OK – let me start out by saying that I do not suffer from chronic or widespread acne, nor have I visited a skincare professional, nor am I a skincare expert. Over the past several months, my dry, non-acne prone skin has gone through an uncharacteristic period of oiliness and acne flareups, and I want to share my latest routine for those of you who may be going through the same thing and want to gently resolve these issues with clean skincare. For the record, my skin does present as more combination during the humid summer months, but I would definitely say that the blemishes I’ve been experiencing since earlier this year aren’t my norm and prompted my deep dive into clean acne care and the subsequent routine changes.
All the details are listed in the post below 🙂
I’ve shared my clean skincare routines here (and here) in the past and I still continue to use and recommend many of these products. Now that I’ve built up my arsenal of great skincare, I keep my routine flexible and make modifications based on how my skin is doing that day (dry, oily, active breakouts, etc.).
Step 1: Cleansing
This is an AM step that I normally skip. I usually wakeup with hydrated skin, cleansed from the night before. Anytime I wake up with oily skin or have been suffering from any active breakouts, I reach for a cleanser during my morning shower. The two that I have been enjoying lately are:
- Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser – this is a gentle physical exfoliating cleanser that removes the oiliness without stripping my skin. I like to concentrate the tiny particles on any problem areas, namely my forehead, around the nose and chin. This is something I reach for 1-2x per week when I am experiencing skin issues. (You can get this for 15% off at Follain with the code ref_bittafab)
- Beauty Counter Charcoal Cleansing Bar – I have always been a fan of charcoal masks, but the brands I’ve used in the past weren’t always the cleanest. With the increasing popularity of charcoal soap bars, I decided to give this one a try. I work the bar into a lather and gently cleanse my face while in the shower. This does leave my face a bit more squeaky clean feeling than the Tata Harper Cleanser, but nothing too dry and tight/uncomfortable. I may reach for this 1x/week for my face, but alternatively, it’s a great option for underarms or any other skin issues as well.
For my PM routine, I always start off with a double cleanse. Previously, I’ve shared the One Love Organics B Enzyme Oil cleanser (15% off at Follain with code ref_bittafab). This is still my go-to cleanser for heavier makeup days – this easily removes face and eye makeup, along with waterproof mascara, with minimal effort. For lighter makeup days, I’ve been really enjoying the Poethique Cleansing Milk. This, too, removes all of my makeup, including waterproof mascara, and leaves my skin feeling soft and not stripped. For the second portion of the double cleanse, I am still turning to my trusty First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser. This is a very gentle cleanser and I like to use this in conjunction with the PMD Clean device for a more targeted cleanse. The PMD Clean’s silicone bristles are gentle on the skin and the vibration really helps to ensure that no traces of makeup or dirt is left behind. I really enjoy this type of cleansing device, the silicone bristles require almost zero maintenance; I’ve been using my device for the past year and it still looks like new!
Step 2: Toner
I am addicted to the super hydrating Indie Lee COQ-10 toner (15% off at Follain with code ref_bittafab). Although this doesn’t have acne-fighting properties per se, it delivers a great burst of moisture and has great anti-aging benefits. I never skip the toning step because this really sets the stage for the rest of my skincare to perform its best. Never apply skincare to dry skin – you won’t get the full benefit. Prep the skin with a hydrating toner like this and your skin will soak up everything that’s to come!
Step 3: Serum
In my frenzied search for a solution to my blemish woes, I came across the wonders of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, a BHA, has anti-inflammatory properties and works to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. This is naturally derived from the Willow tree. When it comes to targeted “acne treatments”, I’m always wary that they will exacerbate my dry skin issues. That is until I discovered the Andalou Naturals Willow Bark Pure Pore Serum. This is an extremely gentle, clean serum that not only helps with active and impending breakouts but works to reduce post-breakout hyperpigmentation. I do believe this product is targeted for individuals with oily/acne-prone skin, but having said that, in my two months of using this product, I haven’t experienced any dryness or discomfort. I have, on the other hand, noticed a reduction in the amount of time my breakouts last, a reduction in overall blemishes and overall smoother, clearer skin. This also plays well with the rest of my skincare, so I strongly recommend this serum! Added bonus, it’s quite affordable 🙂
Step 4: Eye Cream
This step has nothing really to do with my acne-fighting regimen, except that I want to make sure that the delicate skin around my eyes is well-hydrated. With all of the exfoliating treatments, masks and cleansers I’m using, I know that products may move around on my skin and could potentially affect my under eyes. Keeping this area properly moisturized is key and I am a big fan of the Zum Face Under Eye Butter for that. This is a rich, almost lip balm-like under eye cream that helps to reduce any under eye dryness or crepey-ness. I also apply this under my brows and to my “crows feet” (the whole orbital area, really!). A little goes a really long way because this is a very thick product and I’m not sure this would be a good fit for anyone with normal or oily skin – but if you are a dry skin sufferer like me, definitely try this gem out! Super moisturizing and great under makeup. Another very affordable clean product!
Step 5: Moisturizer/SPF
Acne or not, you always have to product your skin. Every morning, I use a facial SPF, no matter how much sun I’m planning to get. This not only helps to prevent pre-mature aging, but also helps to curb the worsening of any post-blemish hyperpigmentation. My go-to SPF has been the Farmacy Beauty Green Defense. This is a great clean option for women of color because there is zero white cast! It also has properties to combat hyperpigmentation, win-win! While it’s pretty hydrating on its own, I love to mix in a couple drops of a facial oil for a bit of added moisture. The two oils I’ve been rotating between lately are the Poethique Facial Recovery Elixir and the Drunk Elephant Marula Oil. Both are great, non-greasy oils that really sink into my skin.
As you may know already, I’m a bit extra with my SPF and apply a separate one for my under eyes, the Colorescience Total Eye SPF. Not only does this protect from premature aging, but it also has brightenting properties to make me feel a bit more confident on those days when I go makeup-free!
For my PM routine, I swap out the SPF for a moisturizer and these days I’ve been loving the FitGlow Beauty Vita Rich Creme. This is a nutrient-packed, anti-aging moisturizer with a thin, fluid consistency. I tend to mix in a couple of drops of facial oil with this as well – my skin loves the rich moisture!
So there you have it, my AM and PM routines on any given “acne” day typically involve these five steps. Now I’d like to share the treatments and masks I’ve been using for that extra weekly or bi-weekly boost.
- Retinol Serum – Everyone has heard the retinol hype – I’m here to tell you it’s real. As I’m getting older, I am trying to make it more of a priority to incorporate retinol into my weekly routine. I have been using the First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25%. This has been the first, non-prescription retinol product that I’ve used, kind of a baby/introductory retinol if you will. I use this product 1-2x week, although I’d like to ramp this up to every other day, and haven’t experienced any peeling. I have noticed a great lessening of any blemishes and a reduced lifespan of any impending breakouts. I apply this at night, on freshly cleansed and toned skin. After letting this dry, I follow up with eye cream and pat a facial oil over top.
- Acne Spot Treatment – I’ve always loved a good spot treatment. Something you can apply just on the problems areas, post-skincare routine. I’ve tried a couple clean spot treatments, but the Osmia Spotless Blemish Oil has been a real game changer for me (15% off at Follain with code ref_bittafab). This tiny roller ball doesn’t look that powerful, but don’t let its size fool you – it’s packed with acne-busting goodness!! I typically apply this nightly over current breakouts and wakeup to significant reductions, but my favorite is when I apply this to the painful, not quite broken through the skin yet, acne and it most cases, it stops them from emerging completely. Wow! This is a must have in everyones arsenal – a true magical blend of acne-fighting goodness.
- Exfoliating Mask – I love mask-ing when skin issues arise. It’s a great way to deliver potent benefits to the skin, if you have 20 min of looking a bit scary to spare 😛 There’s always the added bonus of shocking my kids! The Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask doesn’t have the stereotypical green look to it, but it’s been super effective at reducing current breakouts, while making my skin texture smooth and glowy. I apply this to freshly cleansed skin right at the start of my nighttime routine and leave it on for 20 minutes. After I rinse this off, I apply my skincare as usual. It’s a pricey product, as most Tata Harper products are, but it really delivers (15% off at Follain with code ref_bittafab)!
I hope this post helps anyone suffering from a bout of uncharacteristic breakouts like I have been. It’s always good to have effective products on hand for when these issues arise. As much as I love makeup for covering problem areas up, skincare always comes first! Please share your clean, acne-busting go-tos in the comments below! You can never have too much, right? 😛