Treating zits can be a frustrating cycle of spending cash on products that just cause irritation and make breakouts look even worse. Experts say that’s because you should treat acne according to your skin type, with ingredients that help balance skin while remedying the underlying causes of acne.
Whether you’re oily, dry or showing signs of aging, here’s the protocol that leading dermatologists would prescribe for you.
“It’s a common myth that if you have oily skin, you don’t need a moisturizer—but if you don’t moisturize, your skin can actually produce more acne-causing oil,” explains Montclair, New Jersey dermatologist, Jeanine B. Downie, M.D. She recommends the new Benzac line that contains a cleanser, hydrator and a spot treatment featuring East Indian sandalwood that is 100% natural. “It’s clinically proven to treat acne and also contains salicylic acid to unclog pores, Kakadu plum, honeysuckle, zinc, onion extract and lemon myrtle to help brighten skin,” adds Downie, as lingering pigmentation scars can especially be an issue for oily skin types.
2 Dry Skin
Instead of treating your entire face with a medicated wash or product, focus just on the areas where you break out with a formula that contains an active ingredient of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, says New York dermatologist and Clear Clinic founder, Eric Schweiger, M.D. Try Clear Clinic’s Vanished, a clear spot treatment that can be applied before bedtime or under makeup during the day. And keep it gentle with daily cleansing, moisturization and exfoliation. “Avoid toners and harsh scrubs with uneven particles like salt, seeds or nuts—they’re too rough for dry skin, and a soft, clean washcloth used nightly is better to clear dead skin,” says Dr. Downie.
If your skin sometimes feels oily in some places and dry in others, you have combination skin. Dr. Schweiger recommends using a targeted pad treatment daily to exfoliate and cleanse pores, but to also balance skin for a glow. After cleansing at night, try Dr. Dennis Gross One Step Acne Eliminating Pads, which contain glycolic, lactic, azelaic and malic acids to prevent oil gland blockage and speed up cell turnover for brighter skin. If dry air or cold weather makes your skin feel more dehydrated than usual, you can also dial up your moisturizer to one that contains weightless yet very effective hyaluronic acid—we like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel.
It can seem really unfair if you’re contending with zits and fine lines at the same time—but according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 20% of adults today have active acne. Fortunately, there’s some good news: Downie says prescription retinoids (known as “retinol” in over the counter formulations) treat acne, fine lines and wrinkles in one shot. Now that’s our idea of a multi-tasker! Murad Anti-Aging Acne Regimen combines retinol with encapsulated salicylic acid and kombucha to stimulate collagen production in a cleanser, serum and moisturizer that you apply morning and night. To take results to the next level, see your dermatologist for a prescription version of this vitamin A-derived ingredient.
As if PMS symptoms aren’t bad enough, monthly breakouts can add even more drama to the situation. Your best bet is to keep acne-fighting ingredients in a moderate percentage on hand to preventatively use all month or a couple of weeks leading up to your period (depending on the severity of your breakout needs), since waiting to treat once zits have surfaced is too late. Check out ClarityMD’s Acne Solution Kit that contains a cleanser and clarifying all-over gel that are both formulated with 1% salicylic acid to clear pores while aloe vera and olive fruit extracts nurture. Both products are easy to rotate in and out of your routine, or can be followed with an oil-free moisturizer as your everyday skincare.
Complexions that are reactive and prone to symptoms like redness and dry patches need to use extra caution when treating pimples. Schweiger says to stick with products that are alcohol-free with hydrating ingredients like glycerin and ceramides that boost moisture levels. We like Cetaphil’s Oil Control Foam Wash and Moisturizer with SPF 30, which are specially formulated to soothe sensitivity while controlling oil production and replenishing skin. And whatever your skin type, the duo is also great to pair with more aggressive or prescription treatments, to help calm any side effects like dryness and flaking.