for unclogging pores and eliminating whiteheads and blackheads.

Opt for a spot treatment that contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide or 1-2% salicylic acid. These lower concentrations are just as effective as a higher concentration but are less drying and irritating.

Each spot treatment has different formulations. Follow the directions on your spot treatment.

Try Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment.

Corsx Acne Pimple Patch is a good option for mild acne.

Belle’s Tip: Spot treatment are usually very drying, make sure you have a very hydrating moisturizer that will help calm the skin and reduce redness. Avoid using too much product and apply the treatment on spots you want to treat (and not your whole face).


1. Exfoliate

A lady exfoliating her face

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the outer layer of the skin. It’s an important part of a beauty routine with lots of benefits.

While exfoliation is not for everyone, acne-prone skin can benefit a lot from exfoliating. If you choose to exfoliate, stay away from harsh abrasive exfoliants. Go for gentle chemical exfoliants like CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

Chemical exfoliants like The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution use chemicals such as hydroxy acids to gently dissolve dead skin cells.

Also, scrub your face gently (don’t be aggressive) for 30 seconds to 1 minute and wash off with cold water.

Belle’s Tip: It is also very important to have the right exfoliation routine suited for your skin type. If you oily skin, try exfoliating two-three times a week. Dry/sensitive skin should only exfoliate once a week or once a month depending on what your skin can handle

2. Face Mask

Face masks can deliver nourishing and therapeutic skincare ingredients needed for your face. They can provide an extra boost to your skincare. Face masks come in different formats to handle different skin types and issues. There are also DIY face masks you can do in the comfort of your home. 

Clay-based face masks are good for acne-prone skin as they absorb excess oil, heal blemishes, and prevent future breakouts. A DIY face mask for treating dark spots is a combo of turmeric and honey.

Helpful Tips

  • Avoid using too much product because it could irritate your skin or even block your pores.
  • Try maintaining a routine and avoiding frequently switching products, as this can make your breakouts worse.
  • Be consistent and remember that no treatment will work instantly. A board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, Brendan Camp advises using a product consistently for at least 8 to 12 weeks before determining whether it is helping or not, unless the product is causing skin rash or irritation.
  • Avoid popping or picking at your zits. If you see a breakout, take the proper steps to treat it.
  • Introduce drying ingredients, such as retinoids or spot treatments, slowly into your routine.
  • For the best product for you, consult your dermatologist.

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