“While many of the active ingredients we use and recommend for treating acne are effective, they can also dry out, irritate, or injure the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “If you use too much, it can cause too much irritation to the skin and therefore lead to dryness, tenderness, skin irritation.”
Not only can being too aggressive with your routine make an angry pimple even redder and more irritated, it can also make more of its pesky friends appear elsewhere on your face. “Excessive irritation can potentially backfire and cause more breakouts because your skin can’t really regulate its oil production,” says Dr. Garshick. “Furthermore, the skin is unable to effectively rid itself of the rash if it is already experiencing secondary irritation and inflammation.”
To make sure you’re not overdoing it and you’re on your way to clearer, calmer skin, Dr. Garshick says there are five routine acne rules you should always follow. .
5 acne routine rules to follow
1. Space out your assets
The standard active ingredients for acne treatment are retinoids (which increase cell turnover, preventing acne-causing buildup), salicylic acid (which exfoliates the skin and removes grime), and sodium peroxide. benzoyl (a topical antiseptic that targets acne-causing bacteria) . For the most part, these are not ingredients you want to layer.
“I generally recommend doing the retinoid at night and then the salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide product during the day,” says Dr. Garshick. “Especially when starting an acne regimen, it’s always best to space out your active ingredients.” This is especially true with benzol peroxide with retinoids. “Some prescriptions available combine these two ingredients and in this case, when specifically formulated as such, it is generally thought to be fine, but it is generally not a good idea to apply both at the same time. time,” says Dr. Garshick. “It can cause additional irritation and can potentially impact the effectiveness of both.”
If you use a cleanser with active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you can probably use it with another leave-in active, just be careful as your skin adapts to these formulas.
“Because cleansers aren’t left on, it’s generally safe to use them in the same part of a routine. [as other actives]”, says Dr. Garhick. “So if you’re using your cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, it’s usually okay to put a retinoid on top. But my general preference for most people, especially when they’re just starting out, is to separate them – one in the morning, one in the evening. Then, once your skin has built up a tolerance and you feel like you need to use more, you might be able to get away with it.”
2. Keep spot treatments and full treatments separate
The best and most effective acne treatment is prevention. But if you’re dealing with active pimples, spot treatments can come to the rescue. These formulas are extra potent, so you don’t want to mix them into your daily acne care routine.
“If you apply a salicylic acid spot treatment and then put a retinoid on it, chances are that area is more likely to become red, irritated and potentially more noticeable than the rash itself. , so I usually say just stick with one or the other,” says Dr. Garshick. “If you plan to treat the spots for a few days, don’t apply your regular treatment [acne-fighting] face cream following this treatment.”
If you feel you need to keep spot and full treatments in your routine, be sure to space them out like you would your other actives: one in the morning, one in the evening.
3. Do not apply hydrocolloid patches on the active ingredients
Hydrocolloid patches, also known as pimple patches, get rid of pimples by pulling out oil and grime from whiteheads.
“Hydrocolloid patches, in general, are great, and some actually have salicylic acid or a built-in active ingredient,” says Dr. Garshick. “The one thing to note, however, is that you don’t necessarily want to apply a patch if you have any active ingredients on your skin. Because the patch is an adhesive, it will create some degree of occlusion on the skin. So if you have your retinoid below that and leave your patch on for 12 hours or whatever, you may increase the chances of irritation.”
Although Dr. Garshick is a fan of pimple patches, she recommends applying them only to clean skin with no other actives involved.
4. Take a break if you notice irritation
While some acne-fighting ingredients are known to cause a bit of irritation, derms don’t want you to just experience redness, stinging, burning, flaking, or dryness. “These are all signs that you’ve probably triggered some degree of irritation and it’s worth changing up your routine or how often you do it,” says Dr. Garshick. If it’s really bad, it might help to take a break from your acne products.
“It’s much better for your skin to give it a chance to repair itself, rather than just keep going,” says Dr. Garshick. “The odds of healing your acne when it’s red, irritated and inflamed are very small, so give your skin that chance and then get back on the diet.”
5. Be patient
“A lot of ingredients are good, but not everyone with acne needs them all,” says Dr. Garshick. “When you start an acne regimen or routine, I usually say it’s best to start by incorporating one new ingredient at a time, see how your skin responds, then add more if needed. .”
And remember: even the most effective routine will take some time to work – there’s no miracle cure that will magically reduce breakouts overnight. “With acne, it can take two to three months for a lot of these treatments to really kick in and really see a difference,” says Dr. Garshick. “It’s important to be patient and know that just because you don’t see results right away doesn’t mean this ingredient isn’t right for you. It may just take longer.”
A dermatologist shares her top tips for managing adult acne:
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