If you deal with frequent breakouts, surely you have tried everything under the sun to get clearer skin. Hopefully, you’re seeing results with your efforts, but if not, you might be making a few common acne mistakes. As an esthetician with over 30 years of experience, I’ve seen people make these mistakes all too often. Read on to learn all 5 mistakes, plus, how to avoid them!
Mistake 1: Sticking With an Acne-Focused Skincare Routine Well Into Adulthood
There comes a time in life (usually the mid-20s) when breakouts decrease in frequency. However, many people continue to use an acne-focused skincare routine. They carry this routine over from their teen years, thinking that if they stop using that routine, the breakouts will return. Sound familiar?
This is simply not accurate, as most people outgrow their breakouts due to hormonal changes. If you continue to use breakout-focused products, you run the risk of dryness and irritation. That’s why I recommend transitioning to a more preventative anti-aging skincare routine once you get to your mid-to-late 20s. Search for lightweight products formulated for your specific skin type. “Lightweight” is a keyword, since many companies make anti-aging products that are too rich and heavy and can wind up blocking pores and causing breakouts. I can assure you that anti-aging products do NOT have to be thick or rich to be effective; there are many potent youth-enhancing ingredients formulated in lightweight bases that deliver amazing results. A well-formulated serum like Vitamin C&E Treatment is a great product to start using, as it provides protective antioxidant effects.
If a breakout occurs, use a spot treatment. You can also regularly use a gentle salicylic acid serum to keep pores clean and reduce the appearance of breakouts. These are both good ways to adapt your skincare routine so it fits what your skin needs NOW rather than what it may have needed a few years ago.
Mistake 2: Using Spot Treatments Incorrectly
When a blemish appears, the goal is to get it to go away quickly— agree? Most people have a variety of zit-zapping spot treatments in their bathrooms. They tend to apply these products generously the moment a blemish pops up, hoping to dry it out and eliminate it quickly. This is actually a common acne mistake and could be backfiring in a major way, making the blemish last longer. Let me explain.
Blemishes, like pustules or papules, have an infection within the pore which is why they are painful and red. The natural process is for the infection (pus from dead white blood cells) to come up and out through the skin’s surface. Your skin acts as an excretory system and this is your skin’s natural way of repairing itself. When you apply a drying spot treatment the moment a blemish appears, you’re drying out the surface, creating a layer of dead, flaky cells, which stops the infection from coming out. This traps it under the skin even longer, making the visible blemish stick around longer as well.
When the infection comes to the surface appearing as a whitehead, you can apply a warm, damp washcloth to it for two minutes to soften the skin and to make the subsequent extraction easier. Next, wrap your fingers in tissue and gently squeeze the whitehead twice. Only once the whitehead is removed should you dab on a drying spot treatment. This way, the spot treatment can permeate the pore lining and quickly dry up any remaining bacteria. I recommend using the Night Time Spot Lotion.
Mistake 3: Skipping Out on Sunscreen
People who experience frequent breakouts are often so focused on dealing with their blemishes that they overlook one important product—sunscreen! Those with breakout-prone skin types will generally shy away from sunscreen because traditionally, formulas feel too heavy on their skin. In fact, some formulas can actually worsen breakouts. However, if you skip out on sunscreen, you could be making your post-breakout marks linger.
Post-breakout marks are a big problem for some people. While most blemishes will go away anywhere from four to seven days after they appear, the discoloration that’s left behind can linger for as long as one to two months. And since pigment cells remain active in the presence of UV light, leaving your skin unprotected could cause those marks to linger even longer. Wearing a lightweight sunscreen like Daily Protection SPF 30 will protect the damaged cells and give them time to recover and fade.
Mistake 4: Over-Exfoliating
Exfoliating the skin is very effective for preventing clogged pores, but exfoliating too harshly or too often will only cause more inflammation and irritation in breakout-prone skin, ultimately damaging the skin’s moisture barrier. The moisture barrier is the outermost layer of the skin that helps retain water and provide protection from external aggressors, like bacteria and environmental debris. Think of it like your skin’s personal bodyguard. When the moisture barrier becomes damaged, small, invisible cracks are created in the skin. Through these cracks, moisture can easily escape and irritants can easily enter. The skin may start to feel tight, dry, and sensitive. Essentially, it’s like your skin lost its protective bodyguard.
I recommend starting to use an exfoliating acid serum with salicylic acid a few nights a week. Since salicylic acid can clear pores, this will help keep breakouts at bay. (Brush up on exfoliation by reading my beginner’s guide to acids, enzymes, and scrubs.)
Mistake 5: Skipping Out on Moisturizer
People with breakout-prone skin worry that moisturizer will clog their pores and prevent their skin from being able to “breathe.” There are a few problems with this type of thinking. First, moisturizer does not directly cause breakouts. Breakouts occur when the cells that line the inner pores fail to shed properly and the pore becomes clogged. This process happens whether you moisturize or not. Second, the skin doesn’t respirate, so the concept of your skin being able to “breathe” is false.
Those with oily, blemish-prone skin must use moisturizer no matter what. Your skin needs sufficient water to keep it healthy and balanced. Skipping out on moisturizer disrupts the skin’s water levels, and this dehydration process stimulates more oil production. This could potentially cause even more breakouts, as it encourages the formation of bacteria and the build-up of dead cells within the pores.
So there you have it— my expert advice on the five most common acne mistakes to avoid making. Hopefully, this clarifies what WILL help you in your quest for clear skin.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”