I get a lot of questions asking what products are good for keeping skin clear, getting rid of acne, and all that jazz so I thought I would do a post on it (of course). If you simply want a guide on how to get rid of blemishes, blackheads and all that, check out this post I did awhile back. This post is more or less about general tips and guidelines to keeping your skin clear or clearing your skin up in general. Anyhow, on with the post!
Some Background on my Skin: My skin is like a woman on her menstrual whose chocolate has been stolen, hidden or eaten; cranky, temperamental and extremely short tempered. Acne sucks and I’m someone who knows first hand how crappy it can be to struggle with getting and maintaining clear skin, but there is a way to keep your skin under control and looking great with these few tips that are easier than you think to do. I’m not a celebrity with an on-call derm or someone with bucket loads of cash to spend on every product that may or may not work; I’m just a girl who has found the light through the ugly darkness that is acne prone, sensitive combination to oily skin and discovered tips that have worked well for me along the way and some that I swear by. I hope they work for you as well. I’m here if you have any questions so feel free to comment below if you have any!
Double Cleansing Is God.
Straight out of the gate, I swear by double cleansing. The trick to this, in my opinion, is using the right cleansers. A lot of the time, I see people who have bad acne or breakouts, but then they use super drying cleansers as well which can irritate the skin further and aggravate break outs so they worse or take longer to calm down and heal up. When my acne was at its worst, I was no different. I used those horrid Neutrogena acne soaps that are basically just sulfates (creates the foamy lather and dries out your skin) with salicylic acid and so it’s actually no wonder my skin was a dry, red, acne ridden mess.
What I like to use for double cleansing depends on the day. If I am particularly oily or dirty, I like to use a clay based cleanser like the Tea Tree Clay Cleanser from Naruko followed by something more nourishing like the Cleanse Balm from Suti to counterbalance dryness. You can also take the opposite approach and oil cleanse first with an oil like this Olive Oil All-In-One Treatment from ONE Skincare and then use a gentle cleanser afterwards like the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser (all time favorite of mine!) or the Vitalising Cleanser from Living Nature. You can also oil cleanse the cheap way by using a raw organic oil such as olive oil, evening primrose, or grapeseed oil. Check out this post to see which is right for your skin type.
If I am battling breakouts and irritation galore, I prefer to use the Triple Action Cleanser with aloe vera from Alpha-H followed by their scrub to really get a good clean and help with cell turnover. If you do use this method, though, you don’t need to exfoliate after as the scrub will be enough, but you can use a mask if you like for added cleansing. Just make sure you moisturize after or you’ll be too dry and cause more irritation. Otherwise, if I’m having a normal day or if I feel a little dry or sensitive, I might just use the Cleanse Balm or a Cleansing Oil (try the Natural Glow Cleansing Oil from Antonia Burrell) followed by a gentle soap free cleanser (try the Organic Face Wash from Juice Beauty). If I want to be lazy and do some easy cleansing that is still effective, I like to use the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish with the muslin cloth because I can get all my makeup, sunscreen, dirt and debris off my face which clears my pores, but also get a gentle exfoliation without having to do too many steps. If your skin is deathly sensitive and you can’t use too much on it, I highly recommend investing in a konjac sponge. It’s super gentle, basic, and lightly exfoliates the skin while you use it. Plus, you can’t beat that price.
If you use a facial cleansing oil, I recommend using any of these face massage methods for excellent skin cleansing benefits. Not only does it help clear pores, it also helps your skin absorb products better so you can get the benefits from what you’re putting on your skin.
Spot Treat As Opposed to All Over Treat.
In the past when I would breakout, especially in high school, I would normally attack breakouts with benzoyl peroxide and these cringe-worthy acne pads from Oxy that burned like hell going on ( I now know it’s because they have almost 50% alcohol) and only succeeded in drying my whole face out, making me peel, more red, more irritated and had little to no effect on blemishes. Please don’t do what I did and learn from my heinous heinous mistakes! I now use tea tree oil to spot treat with a Q tip or otherwise I put a bit of mask on each of my blemishes so I can calm the redness, soreness and make them shrink quickly.
Exfoliate Like A Boss.
When I say “Like a Boss,” I do NOT mean roughly. Please be gentle with your skin! It’s a delicate mantle that needs attention and affection. I just mean that you shouldn’t slack on your weekly, bi-weekly or even tri-weekly exfoliation sessions. Most people only need once or twice a week, but if you have really oily or super clogged skin, you may need to do 3 times a week to get your skin under control. Once it’s calmed down a bit, you can take it back to 2 time or even once a week, depending on your skin’s condition, type and the season.
Also, a lot of people think that to exfoliate, you have to use a scrub, but this isn’t true at all. Exfoliation can be easy and gentle and even those with sensitive skin can do it, but you just need to use the right product or ingredient. If you have super sensitive, dry or combination to dry skin, I recommend using a thin layer of milk, yogurt or these Nourishing Facial Refreshers from Dairyface which work really well. They might make you a little red post exfoliation, but it fades within 20 minutes and the effects are worth it. If you have normal, combination to oily, oily or skin that’s broken out, you can use either a scrub like the Micro Cleanse from Alpha-H, a personal favorite, or you can use an exfoliant like this Papaya and Willow Bark Enzyme Exfoliator from Claribel Skincare that requires less work. You just apply a thin layer, wait 10 minutes and rinse. It will feel tingly, but it goes away shortly. Be careful to not overdo it.
If you’re unsure about how many times a week you should be exfoliating, start with 1 time and then work up to more if needed and no more than 3 times. If you really need the pick me up, you can use a mask directly after exfoliating for added effectiveness. ALWAYS moisturize after exfoliating, using a mask and/or cleansing no matter what. I don’t care if your skin is oily, dry, or whatever, find a moisturizer you like and use it every day twice a day. It’s optimal if you can add in some kind of nighttime treatment serum or cream for additional repair benefits, but if not, a basic gentle moisturizer with hydrating ingredients should work fine.
Mask It, But Not with Makeup!
I am pretty obsessed with using face masks. I love to make them (see Natural DIY Face Mask recipes here), use them, whatever. Pretty much any way I can enjoy the fun of using one, I will. Plus, if you prefer to avoid intense exfoliation or you don’t want to put in that much effort, a mask is a fail safe way to get the job done without thinking too hard about it. Some of my favorite face masks are the Rosehip and Mint Clay Mask from Farmaesthetics, Willa Naturals Cucumber Clay Mask, or sometimes I just leave the Micro Cleanse from Alpha-H on for 5 minutes after I’m done massaging it around my face.
Dry Skin Is Not Necessarily Acne Free Skin. Moisturize!
Again, a lot of people think if they can just dry out the whole area where acne is residing, this will make their skin clear. For instance, I used to use benzoyl peroxide or any acne gel I had on hand on my entire face. I did have a lot of breakouts, but rather than deal with them one by one, I just slathered it all over my face. Not only was my face dry, irritated and still broken out, it was also now peeling. Yay. Like I said, don’t make the same desperate mistakes as me! Even if you have breakouts, don’t be afraid to use oil serums on your face (See here for the truth about oil in skincare) because a lot of them actually help with breakouts and irritation on the skin like the Elemeni Face Oil from Max Green Alchemy that helps to balance the skin while treating breakouts. Another more nourishing option is the Radiance Face Oil from Living Nature. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to use oil on your face ( like my mom), the Balancing Moisturizer and Gentle Face Exfoliant from Alpha-H is in my holy grail of products and works really well. It has 10% glycolic acid in the formula so it exfoliates the skin as well. If you use it, you don’t need to exfoliate. It would likely be overkill. Also, sometimes I like to use it every other day so it just depends on your skin. If that seems to intense, another great option is the Extra Hydrating Toning Gel by Living Nature. If you need extra moisture and nourishment on your skin or if your skin is feeling especially red and irritated, the Purity Balm from Suti Skincare is amazing.
Stop Touching Your Face.
Seriously, I mean it. It was one of the hardest things I had to get over and I still catch myself picking sometimes, but you just have to do whatever you can to NOT touch your face. I have a tendency to lean my hand on my chin sometimes as well and that oil, dirt and debris on my hand and fingers would cause breakouts. Do whatever you have to do to not touch your face; it will thank you for it later by staying clear and smooth.
Keep Hair Products Off Your Face.
I’ve had issues in the past with heavy conditioners breaking my forehead out so this is just a heads up as some people may not think about the fact that it might be their hair products breaking them out. Just keep all hair serums, conditioners, moisturizing shampoos, etc. away from your face and be sure to wash your hands directly after applying anything to your hair. I’ve gone and applied hair serum and then caught myself touching my face in some way or another a few seconds later without thinking about it.
Use Acne Friendly Makeup, Preferably the Natural Kind.
I know a lot of people use makeup to cover up breakouts. I was no different, but it honestly just aggravates any existing breakouts and redness times 10. Avoid liquid foundation, if you can, at least until your breakouts get more under control. If you just can’t avoid it, I recommend investing in a formula that include salicylic acid like this one from SukiColor. Otherwise there are plenty of natural powder foundations like my favorite from Alima Pure.
Clean Your Pillows, Sheets, and Wash Cloths Frequently.
This one is something I never thought about until I read it in a blog post. I would source it if I could remember where the hell I read it, but nope. Anyhow, you want to clean AT LEAST your pillowcase once a week, your sheets every 2 weeks, and do not use the same wash cloth more than twice. I bought a small pack of washcloths at Target for like $6 USD. You can also get an organic cotton set of 8 for $11.99 on Etsy here. Otherwise, some people swear by muslin cloths. It’s your personal preference so use what you like, just make sure it’s clean. Lastly, don’t use the same washcloth you cleaned the counter top with on your face. I’ll never forget the day I realized I was doing this. My friend Aaron noticed I was cleaning sink water off my counter with the cloth. I then proceeded to wash my face and was right about to dry my face with that same cloth when he asked me what the heck I was doing. Hello! You just wiped the counter with that! Do NOT put that on your face. So now I’m passing on that advice. DO NOT PUT THAT ON YOUR FACE!
Sleep With Your Hair Up, Geisha Style.
Sometimes, especially in the Summer, my hair gets oily a whole lot faster. I have long hair at the moment and it can get dry as well so I use conditioner a lot. If I sleep with my hair down, I tend to end up sleeping on it and this can cause breakouts, either because your hair is too oily or the conditioner you use is. To solve this problem, I often sleep with a top bun likeor braid my hair to keep it out of my face.
Stay Hydrated with Fruits + Veggies.
This is pretty basic, but in the beginning I know I never thought about mind / body connection. Actually that’s something I recently truly thought about after reading The Water Secret by Dr. Howard Murad (of Murad Skincare). I know a lot of blogs will advise you to drink a million and five cups of water a day and you should be drinking a good amount of water, but a lot of your body’s hydration (including that of your skin) gets hydrated by food as well, especially vegetables and fruits like watermelon and celery which are made up of mostly water. Plus, the added bonus is they also include vital nutrients and antioxidants to protect your body, skin and rejuvenate and heal it as well. For a list of the most hydrating foods, click here.
Workout To Unclog Pores.
Lastly, a good sweat can help clear out pores. Whenever you get your blood pumping, your cells are moving faster and your metabolism kicks in to high gear which helps with cell turnover and healing rates in your body, including in your skin. I used to dread working out when I was broken out because I felt like all the sweat caused my pores to clog, but actually exercise will help clear your skin. Just make sure to wipe your face with a washcloth instead of your inevitable dirty hands and shower and clean your face directly after working out.
So that’s it; my massive painfully long list of tips.
Sorry for the ridiculous length and the huge amount of links; I just wanted everything accessible and easy to find so yeah.
I hope you found it helpful anyway and maybe you can incorporate some of these tips into your daily routine.
Good Luck & Feel free to ask me questions in the comments!