Battling the occasional blemish can be brutal. But tackling recurring breakouts? Seemingly impossible. “Acne is one of the most common conditions of the skin,” confirms New York dermatologist Evan Rieder, MD, adding that acne can be chronic in nature and is notoriously difficult to treat.
However, no matter how severe your acne is, a dedicated treatment plan is essential for clearer skin. And if you’re looking for a foolproof strategy for clearing up an acne-prone complexion, there are a few skin-care rules you should adhere to moving forward. Here, we tapped Dr. Rieder for the best tactics for ridding your skin of pesky pimples once and for all.
Commit to a few key lifestyle changes
While consulting a dermatologist is the best route for achieving clear skin, there are several lifestyle choices one can make to minimize their acne on their own, too. “We know that acne has many factors that contribute to its development,” explains Dr. Rieder. “These include our genetic makeup, hormonal imbalances, stress, skin-care choices, and diet.”
According to Dr. Rieder, it’s important to regularly change your pillowcase, consider eliminating cow’s milk products and refined sugars from your diet, cleanse your skin twice a day, and practice psychological stress management techniques. Each of these easy changes have been proven to be helpful in minimizing breakouts.
Be picky about skin care ingredients
When shopping for skin-care products, pay close attention to the ingredient list. Dr. Rieder recommends looking for products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or retinoids. “Benzoyl peroxide is probably the single most effective topical to kill acne bacteria,” confirms Dr. Rieder. “Salicylic acid also helps to gently exfoliate, pop pimples, and may help with any pigmentary alteration.” Finally, Dr. Rieder affirms that retinoids directly inhibit acne’s path of inflammation and help with skin cell turnover to prevent blackheads from forming.
Streamline your product routine
Now that you know which ingredients to look for, it’s important to get your skin-care routine aligned correctly. The first step? Choosing an effective cleanser. “If you have oily skin, look for a foaming cleanser which can degrease your skin,” says Dr. Rieder. “If you have dry or sensitive skin, hydrating cleansers or micellar water can be more forgiving.”
Dr. Rieder recommends using a different cleanser depending on the seasons and your skin type. “I typically recommend La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water ($16) for drier, colder months and sensitive skin types as it is very gentle in its ability to cleanse, remove makeup, and leave the skin feeling fresh,” he explains. In warmer climates or for oily skin types, the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash ($16) is your best bet thanks to its combination of 2% salicylic acid and lipo-hydroxy acid that gently degrease the skin.
Moisturization is also critical, as it can keep the levels of skin microbes in the correct balance and keep the outer layers of skin protected. Just make sure you’re looking for moisturizers that are oil-free and non-comedogenic as that typically ensures they won’t cause or worsen acne. A good option is the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer ($20), which combines niacinamide, glycerin, and ceramides to restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier and soothe irritation.
Finally, Dr. Rieder favors the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% ($30) as a nightly treatment because it can target acne and improve the overall quality of the skin. “It’s one of the only prescription-strength retinoids available as an over-the-counter treatment,” he explains. As retinoids can be a bit irritating, start by using this product every other night to let your skin adjust to the exfoliation. Then, commit to using this treatment every night—your skin will thank you.