Editor Approved: The Best Acne Products and Treatments

Acne. It seems unfair that as grown women we are still having to deal with such a painful, embarrassing, and frustrating condition. With so many misconceptions about what acne really is, what causes it, and the best ways to treat it, it’s no surprise that some of us are still dealing with skin disruptions on a daily basis.

For all of the terrible things acne is, there are even more things that acne isn’t. Acne is not a mark of poor hygiene, acne is not a one-size-fits-all condition, and most importantly, acne is not a permanent fixture in your life. If you’ve suffered from a young age or you’ve found yourself experiencing breakouts for the first time due to hormonal changes, rest assured that hope is out there for you. We’ll be focusing more on acne and its causes and treatments in upcoming articles, but for now these are our must-have products for keeping our skin crystal clear.

 

Source: @lightstim

 

LED Light Therapy Tools

I’ll be the first to admit my skepticism for at-home tools that promise clinical results. It took some major convincing before I let go of the cash for my first LightStim, but I am here now to tell you that if I could come to your home, drop to one knee, and beg you as an acne sufferer to invest in one single product that will actually have a noticeable effect on your skin’s appearance — it would be an LED light therapy tool.

LED blue and red light therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for active acneic breakouts, for reducing inflammation and acne-causing bacteria, and for stimulating skin cell’s production of vital proteins and elastin. If you combine regular (daily) LED light therapy alongside your thoughtful and consistent topical skincare routine, you will see a noticeable difference.

 

 

Double Cleansing

Sometimes the easiest ways to evoke substantial change in acneic skin is to change up how you’re approaching the treatment of it. So many times we fall victim to “oil-free” cleansers and moisturizers that are marketed to us as acne treatments, when all they really do is strip our skin of vital oils which revs our production of sebum into overdrive. If you want a full breakdown on the benefits of double cleansing and what it means for acne sufferers, check out this article.

 

Source: @laurantaina

 

Daily Chemical Exfoliation

One of the most irritating and inflammation-inducing practices that we still unfortunately engage in is scrubbing our skin. Physical exfoliation on regular skin is problematic enough, but for acne sufferers it is an absolute nightmare. Exfoliating daily with alpha hydroxy, beta-hydroxy, and polyhydroxy acids is the most effective way to disrupt the binding of dead skin cells that embed themselves in our pores and cause the infection that results in blemishes and congestion without causing further irritation by tearing and scratching the uppermost layer of skin.

 

Source: @ughnett

 

Antioxidant Rich Serums

In addition to gentle daily chemical exfoliation, following up the treatment with a daytime antioxidant rich serum will help defend your skin from the free radicals that crop up throughout the day due to stress, environmental pollutants, and topical irritants found in our makeup. Vitamin C is usually the go-to for daytime usage as it is effective at preventing new breakouts and goes to work on fading dark spots left behind by a healed one.

 

 

Retinoic Acid

Retinols are activated once they make contact with our skin, and with continued usage strengthen the deeper layers which allow for more resilience against cystic breakouts. Retinoic acid, a derivative of Vitamin A, is often associated with youth preserving skincare treatments but is also extremely effective against acne. If you are plagued with excessive oil production, enlarged pores, and persistent blackheads as well as inflamed breakouts, retinoic acid might be the missing link for you. Read our full breakdown of retinol to better determine if you should seek out prescription strength.

Splurge

Retin-A

by prescription

 

 

Balancing Oils

For too long oils have been the outcast pariah of acne skincare — well-intentioned (we assume) brands have included stripping and drying ingredients into their products with the aim of combating the problematic oil that induces breakouts. Ridding the skin of sebum isn’t possible, and it isn’t even really desirable. Our skin relies on the fatty acids and vitamin E in sebum to stay healthy and hydrated — sebum only becomes problematic when dried out and stripped skin produces too much of it. Using oils rich in linoleic acid help to balance oil production and more effectively hydrate acne-prone skin.

 

 

Source: Anouska

 

Sunscreen

We could talk about the necessity of sunscreen until we were blue in the face, but the truth is a lot of acne sufferers feel that they their breakout-prone skin can’t handle the active ingredients in sun protection. Aside from needing sunscreen for its protection, SPF is especially important to people who suffer from consistent breakouts because every pimple on your face is caused by sebum oxidation. Sebum oxidation is a really complicated-to-explain chemical process, but essentially when your skin is not protected from photosensitizing elements like UVA/UVB rays, it causes sebum to become comedogenic. Additionally, sun exposure causes hyper-pigmentation around breakouts to become worse, thus making them more visible.

 

What are your favorite acne-fighting products?

  • First of all, I couldn’t love you more for this article. Side note, I have been binge listening to “Forever 35” podcast and you would probably love it because they talk a lot about skincare/self-care. Second, this article is so timely because I JUST ordered a light therapy mask to treat my adult acne. I am curious when you think is best in morning/night routine to use light therapy? Is there a best time or anytime? Should I make sure my skin is product free (meaning no serums, moisturizer etc)? I want to treat my adult acne skin with care and not strip it of necessary oils etc. Would love to hear back!

    Thanks!

    • Jordan Bishop

      Hey marissa! So glad you enjoyed this story! I don’t feel like there is necessarily a best time to use your LED light therapy, as long as you’re using it consistently that’s all that really matters. Sometimes I use mine before bed, sometimes I use it before applying makeup in the morning, just get the dang thing on your face! Your tool will come with instructions, but I use mine after cleansing and toner. I wait until after treatment to apply anything else. It’s not harmful to have serums or anything on your face, I just feel like it helps my tool stay clean. I’m so excited for you to start LED therapy!!

  • Katia

    Love this article! I am, sad to say, still trying to get a handle on skincare and how to do my own makeup!! If I had better skin, I wouldn’t need as much makeup and has taken me years to learn this…
    I will have to do some research on day/nighttime routines with these projects next. Unless anyone has suggestions?

  • Mallory Wilczynski

    I LOVE this article! I’ve had a long journey with acne throughout the years and am excited to try some of these products (also, they are all beautifully packaged!). One thing I would like to see even more is an additional article or maybe a video of how one would use all these products in a day/week. Not sure on the order we should be using them in. Thanks!!

    • Jordan Bishop

      TEG is definitely starting to focus on videos and this is a great suggestion! But as for right now I’d recommend that you use these products as follows:
      Night time:
      1. Oil cleanser then water cleanser
      2. Hydrating toner or essence
      3. LED light therapy
      4. Retinol (wait 20mins for it to absorb before moving on to other products)
      5. Moisturizer lotion or cream
      6. Oil

      Day time:
      1. Oil cleanser then water water cleanser
      2. Acid treatment
      3. Hydrating toner or essence
      4. Vitamin C serum
      5. Moisturizing lotion or cream
      6. SPF

      Hope this helps! <3

      • Mallory Wilczynski

        It does! Thanks so much Jordan 🙂 Ordering everything now!

      • Kaitlin Gollon

        When would you apply serums? Before or after the retinol?
        My routine is:
        Double cleanse
        P50 lotion
        Optional mask
        Serums (thin to thick)
        Moisturizer
        Clarifying oil
        I am just not sure when the retinol should be applied to her maximum efficacy!
        Thanks!!

  • I don’t have acne, but I can’t tell you enough the difference double cleansing makes! I use an oil-cleanser first followed by a water based cream or gel cleanser, the follow it up with a Vitamin C serum, eye cream, and sunblock. It’s really gone a long way in reducing overall redness on my face. 🙂

  • Rachel Carroll

    This is great! Only thing I would add to the list is Accutane/medication…it’s like when there’s an article about fighting depression that doesn’t mention visiting a psychiatrist/psychologist for medical intervention. It’s good, but incomplete.

    • Jordan Bishop

      Accutane is a highly problematic medication. I can not recommend it’s usage as I am not a licensed physician. Anyone who suffers from acne to the degree that Accutane would be necessary would not be looking for topical treatments anyway, they would be in the care of medical professionals. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but Accutane should only be considered in extremely severe cases and I will never EVER recommend it to women who suffer moderate breakouts.

  • D. Davis

    Does the Botanics Hydration Burst Micellar Cleanser serve as both an oil and a water cleanser, or just one? Thanks!

    • Jordan Bishop

      Definitely just a water based cleanser. There is no way for an oil and water based cleanser to be combined as both elements cannot be mixed together.