The Best Skincare Routine for Acne That Really Works

Updated 11/13/19

Raise your hand if your skin is freaking out right now. Now raise your other hand if you've been going through your makeup products a little faster than usual lately to cover up said freak-out. It's a vicious cycle, and even though we know makeup is supposed to be a way to have fun or enhance certain favorite features, not a way hide perceived imperfections, it's hard to resist piling on the coverup when our complexion is uneven or we're breaking out before a big event. But that's where preventative skincare comes in, and it's important to figure out the best skincare routine for acne ASAP.

No one knows the struggle of breaking out and trying to cover it up more than a makeup artist who is constantly helping celebrities get red carpet–ready on the regular, so we reached out to the inimitable Allan Avendaño, makeup artist to the likes of Zendaya, Ashey Graham, and Camila Cabello, to learn how to prevent breakouts, especially if you wear makeup and feel like it's messing with your skin. Read on to learn his go-to acne prevention skincare routine method, and the ingredients he always warns his clients to avoid. Bonus: The best part about his skincare suggestions is that they're tailored to people who have chaotic schedules and don't necessarily have the time or patience for an extensive routine. 

Understanding the Different Types of Acne

How to Prevent Breakouts
@sallyomo

It's helpful to understand the different types of acne. As Dendy Engleman, MD, explains to us, "There's the traditional hormonal acne, which tends to come and go, including around your period or when you’re under stress. Hormones, such as your stress hormones or testosterone, can trigger oil production to increase and flare up acne."

Then there's cystic acne, which Engleman describes as "the most severe type of acne that is painful to the touch, even throbbing, and is deep in the skin. Cysts occur when the pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, sebum/oil, and bacteria." And while different things can cause blemishes to flare up, there are certain habits that can make things even worse. 

No-Fly Ingredients and Lifestyle Changes

How to Prevent Acne
@sallyomo

While wearing heavy makeup alone doesn't necessarily cause acne, Avendaño explains that certain types of makeup can trigger or exacerbate breakouts for some people. For example, if you have sensitives or mild allergies, your skin can react by breaking out. It can also clog up your pores or irritate preexisting breakouts.  

When you're shopping for makeup, it's important to look out for irritants and comedogenic ingredients in makeup such as alcohol, acrylic, fragrances, and silicone. These are linked to breakouts and other skincare concerns, Avendaño tells us, because they can clog up your pores. Some other specific ingredients to look out for include lanolin, shea butter, almond oil, and sodium chloride. "There's quite a hefty list of ingredients that are considered pore cloggers, so be sure to do your research," he encourages.

Can Makeup Cause Breakouts
@emmahoareau

Aside from harmful ingredients, there are also some habits that tend to trigger breakouts. "Sleeping in your makeup is one of the worst things you can do," Avendaño tells us. He always advises his clients to make sure they thoroughly remove all their makeup before going to bed, as skin cells renew during sleep, and makeup can inhibit that renewal process, potentially resulting in a slew of skincare concerns, like dullness and acne.

Similarly, wearing heavy makeup all day on a hot day, during a workout, or on a warm night out can be problematic, since the sweat can result in the buildup of dead skin cells on the surface, which contributes to clogged pores. Oh, and be sure to clean your makeup brushes often. "Bacteria and dirt love to hide in those bristles and can easily clog pores, causing irritation, acne, and blackheads," he says.

How to Prep the Skin Before Makeup Application

Skincare Routine for Acne
@sallyomo

"Whether you wear makeup or not, you should have a skincare regimen in place to help rid skin of bacteria, pollutants, dirt, and grime," Avendaño reminds us. His secret is an extra step on top of an effective cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer routine. "If you're worried about acne, whether it's mild to moderate or even occasional breakouts, I recommend integrating Differin Gel into your nighttime routine to help treat acne and prevent new acne from forming."

This gel works by treating the initial source of acne deep inside the pores and also helps restore skins texture and tone for a nice, smooth canvas. If you do incorporate it into your routine, keep in mind that it can take up to 12 weeks really start showing maximum results.

Makeup Routine for Acne
@emmahoareau

"My favorite way to prep skin before makeup is using the Differin Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30," Avendaño shares with us. He likes it because it absorbs surface oil and gives you a matte finish that lasts throughout the day. As a makeup artist, he thinks it's great because it also acts as a primer. It gives a "perfect canvas" for makeup application, he says. It's also non-comedogenic and contains SPF 30, so you get your moisturizer, primer, and SPF covered in one easy step. 

How to Effectively Cleanse Skin Before Bed

How to Take Off Makeup
@nnennaechem

Since removing your make up before bed and after a workout is so essential to blemish prevention, let's take about the cleansing step in the skincare routine. Avendaño recommends removing makeup with a gentle makeup wipe like Cetaphil Gentle Makeup Removing Wipes. Then, he uses Differin Gentle Cleanser. If you have on a really heavy face of makeup, he suggests double cleansing to make sure your face is squeaky clean.

Differin is his go-to cleaner because it's gentle enough to not strip your skin, but is really effective at washing away dirt and grime. Lastly, he applies a dime-sized amount of Differin Gel to the whole face."It's such a simple routine, and is really worth the few minutes to help you be confident in your skin," he says. 

Makeup and Acne
@wethepeoplestyle

If you have oily, acne-prone skin and want to try a cleanser that's a little stronger, he recommends looking for products that contain benzoyl peroxide (glycolic acid is a great ingredient to look out for if you have acne-prone but dry skin). These will really go deep into the pores to wash everything away, treating acne without drying out your skin or causing redness and dryness. Be careful not to over-cleanse and strip your skin of its natural oils, as that can also lead breakouts. A good hydrating moisturizer will help replenish thirsty skin. 

Shop Acne Prevention Products and High-Quality Makeup

Differin 0.1% Prescription Strength Retinoid Acne Treatment $13
Shop
Clarifying Cleanser
Tata Harper Clarifying Cleanser $72
Shop
Liquid Facial Soap, Oily Skin - 6.7 oz
Clinique Liquid Facial Soap, Oily Skin $18
Shop
Differin Oil Control Moisturizer $8
Shop
Ceramic Slip Cleanser
Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser $35
Shop
Differin Daily Deep Cleanser $8
Shop
Cetaphi Gentle Skin Cleanser $26
Shop
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 $30
Shop
Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream
Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream $65
Shop
Protini(TM) Polypeptide Cream 1.69 oz/ 50 mL
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream $68
Shop
Women's Lip Enhancer Light Pink
Zelens Women's Lip Enhancer Light Pink $52
Shop
Boy Brow
Glossier Boy Brow $16
Shop
Caution Extreme Lash Mascara
Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara $29
Shop
The Exotique Diamond Eye Gloss
Kevyn Aucoin The Exotique Diamond Eye Gloss $38
Shop

Related Stories