Skin-Care Secret No. 1: The Miracle Product Combo for Brighter, Clearer Skin
When DNA throws you an acne-prone curveball, find the product cocktail that works for you.
By Ryan Duffin
The Situation: Combination and sensitive skin, mixed with acne-prone genetics and an incurable thirst for chocolate ice cream.
The Solution: Throughout high school I struggled with finding the right routine and products to combat my breakouts. There are so many creams and gels to try, and only so much benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid that my face could take before I burned off multiple layers of skin. Finally, I found the holy grail in acne treatment and moisturizer combos. I discovered that a clarifying serum or oil, mixed with a light moisturizer works the best for my sensitive, overreacting, dramatic, and extra skin type.
U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil by Sunday Riley, $40, sephora.com: A couple drops of this bad boy under my moisturizer has completely revamped my complexion and skin texture. It smells like lawnmower juice, but I easily got used to it, and the smell doesn't stick around.
Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream by Peter Thomas Roth, $52, sephora.com: "Hyaluronic acid" sounds scary, but "cloud" sounds really nice. Its pricey, but the tiniest of dabs will cover and moisturize my entire face, all day long, and the next day, and the day after that.
Acne Treatment Nighttime, $22, malinandgoetz.com: For the odd pimple that comes as the result of a little stress, or maybe my cat sleeping on my face (it happens sometimes), this treatment shrinks and dries those little buggers faster than any other products I've tried.
Skin-Care Secret No. 2: How to Eat Your Way to Clearer, Brighter, Happier Skin
Welcome to the Whole30. It's about to change your skin – and maybe even your life.
By Chantal Strasburger
The Situation: A complicated relationship with food, and a lack of awareness of how my diet affects my skin.
The Solution: Whole30 is a nuanced program, but the general idea is that you cut out various food groups from your diet that have potentially negative effects on everything from your digestion to your mood to your skin—for 30 days. That's how long it takes for you body to reset, and then you can begin reintroducing the food groups one by one. This process allows you to isolate what may have been causing that uncomfortable bloating or sluggish energy. Whole30 helped me realize how much sugar and dairy affect my skin—and as soon as I cut out cheese, milk, and sugary foods, I saw an instant improvement.
Acne BPO Clearing Cleanser, $38, glytone-usa.com: When I'm not strictly sticking to clean eating (it's not easy!), I have a few secret weapons in my back pocket to deal with flare-ups. Glytone products work well for me, and this cleanser is gentle enough that my skin doesn't feel completely dried out and dehydrated after using it.
DIM 200mg Plus Bioperine by Smoky Mountain Naturals, $18, amazon.com: I actually first read about these "miracle pills" on Sweet! DIM is short for diindolylmethane, a food-based compound naturally found in vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts that helps support hormonal balance. I've been taking it for about a month now and have definitely noticed a decline in breakouts.
Acne Absorbing Cover by Nexcare, $8, amazon.com: These little dots work miracles. The second I see a blemish appearing, I stick one on top of it before bed, and it drains the spot overnight—sucking the puss and oil up, out, and away from my face. Pleasant, right? But effective.
Skin-Care Secret No. 3: The No. 1 Ingredient That Cured My Late-Bloomer Acne
When hormonal acne hits unexpectedly, there's one trick I use to balance my skin.
By Rebecca Deczynski
The Situation: As a teen, I never got persistent acne, just the occasional zit here or there. But as I reached the end of my college years, I started to get breakouts on my cheeks that my routine just wasn't taking care of.
The Solution: I looked for stronger cleansers that contain salicylic acid, a common anti-acne ingredient that exfoliates skin on the cellular level to unclog pores. Plus, it's anti-inflammatory, so it's good at calming the redness that can come along with acne.
Clarifying Cleanser by Murad, $30, dermstore.com: Since salicylic acid can be drying if you use it too much, this cleanser also contains vitamin E to keep your skin soft and healthy.
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, $29, paulaschoice.com: If you don't want to totally uproot your routine with a new cleanser, use this leave-on exfoliant after washing and toning your face every day.
Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads by First Aid Beauty, $30, dermstore.com: When the acne-fighting solution you need can be found in a single, pre-soaked pad, all you have to do is swipe—it can't get any easier than that.
Skin-Care Secret No. 4: Want Clearer Skin? Stop Washing Your Face!
All those products are not your friends. Your face pretty much knows how to take care of itself.
By Amy Karafin
The Situation: I never had serious acne, but if I'd get a little blemish or breakout, I'd fuss with it until it was serious. Then I'd use products to try to fix it, which made it even worse.
The Solution: Turns out, products were creating the breakouts in the first place. I had used moisturizer religiously since I was in junior high, thinking I was helping my skin. But I discovered by accident, after going a few days without it, that it was actually clogging my pores. I experimented with washing my face less, so that I wouldn't need as much moisturizer, and it turns out that washing my face every morning and evening was drying out my skin. I was doing way too much to my face all-around. The solution? Stop washing so much, stop moisturizing, and let my skin find its natural balance.
Himalaya Herbals Purifying Neem Face Wash, $6, amazon.com: I do still wash my skin—just a lot less often, and always with this cleanser, which I discovered years ago in India. It's really mild, but contains neem and turmeric, both of which do too many good things for your skin to even list here (think antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory).
Zoe Organic Olive Oil, $11,jet.com: On the rare occasions when my skin does get dry, I use olive oil, which moisturizes without clogging pores. I like to put it on face and body after I shower, before I dry off. Yes, you'll smell vaguely like a delicious salad, but your skin will become silky-smooth.
Shea Butter, $15, amazon.com: Another international discovery, shea butter is great as a night moisturizer (since it's a little thick). I prefer the raw version; to soften it up, do as they do in West Africa: take a little in your palm and rub your hands together briskly to warm it up, then massage into your skin (and hair, too, while you're at it).
Tea Tree Oil, $9, vitaminshoppe.com: Tea tree oil is a powerful zit-buster, but use with caution! First, test it on a non-sensitive spot to make sure it agrees with you, then use just a drop. I put a little olive oil on my fingertip or a Q-tip, then a mini-drop of tea tree oil, and apply to emerging blemishes.
Skin-Care Secret No. 5: Keep Breaking Out in the Same Spot Over and Over Again?
For those who get stupid chin pimples, a spot treatment is the perfect knight in shining armor.
By Chanel Parks
The Situation: I only get blemishes on my chin every so often because of my raging 20-something hormones.
The Solution: Since the rest of my face is dry AF, I had a hard time coming up with ways to treat these painful spots that sprout up at the most inconvenient times (like during my trip to Austin—how was I supposed to take selfies??). But I took my own beauty-writing advice, which is to always have a spot treatment on hand for pimple emergencies. Whenever one decides to wreck my life with its presence, I dab a little treatment on it and go about my day. Since these blemishes are deeply rooted, the products don't make them go away completely overnight, but they help bring down redness and inflammation, so it's easier to cover up with some light concealing.
Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel by Clinique, $18, sephora.com: This is what I would like to call my "day-one" treatment, as it's the first product I ever tried and loved. It's supposed to be applied all over the face, but I just put a drop on a cotton swab and apply it to those little mean bumps.
Spot Treatment by Osmia, $22, shopfollain.com: For when I'm all up on my natural product game, this tincture has the perfect combination of lavender, thyme, and evening primrose oil—so it works well and smells nice, too.
Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel by Neutrogena, $10, walgreens.com: When I travel, I always forget to pack my current spot treatment. If I get a pimple or two while, say, 1000 miles from home, I run to the drugstore and clutch onto this Neutrogena gem for dear life.
Skin-Care Secret No. 6: How to Get Clearer Skin in 30 Seconds
Stop washing your face and focus on oils instead. Seriously.
By Yasmeen Gharnit
The Situation: I've always had a bit of cystic acne and the odd whiteheads. Whenever I'm stressed out and rundown, they all bubble to the surface, add more stress, and, subsequently, more breakouts. It's a cruel cycle.
The Solution: After having a good, hard think about the times that my skin freaked out, I realized I was trying to outsmart it and take too many preventative measures. In other words, I was doing too much to my face. So I decided to ignore the cardinal "rule" of skin care—you know, the one that says you have to cleanse your face twice a day—and just started removing my eye makeup with a gentle baby oil (I don't wear foundation on my face, so I didn't have to remove that). Since then, my face has been pretty clear. Of course, I'm not immune to the occasional breakout—but they happen a lot less often.
YouthMud Tinglexfoliant Treatment by Glamglow, $69, sephora.com: I haven't completely abandoned all treatments. Instead, I opt to do a mask to reset my skin every few days. This Glamglow one smooths and softens my skin, and helps clean out my pores.
Johnson's Baby Oil, $5, target.com: Traditional eye makeup removers irritate my sensitive skin, and require too much rubbing to remove mascara. Since switching to baby oil, I've saved many an eyelash. The oil is also conditioning, so my lashes grew longer and stronger.
Daily Reviving Concentrate, $46, kiehls.com: My skin has learned to regulate itself, but it's also naturally dry, so I always make sure to apply a hydrating facial oil twice a day (once in the morning, and once before bed). This one contains sunflower botanical oil and ginger root essential oil, which help strengthen the skin's barrier and protect it against environmental aggressors.
Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Face Cream, $65, origins.com: This gentle moisturizer helps keep my skin calm and plump. It also leaves me with a nice dewy finish, which lasts a few hours after application.
Skin-Care Secret No. 7: The Secret to Stopping Random Breakouts Is...
Doubling down on the good stuff. Your artillery should consist of just a few powerful products.
By Rebecca Bates
This Situation: I generally have pretty clear skin. A little dry on my forehead, but mostly it's smooth sailing. Every few months, however, I'll wake up with a blemish around my chin that won't go away. And then I'll get another… and another. What follows is typically a two-week war of attrition—me versus a few rebellious pimples that only disappear after patient, persistent care.
The Solution: I start by reducing my skin-care regimen to its most basic steps, and lean into those more aggressively. This means trying to go as long as I can with as little makeup as possible and amping up my use of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide products, while keeping a simple moisturizer that's great for sensitive skin handy at all times.
Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser by Aveeno, $8, ulta.com: Most days, I use a light cleanser in the morning and a salicylic acid cleanser at night. But during the Blemish Wars, I go hard with the salicylic acid cleanser twice a day until the enemy has surrendered.
Ultracalming Moisturizer SPF 15 by Aveeno, $17, ulta.com: Warning: Salicylic acid cleansers can be way harsh, so it's important to follow up each wash with a calming moisturizer. I've also read that salicylic acid products leave skin at a greater risk for sunburn, so my moisturizer has to have at least SPF 15.
Persa-Gel 10 Acne Medication by Clean and Clear, $10, amazon.com: After moisturizing, I apply a benzoyl peroxide spot cream to each blemish. I keep a tube of this in my bag so that I can apply it again a couple of times during the day. As blemishes sound the retreat, I reduce the number of daily applications.
Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup, $28, clinique.com: If the Blemish Wars break out around weekends, I try to skip makeup entirely to let my skin detox a bit, save for a little concealer. However, if I do need to wear full-coverage foundation, I'll wear something with very light levels of salicylic acid.