7 Skin Care Tips for People With Acne

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Not sure how best to take care of your skin when you have acne? You might think it's a good idea to avoid moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Not so. You might be tempted to scrub your skin to clear it up faster. That’s also not a good idea. Doing either or both could irritate your skin and make your acne worse. Skin care for acne is like skin care for normal skin. Follow these seven acne skin care tips.

  • 1
    Establish a skin care routine.
    Portrait of young woman washing her face

    It’s important to keep your skin clean, but don’t wash your skin too often. This can irritate your skin and make your acne worse. Acne medication may cause your skin to be dry. Excessive washing can make the dryness worse. Instead, establish a daily routine. Wash your skin once in the morning and again at night before you go to bed. If you work out, shower afterwards. That's especially true if you've been biking or playing a sport that requires you to wear a helmet or tight clothes made of synthetic fabric. Sweating can make acne worse.

  • 2
    Avoid harsh cleansers.
    Young Woman Applying Cream On Her Face

    Hot water and abrasive cleansers can trigger acne breakouts. Steer clear of harsh skin care products like alcohol-based astringents, toners and exfoliants. The best face wash for acne is gentle, non-irritating, and pH-balanced to reduce inflammation. Mild cleansers can remove surface oil and dirt from your skin without harming its barrier function. This keeps your skin from drying out. It's also important to wash cleansers completely off your skin. Lukewarm water does this well. Leaving a residue can cause irritation.

  • 3
    Clean your skin gently.
    woman applying facial cream

    When it comes to acne, it's not just what you use to clean your skin that's important. How you clean your skin also matters. Scrubbing can remove skin lipids, which are fat-like substances in the skin's outer layer. This can cause irritation. It also can make your acne flare up. Likewise, don't use a washcloth, sponge or brush to clean your skin. It's better to apply an acne-friendly cleanser with your fingertips. Dry your skin by patting it with a clean towel. Then wait 5 to 15 minutes before putting on your acne medication. This can help prevent irritation, too.

  • 4
    Have a hands-off policy.
    Close-up of woman with acne

    Try not to touch your skin. This can make a big difference in managing acne. It might be tempting to "unclog" your pores by squeezing or "popping" pimples. Even so, it's important to resist this urge. Squeezing acne lesions can make them worse or cause an infection. In some cases, it can lead to scarring.

  • 5
    Protect your skin from the sun.
    Woman in the sun

    Avoiding the sun's harmful UV rays is always a good idea. If you have acne, it's even more important. Experts aren't sure that sunlight has a positive effect on acne. But, it's clear that sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. Another reason to avoid sun time is certain acne treatments can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun. You should apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before going out in the sun. Many new sunscreens don't clog pores or make acne worse. Spray or gel-based sunscreens are good options for oily or acne-prone skin.

  • 6
    Avoid greasy makeup.

    Try to not use makeup with thick and greasy ingredients like mineral oils. These can clog pores. Instead, use skin products with the term "non-comedogenic" on the label. This means the product will not clog your pores. Look for mineral-based makeup that contains the dimethicone, powdered silica, powdered titanium dioxide, or powdered zinc oxide. These ingredients can absorb excess oil, mask redness, and give your skin a smooth and non-oily look. One more thing to consider: If you have oily hair, wash it daily to keep the excess oil from clogging your pores.

  • 7
    Yes, you still need to moisturize.
    Man applying skin cream

    Even people with acne need to moisturize. Acne medicine can make your skin dry. So, if you skip this step in your skin care routine, your skin can become red and peel easily. However, don't use a heavy cream with a mineral oil base. Instead, try a light, oil-free moisturizer. Any product you use should say "non-comedogenic" on the label. When picking a moisturizer for acne-prone skin, products with the following ingredients are good options: humectants including glycerin and hyaluronic acid; lipids such as ceramides, and silicone oils such as dimethicone.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 May 6
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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