No one is immune to the myriad issues that block the way to a perfect complexion: blemishes, irritation, fine lines, redness. You name it, any one thing can make for a bad skin day, but what if you’re dealing with more than one concern at the same time? Is it possible to fix one problem without making the other worse? We asked some of our fave skin experts for their advice on how to treat a double whammy of issues.If Your Skin Has Acne + HyperpigmentationDavid Colbert, dermatologist and creator of Colbert MD products, says it’s essential to get the acne under control first, since additional blemishes lead to more discoloration. “The best plan is to see a professional for a skincare plan, instead of trying many different things that may or may not work,” he says. Some treatments, including fruit acid peels and retinoids, help treat both issues, but take it slow (being too aggressive will backfire, triggering more oil production and additional dark spots). Dermatologist Arielle Kauvar suggests a morning routine made up of gentle cleanser, a vitamin C-based antioxidant serum to reduce pigmentation, and an antibiotic acne medication followed by a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ (Neova makes a lightweight, non-greasy option, or try a powder version from Sunscience. Yes, every day. And yes, even if you’re inside.). At night, use a gentle cleanser, a retinoid, followed by a product containing a pigment-suppressing molecule, such as kojic acid, azelaic acid or hydroquinone.
If Your Skin Is Dull + SensitiveThe goal here is to sweep away those dulling dead skin cells without creating a red, flaky mess, and that’s going to take a bit of experimentation with chemical and manual exfoliants. When it comes to chemical options, dermatologist Debra Jaliman suggests wetting a cotton pad with water before soaking it with your peel to dilute the formula, or applying a super-hydrating and soothing layer of hyaluronic acid first. As for manual, she likes the Clarisonic cleansing brush with the delicate head. No matter which type of exfoliant works best for your sensitive skin, keep in mind that three or four times a week is the absolute limit. You’ll need to show some restraint to be sure you’re revealing a complexion that’s glowy (pretty), instead of raw (not so much).If Your Skin Is Acne-Prone + Dry“This combination happens all the time,” says Colbert. “You’re freaking out, putting on anything and everything to zap that acne, but you need to put on the brakes and see a specialist instead of self-treating. A dermatologist will help you get to the root cause of acne, which could be hormones or stress or something else, so you won’t be spinning your wheels and making things worse on both fronts.” A pro can prescribe acne meds, like Klaron or Differin, to clear up blemishes without overdrying. Kauvar says to avoid ingredients that strip the skin barrier, such as excessive acids and irritating molecules like benzoyl peroxide, and any heavy moisturizers made with mineral oil or petrolatum. It sounds counterproductive, but Wechsler says you actually need more (non-comedogenic, obviously) moisturizer, not less, when fighting breakouts. “Otherwise, the over-dryness may trigger inflammation, and then you’re back where you started: dealing with more acne,” she says. Gentle exfoliation, done two or three times per week, can actually help skin hold onto moisture.If Your Skin Is Oily + Sensitive Dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross says that trying to dry out oily skin can make it worse, since your skin will respond to excessive drying by producing more oil. To avoid this issue, he suggests products containing natural ingredients; witch hazel is a natural substitute for alcohol-based toners, while tea tree oil is a gentler alternative to benzoyl peroxide for disinfecting existing bacteria. Wechsler likes a streamlined regimen that doesn’t involve scrubs or alcohol-based toners. Instead, try gentle cleanser followed by oil-free SPF moisturizer and de-shine throughout the day with blotting papers. “If you still can’t seem to get a handle on your oil faucet and it bothers you, consider a topical retinoid product. Retin-A, for example, has been shown to control oiliness,” she says.If You Have Rosacea + Fine LinesGross says that addressing the different causes of redness is an important step, and diet is crucial. “If you’re prone to redness, avoid spicy foods, red wine and caffeine. Also, be careful with salt and alcohol; salt collects in the skin and causes puffiness, while alcohol causes blood vessels to become leaky, causing puffiness in vulnerable, delicate spots, like the under-eye area,” he says. “Avoid processed foods and sugars if you can, and take omega fatty acid fish oil supplements.” He recommends a gentle daily peel to diminish fine lines and visibly reduce the appearance of large pores, scars, acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation. Look for products made with natural extracts, including licorice root, chamomile, cucumber and green tea, to soothe and reduce inflammation. Professional options can also work wonders. “The treatments for rosacea need not be harsh and should not worsen fine lines,” says Kauvar. “The ideal treatment for rosacea is laser treatment (with a Vbeam or Excel V laser) to reduce the redness and enlarged capillaries. They’ll also stimulate collagen production to improve fine lines and skin texture, so it’s a win/ win situation.”