1. Always wash your face before bed. Not washing away the day’s grime? You’re asking for a breakout. Stash cleansing wipes on your nightstand for nights when you’re too tired to move.
2. Try an oil-absorbing moisturizer. The point of a moisturizer is to heal your skin, not make it feel greasy. Dr. Levin advises picking a daily lotion that will absorb any excess shine – like Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer, the winner for Best Moisturizer in Seventeen‘s 2019 Beauty Awards.
3. Don’t skimp on sudsing. Wash your face for 30 to 45 seconds with a dime-size amount of face wash. That’s how long it takes to clear dirt and oil off your face.
And there’s actually a chance that you’re washing your face all wrong. Watch this video from dermatologist Liv Kraemer to learn all the ins and outs of proper face-washing
4. Wash off ALL your cleanser. Leftover cleanser equals leftover dirt and oil. Rinse with tepid water until skin feels clean and smooth and no longer slippery or soapy. (Hot water dries out your skin and cold water closes your pores.
5. Be gentle. Scrubbing too hard leaves skin rough and red. Don’t fight with your face. Skip harsh scrubs and even washcloths, which can be too rough on your face and can cause irritation. If you use your hands (though I recommend a cleansing brush instead, see number 7), be sure they’re clean, or you’ll transfer acne-causing dirt and oil right back onto your face.
6. Suds up your cleanser in your hands first. It helps activate the ingredients, so they are more effective when applied to your face.
7. Don’t skip your morning wash. Hairstyling products get absorbed by your pillowcase then transfer to your skin — if it’s not cleared away in the am, it’ll clog your pores all day long.
For your before-school wash, try something brightening that’ll help wake up your skin. If you have a hard time getting up in the morning, a cooling face wash can help you really look alive. Test out the Bioré Blemish-Fighting Ice Cleanser. It literally cools your skin as it cleans.
8. Use a cleansing brush. Let’s be real, you just can’t clean inside of teeny tiny pores with your fingers. An exfoliating brush has tiny bristles that can actually get inside to work the grime out of your skin. Trust me, use this thoroughly on your entire face every day and you’ll notice a change in your skin within the week.It may be a bit of a splurge, but the Clarisonic Mia is supposed to cleanse six times better than hands alone, reduce appearance of pores, and allow skincare products to absorb better.
9. Don’t overwash. If your skin still feels oily, instead of washing again (which can make your skin produce even more oil), try an astringent after cleansing.
10. Exfoliate. The trick is to remove the layers of dead skin cells and dirt that are blocking your pores — and your skin’s natural glow. Products with alpha hydroxy and lactic acids exfoliate gently to make you look radiant.
11. Wash, then exfoliate. When washing, first use a mild face wash to cleanse your skin. Then, lightly massage exfoliator onto your face. This may seem redundant, but before you exfoliate, you want a clean canvas, so that the exfoliant can focus on digging out the stubborn dirt and oil that are stuck deeper inside your pores.
For a great double-duty exfoliator, opt for Peter Thomas Roth’s Acne Face & Body Scrub. It’s an ultra-gentle yet effective acne scrub that cleanses, treats, and exfoliates the face and body with one percent salicylic acid.
12. You need to clean your phone, too. If you’re seeing pimples on your cheeks or anywhere near the area where you hold your phone, they may be from your phone. Since it’s always in your hand, your phone picks up lots of bacteria, which can then get transferred to your face when you make a phone call. Wipe your screen with an anti-bacterial wipe often to get rid of germs.
13. Stop touching your face. You know how you rest your chin on your hand when you’re sitting in class? That might be the reason for those blemishes on your cheek or jaw. You’re constantly touching things that have germs — anything from your phone to your locker — so, putting your hands on your face transfers all of that onto your skin.
14. Change that pillowcase! Not changing your pillowcases enough can also cause your skin to break out. Even if you wash your face every night, your pillowcases carry dirt and sweat from your hair, hands, and build up from the products you use on your face at night. It’s a good idea to change it every few days.
15. Beware of bangs. All that extra hairspray on your bangs could be the cause of those annoying pimples on your forehead and along your hairline. After applying hair products, swipe a cleansing wipe across your face, and try to keep hair products away from your hairline. In addition to your face, hair products can cause bacne, too. Use a mild body wash (or an acne body wash) after washing and rinsing hair to help keep body acne in check.
16. Try the 3-step solution. If you have acne, dermatologists recommend fighting it with a three-step regimen: a salicylic acid cleanser, a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, and a daily moisturizer.
Benzoyl peroxide works by fighting the bacteria that causes acne. It causes an exfoliating effect that might cause some slight peeling and can dry out your skin. It’s great for mild cases of acne, and you can get it without a prescription — many drugstore acne washes, creams and gels contain benzoyl peroxide. Prescriptions creams that contain higher doses of benzoyl peroxides such can also be prescribed by a doctor for more severe cases.
Salicylic acid dries out the skin and helps exfoliate it to make dead skin cells fall away faster. It’s good for mild cases of acne, and is available without a prescription. Many drugstore acne creams, washes, and gels contain salicylic acid, but stronger versions are also available in prescription form. It can dry up your skin and cause redness and peeling.
17. Ask your doctor about cortisone injections. If you wake up the day before school starts with a big honking zit, your doc may be able to help. If you can swing it, Dr. Levin says your best bet is to head to the dermatologist for a cortisone injection.
It’s quick, with minimal discomfort, and will zap your zit almost immediately. This isn’t an easy or cheap option, obviously, but when it’s an emergency — like, you have a huge whitehead on the tip of your nose the day before senior portraits — it might be worth it.
18. Less is more. Too many products can irritate and too many steps may tempt you to skip. When it comes to your skin, more is definitely NOT more. In other words, trying a bunch of different remedies at once won’t boost your chances of making the zit disappear — more likely, it’ll just wreak havoc on your skin and turn a teeny-tiny pimple into a red, blotchy mess.
19. Seriously, DON’T POP IT. Popping can cause infections, making the situation worse. Instead, dab a sulfur treatment on problem areas morning and night. It brings down swelling until your zit disappears.
20. Derms are here to help. At-home treatment not working? See a dermatologist. A few appointments to set up a regimen, plus, check-ins every three to six months may get you in the clear.
21. Know your options. Benzoyl peroxide products are great at fighting pimples, but can be drying to your skin, so use them once a day at most. If it’s drying out or irritating your skin, switch out your cleanser for a gentle formula. Make sure you keep up your regular acne spot treatment, though. It will clear away dirt and oil without stripping your skin of moisture. Salicylic acid (in creams, gels, astringents, or masks) dries less than benzoyl peroxide, so it can be used with more-drying cleansers.
“If you’re unable to get into a dermatologist for a cortisone injection then I recommend specialized hydrocolloid acne patch called ZitSticka which is a 24 freeze-dried microdarts bandage that self dissolves over two hours to deliver acne-fighting ingredients,” explained Dr. Levin.
It contains oligopeptide-76, a new anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s like a gentler benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, niacinamide (which helps with anti-redness), and moisturizing hyaluronic acid.”
22. Try a prescription. Topical antibiotics are available only with a prescription and work by killing the bacteria on your skin that cause acne, and by reducing inflammation. Some examples of topical antibiotics are erythromycin and clindamycin. Your doctor may prescribe you them in conjunction with another topical treatment such as one containing benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid such as Retin-A.
If you tend to break out on the reg, avoid flare-ups by using a benzoyl peroxide face wash, or by applying a thin layer of a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to your whole face before bed. Dr. Levin recommends Differin Daily Deep Facial Cleanser for a cleanse that’s soft on skin, but hits acne hard.
23. Wash those brushes! Make sure to wash your makeup brushes regularly with brush cleanser or baby shampoo. If you use makeup sponges, wash those too. These tools can accumulate bacteria, which can lead to breakouts. Dirty brushes can make the most expensive skincare routines go to waste.
24. Be consistent. If you want great skin, care for it each day. Sporadic care won’t do it. And don’t expect any overnight miracles. It takes time for skin-clearing ingredients to kick in. Starting a skincare routine now will give you plenty of time for your skin to adjust by the time you walk through those double doors.
25. Get some sleep. Re-watching The Office until 3 am is not healthy for you or your skin. Not sleeping enough can make your hormones get out of whack and raise your body’s stress levels, which can make you breakout. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep to look and feel your best.
26. Get your SPF on. Sunscreen isn’t just for summer — your skin needs protection every day, even in winter. There are now sunscreens for every skin type imaginable — even ones that help make your skin less oily, so your face stays matte and pimple-free.
Look for a daily moisturizer with SPF that says it’s “lightweight,” “oil-free,” or “oil-controlling.” For the highest level, look for a PA++ rating, it covers both UVA and UVB rays, so you’re guarded against everything from burns to future wrinkles!
27. Ask your doctor about birth control. Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone have been shown to lower the amount of androgens in your body (a group of hormones that causes your body to produce sebum; excess sebum triggers acne) and therefore, are sometimes prescribed to help treat hormonal acne.It can take a few months to see results and initially your acne may get worse. There are risks associated with taking birth control pills, and some types can actually make your acne worse. Talk to your doctor to see if taking birth control pills will help the kind of acne you have.
28. Carry oil-absorbing sheets in your bag. Use them to blot away any shine that pops up while you’re out and about.
29. Antibiotics are an option. Oral antibiotics are usually used for moderate to severe acne, especially on the back or chest, and kill bacteria in your skin pores. The ones most commonly used are tetracycline and erythromycin.
Like all antibiotics, they can cause yeast infections as well as more severe side effects and can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. They can also cause increased sun sensitivity, so you’ll need to be extra careful when going outside and use SPF daily.
For more extreme cases, your doctor may suggest Isotretinoin (Accutane), which is used in moderate to severe cases of acne when nothing else works, but can have more extreme side effects.
30. Pat skin dry. It seems like such a tiny thing, but skin is very delicate. Gently pat dry instead of harshly rubbing.