Estheticians may have access to the best products and beauty technology, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with acne, too. Crystal Koro, a celebrity esthetician based in Los Angeles, has spent years trying to keep her cystic breakouts at bay, and she’s come up with a tried-and-true esthetician-approved acne treatment to do just that.
“I’ve definitely been through my fair share of [difficult] skin days,” says Koro. Her family has a history of cystic acne, which she explains is “mostly genetic” and a side effect of her sebaceous glands producing more oil during prime hormonal activities, like puberty. “I also have rosacea so, I have to be careful to stay away from the things that trigger it, but luckily I’ve learned how to manage and deal with my problematic skin,” she says. Below, she shares the seven products that help her do it.
1. Detoxifying cleanser
With acne-prone skin, it’s important to use a cleanser that properly cleans your skin without stripping it of its moisture. Koro looks for products that are detoxifying, and help decongest pores without drying them out. A gentle face wash, like tried-and-true Cetaphil, will do the trick.
2. Antioxidant serum
Shop now: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum, $80
“This serum provides defense against free radicals and improves skin tone and luminosity,’ says Koro, citing these as the reasons she uses it every morning. It combines L-ascorbic and ferulic acid—two of the most potent forms of antioxidant-packed vitamin C—with skin-nourishing vitamin E to fend of signs of photoaging and damage from pollution and other environmental stressors.
3. Skin-tone correcting serum
Shop: SkinBetter Even Tone Correcting Serum, $140
Pimples tend to leave behind scarring and discoloration, and a skin-tone correcting serum like this one can help undo that. “It dramatically improves the look of hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and dark spots,” says Koro, who uses it every morning.
4. SPF moisturizer
Shop now: La Roche Posay Toleriane Moisturizer with SPF, $20
There’s a common misconception that oily or acne-prone skin doesn’t need moisturizer, but that’s not the case. If you don’t properly hydrate your skin with topicals, your pores will produce excess oil to try to make up for it, which can ultimately lead to more pimples. Koro combines her moisturizing and SPF steps with an oil-free lightweight, non-greasy, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free SPF 30, which she suggests applying at least 30 minutes before you step into the sun.
5. Exfoliating peel pads
Shop now: Sanitas Brightening Peel Pads, $74
Koro calls these peel pads a “professional strength, corrective treatment that brightens, tones, and reveals clear, radiant skin.” They’re made with glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid, plus witch hazel, the combination of which gives skin an intense, chemically exfoliating peel. Koro uses them every other night for the sake of keeping her skin clear.
Shop now: Differin Gel, $13
Retinoids are a key step in any esthetician acne treatment routine. Derms have told us time and time again that Differin’s $13 retinoid is one of the best that money can buy, and Koro herself agrees. “It contains the retinoid adapalene, and clears acne with the power of a prescription-grade product,” she says. It helps to stimulate cell turnover, replacing the pore-clogging dead cells hanging out on the surface of your skin with fresh new ones.
Shop now: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $15
In the evening, look for a moisturizer that will hydrate your complexion and fortify your skin barrier. The one Koro uses every night is made with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin, a hydrating triple threat that does both. Other skin pros constantly sing the praises of this $15 drugstore buy, which has the same three hero ingredients and works on all skin types.
Looking for more intel on how to deal with acne? Check out the video below.
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