Simple skin care routine for acne

Breaking the bank is not the secret to treating acne or taking care of your skin. All you need to get rid of your acne are products containing the right ingredients, some of which are affordable.

A white girl with the inscription, simple skincare rountine

Key takeaways:

  • In acne treatment, less is more. Using a few effective products yields excellent results, and with a simple skincare routine, you can get rid of your acne.  
  • It might take a few days or even months of adopting a skincare routine before you can witness a significant change in your facial appearance. 
  • Aside from improving skin appearance, an effective skincare routine can boost self-esteem.

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged. Some common causes of clogged skin include; dirt, oil, dead skin, and stress. 

There are different types of acne, including:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Pimples
  • Papules
  • Nodules
  • Cystic acne

Active ingredients in acne-treating products

There are specific active ingredients to look out for in skincare products before purchase. Also, consider the skin type when choosing a product for acne-prone skin because the wrong products will not help the healing process. 

For acne treatment, the following active ingredients have to be present in the formulation:

  1. Benzoyl Peroxide
  2. Salicylic acid
  3. Azelaic acid
  4. Retinoids and their derivatives
  5. AHA (Glycolic acid and Lactic acid)/ Fruity acids.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it suitable for acne treatment. It comes as topical washes, foams, creams, gels, leave-on, and wash-off agents. 

For people with sensitive skin that are more prone to reactions like bumps, pimples, redness, and itching, it is often better to use benzoyl peroxide in lower concentrations and as a wash-off agent.

However, use benzoyl peroxide with caution, as it can cause irritation, dry skin, and peeling.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is well-tolerated on the skin, making it the best option for sensitive skin. 

It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat all types of acne. 

Azelaic acid

This acid is an antibacterial, comedolytic, and anti-inflammatory agent. Comedolytic agents are skincare ingredients that work to remove blackheads and whiteheads.

Azelaic acid is one of the popular active ingredients in products for hyperpigmentation. Compared to benzoyl peroxide, the skin tolerates azelaic acid. Use 20% cream twice a day for 4 weeks to see a gradual improvement in your acne.

Retinoids and their derivatives

Retinoids have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and can also correct skin discoloration.

Retinoids are prescription medications that can cause side effects, especially if not used appropriately. Therefore, you should only use it under proper supervision by a dermatologist.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following retinoids to treat acne: 

  • Tretinoin
  • Adapalene 
  • Tazarotene 
  • Trifarotene

Retinol is a milder over-the-counter class of retinoids that achieves the same result as retinoids. The skin tolerates it, but it does not act as fast as other retinoids. 

AHA (Alpha hydroxy acid )/ fruity acids

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most common AHAs. 

They come in different formulations, like: chemical peels, leave-on gels, and exfoliating toners. 

AHA reportedly has anti-inflammatory properties, which might play a role in acne improvement. Aestheticians often recommend it as an exfoliating agent, because when used along with other skincare products, it can help brighten the skin, fade dark spots, and improve skin texture.

Most people don’t react to AHA, and it also has fewer side effects.

Simple morning routine for acne-prone skin

If you have acne, this simple morning skincare routine will help manage your skin condition:

1. Cleanse

For sensitive skin, starting with a gentle cleanser with no active ingredient to prepare the skin is a good foundation for layering other products.

For non-sensitive skin, using a cleanser with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be a good base. 

How to cleanse

  • Wet the face with clean water.
  • Pour some cleanser on the palm or a cotton cloth and lather.
  • Put lather on the face, extend to the neck, and cleanse thoroughly. 
  • Wash off the lather with clean water and pat dry with a cotton towel.

2. Treatment

After cleansing, the next step in the routine is treatment using products that contain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid. 

A typical skin treatment goes in this order: a toner, followed by an essence, a serum, and finally a moisturizer. If you don't have any of them, skip to the next product type in the order. In essence, do not apply a moisturizer first before applying a toner or essence. 

To choose an appropriate treatment for the skin, always perform a patch test by applying a small product behind the palm before you use it on your face. This is to ensure that the product does not cause any reactions on your skin. Depending on the product, you may need to do a patch test for about three days. If the skin on the area you apply the product shows no reaction after the test, it means it is safe for your skin and can be used on the face.

Some skin types are sensitive to benzoyl peroxide and have less tolerance to leave-on forms. For such skin types, salicylic acid gel, azelaic acid cream, or suspension are other options to explore. 

Apply acne treatment gels and creams as directed. 

If you need help choosing a suitable treatment for your skin, consult a dermatologist. 

3. Moisturize

A moisturizer should be mild and hydrating. They work by helping restore moisture or trapping moisture in the skin. For a start, consider moisturizers that have niacinamide and hyaluronic acid as their active ingredients.

Lightweight, hydrating moisturizers should be used on oily skin to avoid clogging pores, while rich, hydrating moisturizers should be used on dry or normal skin.

4. Sunscreen

Some products are sensitive to light, so it is advisable to apply sunscreen every day and reapply it every 2 hours.

How to apply sunscreen: 

  • Following the three-finger rule, introduce sunscreen to the three fingers and transfer it to the face.
  • Smear the sunscreen on the face and extend it to the neck and shoulder if possible. 
  • Repeat the step every 2 hours.

When purchasing mineral sunscreens, always look out for products that cause a white cast, as such products can leave a whitish finish on the face after applying them. 

Simple evening routine for acne-prone skin

In the evening, the skin is at rest and the sun is not shining, making it the best time to apply those photosensitive products. This routine is simple and enough to put your skin in check.

1. Cleanse

It is essential to double-cleanse with an oil cleanser before using a foamy cleanser to remove dirt and any makeup from the face. 

Oat-infused cleansers, snail mucin cleansers, and low-pH cleansers are good options for the evening. 

Steps for evening cleansing:

  • Using an oil cleanser, pour a generous amount on the palm and rub them together.
  • Apply the cleanser to the face and cleanse thoroughly. 
  • Wash off with clean water or a wet cotton towel.
  • Pour a generous amount of the foamy cleanser and lather.
  • Rub lather on the wet face and scrub thoroughly with the tip of the fingers. 
  • Splash clean water to wash off the latter. 
  • Dry with a clean towel.

2. Treatment

In the evening, include retinoids and chemical peels in the regimen because they are sensitive to light.

When using Retinoids and chemical peels, note the following:

  • Always start from the lowest strength and use it once a week. If the skin tolerates this routine, it can be increased to 2-3 times weekly.
  • When using retinoids and chemical peels, do not incorporate other actives, including benzoyl peroxide, to avoid irritations.
  • Always use sunscreen in the morning. 

Always follow the treatment directions to avoid self-harm.

3. Moisturize

Acne treatments can dry out the skin. To prevent this, use a hydrating moisturizer to mask all products. Hydration adds moisture to the skin, making it look plump and healthy.

How many times should you cleanse daily?

Overwashing the skin has a high likelihood of clogging pores, causing blackheads and whiteheads to form. Studies show that cleansing the face twice daily is ideal, as it reduces the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads.

Also, avoid scrubbing the face with a rough material because it can irritate the skin. A washcloth or fingertips can effectively cleanse the face.


Although this is far from what you’d like to hear—acne products take time to work. Most skin care products begin to show significant improvement after 28-42 days of consistent use.

So be patient and consistent with your routine rather than switching products after just a few weeks of not seeing observable results.

As you take care of your acne, do not forget to use sunscreen. Sunscreens will help protect your face from burns and irritation that can keep you from getting clear skin.