1. Wash Your Face Daily
The first and most important rule isn’t groundbreaking: Remember to wash your face! Cleansing and treating your skin twice a day is the best way to keep breakouts away. For those emergencies when you’re just too tired to wash your face, keep a stash of face wipes in the drawer of your nightstand. This way if you get home super late and don’t feel like going all the way to the sink, you can still go to bed with clean skin!
2. Use the Right Cleanser
Buying a generic face wash won’t necessarily improve your complexion; for a cleanser to be most effective, you have to pay attention to your skin’s needs and pick the ingredients accordingly. If your skin tends to be oily, choose products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. For sensitive skin, look for cleansers with lactic acid or hydrating ingredients like glycerin, which aren’t as drying as those made for oilier types.
3. Don’t Over-Exfoliate
Scrubbing your face daily with grainy cleansers and exfoliating products can do more harm than good. When done too often, it can cause redness, inflammation, and irritation. “Exfoliating a pimple can pull away healthy skin cells and create an open wound and higher risk for scarring,” says Jessica Weiser, MD, from New York Dermatology Group. “Exfoliation should be done with caution, and not more than 2-3 times a week maximum.”
4. Regularly Change Your Face Towel
When you think about it, consistently reaching for your go-to face towel every day is like reusing a dinner napkin over and over again. Using dirty towels can harbor bacteria, and they can even introduce new bacteria to your skin, which may lead to more pimples. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you need to reach for a new towel every single time you wash your face, according to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at NYU Langone and Mount Sinai Hospital. As long as you’re truly washing off all of your makeup, you can stick to switching out your towels on a weekly basis.
Worried moisturizer will make your acne worse? Think again — it can actually help improve your skin. “If the skin surface is dry and dehydrated, the oil glands tend to overproduce oil and this can make acne worse,” Dr. Weiser says. “Hydrating the skin surface can re-balance oil glands and help control acne and improve healing.” When buying a moisturizer, she recommends looking for a lightweight, oil-based product that won’t clog your pores. Dr. Levin likes Differin Soothing Moisturizer because it’s “a great lightweight pH balanced moisturizer you can use in combination with acne topical treatments.”
6. Use Sunscreen that Doesn’t Clog Pores
While SPF is a must, some sunscreens can trigger breakouts. You want to look for oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas that won’t clog pores,” says Karen Hammerman, MD, from Schweiger Dermatology. Options from brands like Elta MD and Peter Thomas Roth, which are recommended by the pros, are specifically tested on acneic skin so you can get your dose of SPF without having to worry about clogged pores.
7. Skip Makeup When You’re Working Out
Take an extra five minutes before hopping on the treadmill to completely wash your face and remove your makeup to minimize the risk of breakouts. “Sweat is released through visible pores in the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Janelle Vega. “When makeup covers those pores, that barrier doesn’t allow the sweat to make it to the surface of the skin, which can lead to clogged pores. The trapped debris and bacteria are a perfect breeding ground for acne bumps and zits.”
8. Wash Your Face Post-Workout
“After sweating, immediately use an exfoliating cleanser to help keep your pores clear and remove excess oil,” says Dr. Zein Obagi of ZO Skin Health. Try keeping Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads in your gym bag or locker for those times you need an on-the-go cleanse. These will remove any leftover dirt while treating your skin with acne-fighting salicylic acid.