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Written by Elaine Tu
Acne, pimples, acne scars, cystic acne, pustules… all things that EVERYONE deals with at some point in their lifetime. If you’re here, we totally feel your pain, and have found some products and methods to help you get rid of acne and help heal your acne scars as well! Dream come true, right?
The intensity of acne varies from person to person. Some will only experience breakouts during puberty, whereas some will carry acne with them into adulthood. It’s frustrating, we know, but there are ways to combat this and get the clear skin you’ve always wanted.
Before getting into all the ways you can help get rid of your acne and healing those acne scars, keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different and may react differently to products. The best way is through trial and error. Getting rid of long-term acne issues is a process, but it’s one that will pay off with your dedication to the cause!
There are many approaches to getting rid of acne. You can consult a dermatologist who can provide you with medication or recommendations on products (even prescription ones), you can consult an aesthetician who can extract your pimples from your face routinely, or you can take matters into your own hands–and that, oftentimes, means you will need to research and experiment with products that may be effective.
One of the best ways we’ve found, and a method that has quickly become a fad that actually works, is the 10-step Korean Skincare method or 10-step skincare routine–whatever you want to call it. Korean beauty gurus have been doing this 10-step skincare routine for years, and it’s finally being adopted worldwide! The benefit of taking care of your skin is not only so that you can finally get rid of your blemishes, but also because a great skincare routine can prep your skin and make makeup go on more smoothly and flawlessly.
The 10-step routine features–yes, you guessed it–10 steps. The steps can vary and be customized to suit your skin concerns. Dry skin babes will want to look into more hydrating products, facial oils, etc. whereas oily/combo/acne prone skin types will want to look for acne fighting ingredients. If you’re a member of the latter, keep reading.
If you wear makeup, this step is vital. You NEED to be taking off makeup at the end of the day. No matter how tired you are from the day, or the night, skipping this step can cause more breakouts. You can even train your S.O. to take your makeup off for you if worse comes to worst. Can we emphasize this enough?
Some of our fave makeup removers are wipes, micellar water, and cleansing oils & cleansing balms. This just depends on your preference and what your skin agrees with. Generally, these products have minimal irritation and don’t dry the skin out. Dry skin can actually cause more breakouts due to irritation, or your skin overcompensating for the loss in moisture, producing more oil and sebum in the process. If you experience too much tightness or dryness in your skin after any of these products, explore a different option.
Wipes are the easiest way to get makeup off in a haste. Grab a pack like this one from Simple that agrees with your skin. It contains micellar water, which gently removes makeup without drying out your skin.
Micellar water, as explained above, is the gentle way to remove makeup from your face. With this bottle, you’ll need to pick up some cotton rounds to squeeze the product onto. The great thing about getting a bottle of micellar water versus wipes is that you can squeeze as much or as little as you want onto each round—potentially saving product. This is also great if you messed up your eyeliner a bit; you can carefully squeeze some onto a cotton swab to precisely wipe away any makeup mistakes you’ve made! Grab a waterproof version if you’re using waterproof products!
This can be uncharted territory for some, but cleansing balms can be more effective for those who wear lots of waterproof products, or those who have excess oil production. A common misconception with oil-based cleansers like cleansing oils and cleansing balms is that one should not use anything that contains oil if their skin is oily (or acne-prone). On the contrary, oil attracts oil, so they can actually help melt away oil from your pores and really give you a deep clean. They’re also less abrasive than wipes or cotton rounds could be because let’s face it—sometimes we can go a little HAM on our skin with those. With cleansing oils and balms, you simply put some into your hands and gently massage into your face to remove, makeup, dirt, environmental pollutants, and sebum.
Some people will do the first step of removing makeup and stopping there, but to ensure that you’ve got everything off your face, you’ll need to cleanse. This is especially true for those who wear a lot of makeup on their face (like foundation and concealers) or those who have overactive oil production.
Acne fighting cleansers are great for anyone battling acne. They help remove bacterium and sebum build up that is causing clogged pores. This one by Murad doubles as a cleanser and acne treatment (yass!). The active ingredient in most acne fighting cleansers is Salicylic Acid, and sometimes Benzoyl Peroxide. They can range from 0.5%-2% of either of these ingredients, and you don’t want to go beyond this range. Too much Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide can irritate or cause inflammation to your skin and even result in more pimples to emerging. Always use as directed on the manufacturer’s label to ensure that you’re not overusing a product. When introducing a new product with strong active ingredients, space out the days that you use it so that you’re not causing too much irritation.
If you have sensitive skin, dry/combo skin, don’t wear too much makeup, or have a really great makeup remover, a gentle cleanser is the way to go, and is appropriate for daily use. You’re still double cleansing and getting rid of anything left over from the first step, just in a less harsh way.
This isn’t a daily step. Exfoliating can cause irritation in the highest offense if used too much. However, exfoliating is crucial for sloughing away dead skin; when dead skin cells build up on your face, they can clog your pores and cause more blackheads, pimples or acne to appear. Clogged pores are the exact opposite of what you want if you’re trying to get rid of your acne. Most exfoliation products will advise that you use them no more than a couple days in a week, or even just once weekly.
Manual exfoliators like scrubs and masks that you massage into the skin can be effective measures for whisking away dead skin and healing acne scars. The key here is to be gentle when massaging the small grains, and to look for more natural ingredients if you can to avoid irritation.This step isn’t a must for all skin care routines. Manual exfoliators are one thing, chemical exfoliators are another, and they can double as toners!
This is a step that most people have not yet adopted, but it’s a super important step in your skin care routine. Toners can really get into your pores and clear them out even after you’ve double cleansed! You’ll be surprised at some of these seemingly gentle toners, and the dirt that they can attract!
As we mentioned before, manual exfoliators aren’t a must and aren’t for everybody. Chemical exfoliators like this one that contains Glycolic Acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), is known to remove dead skin cells, prevent wrinkles and heal acne scars. It can prevent pores from being congested—helping you on your way to getting rid of, and preventing acne. Don’t be frightened at the sight of the word “chemical”, this one is gentle enough but still effective when used as directed.
Gentle toners or beauty waters like this one from K-beauty brand, Son & Park, are great multitaskers for removing dirt and grime from your face. It is also a mild exfoliant with natural ingredients that help even out your skin tone and texture, but keep your skin hydrated at the same time. This cult favorite is even available at Sephora, too!
This is a bonus step for some, but the pillar for those applying the Korean 10-step skin care method to their routines. Essences are lightweight products that help promote moisture, anti-aging, and improve overall complexion. Essences have contents that target any skin issues you might be having so it’s not just restricted to hydration and anti-aging!
We know, this one sounds strange, but snail mucin has been found to aide hydration, prevent wrinkles, repair dry patches, acne breakouts, blemishes and hyperpigmentation. It also helps with cell regeneration, giving your skin a change for the better.
This is a no-brainer right? Picking up an essence that targets your skin condition and balances your skin’s pH levels is vital for refreshing the skin and letting your skin absorb all the goodness from the product you choose. Hydration after using a toner is imperative for helping your skin stay moisturized, thus reducing oil or sebum production, preventing pimples from forming, and reducing the appearance of pores.
Serums generally contain a few active ingredients to address your skin concerns. For acne prone skin, you’d want to choose something with brightening properties, moisturizing ingredients, and of course, acne fighting ingredients to help even out your skin tone from stubborn pimples.
If you suffer from acne, what you’ll need is Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps brighten dark spots including sun spots, and acne scars—which you inevitably will get after fighting an especially nasty pimple. With Vitamin C serums or any product with a high percentage of Vitamin C, use only at night or use under SPF during the day; Vitamin C can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. You can find Vitamin C serums usually containing Hyaluronic Acid, an ingredient proven to increase moisture in your skin, which is great since most of these acne-fighting ingredients can cause excessive dryness. We won’t get into that now, but trust us, you’ll want to make sure you’re moisturizing when you can!
If you’ve been perusing the skincare aisle for a while trying to find acne fighting products, you’ve probably seen Salicylic Acid on a wide variety of labels in different percentages. It’s true, Salicylic Acid can really help reduce the appearance of blemishes with regular use. Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin, and according to The Ordinary, this 2 % solution exfoliates the inside walls of pores to help you achieve skin clarity and fight blemishes. Solutions with Salicylic Acid can increase sensitivity to sun, so if you are planning to yous AM and PM, be sure to apply sun protection during the day.
Ampoules act as boosters for your skin and, like serums, contain a high amount of active ingredients to help you deal with your skin crises. Dermatologists recommend applying ampoules after toner, and before your serums and essences.
Of course, for those of you looking to banish blemishes, an ampoule like this one can really pack a punch. This concentrated treatment helps promote hydration and control sebum levels. For this particular product, use on troubled areas after cleansing and toning.
If you’re really dealing with some intense acne scars, fighting them in multiple steps could be the way to go. Just be sure that you’re using a good SPF and moisturizing enough so that your skin doesn’t feel tight or dry. A brightening Vitamin C based ampoule can be what you need to even out skin, brighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation. It also fights signs of aging!
Yes—even if you’ve got oily skin, you need to be moisturizing your skin day & night! For acne prone/oily skin, gel or water-based moisturizers are the way to go. They’re lightweight and won’t clog your pores—keeping skin fresh yet supple.
A lightweight gel-cream oil-free formula feels cool and refreshing on the skin, and really works to improve your skin’s hydration and the appearance of pores.
If you’re craving something a lighter, equally as refreshing, and super lightweight, this Clinique moisturizing gel is another amazing option! This one even has a pump, so if you’re weird about sticking your fingers into a tub, this one will probably be the better bet for you!
Spot Treatments are a must for treating any sudden eruptions of pimples or acne. Acne treatments like these are great for targeting these problem areas. Typically, you’ll find active ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or for a more natural remedy—tea tree oil. In milder cases, these (coupled with the previous steps) may help heal stubborn pimples overnight!
Salicylic acid can be really effective when treating sudden pimples. Try to avoid popping a pimple if it’s ‘not ready’—you’ll see a whitehead form at its peak if it’s ready to pop—but until then, refrain from any squeezing that can cause redness, around the site & inflammation that can damage the skin and lead to darker acne scars. With spot treatments, simply use your clean fingertip or cotton swab to dab the product onto the pimple or emerging pimple.
Tea tree is a known agent for killing many strains of bacteria, viruses, and even fungi, which pretty much explains why it’s used in some household cleaning products, and as a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. With topical use, it’s been a remedy for toe fungus, and even acne! As with any spot treatment, you can use a cotton swab or your fingertip to dab tea tree oil onto your problem area(s).
This step can certainly be a little extra, but when done occasionally, it can help heal acne and skin conditions a little quicker.
For really congested skin that is prone to blackheads, whiteheads, and of course—acne, clay masks can be just what you need to get a really deep clean for your pores. For this one, using apple cider vinegar in the mix increases the strength of this product to help renew the skin and improve the appearance of pimples and dark spots.
Charcoal sheet masks can also be immensely deep cleaning and relaxing at the same time. You can opt for a charcoal mask when your pores feel particularly clogged, or even a moisturizing/soothing with ingredients like aloe or tea tree to help soothe your skin if it feels overworked with treatments.
You may have noticed, but we’ve been talking about sun protection all throughout this article. Well, for good reason! Sun care is crucial (acne or no acne) to protect against harsh UVA/UVB rays, and prevent acne scars from darkening. Yes, you read that right. If you have acne, and aren’t using sunscreen, the sun exposure can actually create or worsen acne scarring, making the scars harder to get rid of in the long run. With the use of acne fighting treatments, you’ll want to invest in a good sunscreen since some of them can increase sensitivity to the sun.
If you plan on going outside, even if it’s cloudy outside, put sunblock on.
There are a lot of sun care options out there, but we recommend going with one specifically made for the face. This Soft Finish Sun Milk by Missha is amazing! Why? Well, it doesn’t have as strong of a white cast as some sunblocks have, feels lightweight (actually invisible), and not at all oily/greasy! All this, with the benefits of protecting your skin against the sun.
If you’re new to skincare, we suggest starting out with a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer (if you wear makeup on a daily basis, include the makeup removing step); do this for a week or so to be sure the products aren’t irritating your skin. Consider these loose guidelines to follow when introducing a skincare regimen to your lifestyle. Customize your routine with products that target your concerns!
Also note that there are steps that aren’t required for AM and PM. Likewise, some steps, like exfoliating and masks are should be limited to 1-3 times a week or used as directed.
For the most part, the products in this article are relatively gentle, but if you find that any of them irritate your skin, space out the usage or discontinue use completely. There are a ton of products out there for your discovery!
For more intense acne situations, seeing a dermatologist can be the best way to achieve clear skin. Sometimes acne can be caused by stress, hormone imbalance, or even your birth control. Consult with your doctors to see if any of these may be the cause of your acne!
Clear skin is achievable. Here’s to clearer days ahead!