For more than half of my life, my skin has been Public Enemy Number One. Rather than get to do a normal skin-care routine and then frolic about with my day, I have always woken up in combat mode—because I’ve had acne for about as long as I can remember. Skin care for me has always been about fighting my complexion in rebellion, and so I’ve gotten used to slathering on salicylic acid spot treatments, layering on the retinol, and using face masks galore in an effort to calm my perpetually broken out skin.
That was all until I started taking Spironolactone, a prescription medication that banishes hormonal acne. And now my face doesn’t break out anymore.
This is of course amazing news, but it’s also been quite disorienting. After spending so long solely deal with my skin’s problems, how do I then use skin care in a non-angry way? When my complexion looks the way I want it to, how do I now cater to it? Can I finally put down my army of acne fighters and instead switch to a simplistic regimen?
“You want it to be a really gradual process—you have to be really patient and remember that your skin is still healing the imbalance in your body, so you have to be patient with your cells regenerating an your scars to heal,” say Cara Peloso, facialist and skin-care guru at Cap Beauty. “You have to embrace the journey and realize that it takes some time to get your skin to where you want it and to maintain it.”
It’s also important to realize that the complexion can still change “Even though you’ve gotten rid of your acne, your skin is still considered acne prone, and therefore you’re more likely to break out if you don’t care for your skin correctly,” says Shirley Chi, MD, a California-based dermatologist. So just because you’ve conquered your acne doesn’t mean you don’t have to try anymore. Here, two skip pros share the skin-care commandments to follow in your post-acne life.
The post-acne playbook
1. Pivot your skin-care goals: Now that your skin’s not problematic, it’s time to calm things down. “Focus on not over-drying your skin, as that causes your skin to produce more oil, which can lead to more acne,” says Dr. Chi. This means you can finally ditch the harsh spot treatments. “You can hold off on benzoyl peroxide and other potentially irritating treatments once your skin’s clear.” Basically, it’s all about TLC rather than being in fighting mode.
2. Incorporate key ingredients: To provide that skin love, there are three star skin-care ingredients you should definitely be slathering on. Number one? Retinol, of course. “Retinol improves skin texture and pore size, and can significantly improve acne scarring over time,” says Dr. Chi. Peloso adds that it’s also very healing because of how it boosts your cell turnover. “Vitamin C is a really great thing to add to your regimen as well, because it has tons of antioxidants and can help fade scars, improving the overall appearance of your skin,” says Peloso.
“Any serums with a lot of antioxidants and vitamins will strengthen and protect your skin. I’d also recommend adding in zinc-based sunblock—it’s so important for acne because it’s creating a physical barrier to help protect not only from the sun but pollution and wind and cold,” Peloso adds. “A well-formulated zinc-based sunblock is also good for redness and inflammation. It’s really a good treatment product.”
3. Exfoliate (but don’t overdo it): When dealing with acne, chances are you applied all sort of peels and exfoliating masks and toners all over your skin to get rid of all the pimple-inducing gunk (and speed up the acne’s lifespan while you were at it). But you don’t want to overdo it in your post-acne life. “You have to be really careful not to over-exfoliate because you’ll just upset the balance of everything on your skin,” says Peloso, who recommends gentle chemical enzymes and acids over physical exfoliants. “Depending on your method of exfoliation, stick with the recommendations on the product. If you’re using an acid toner, for example, you can use that twice a day. But if you’re using an enzyme mask, you want to use that 2 to 3 times a week and don’t exfoliate otherwise.”
4. Remain calm: Zits may have been a usual occurrence in the past, but now they’re just a rarity—which could make them all the more frustrating. “Acne, like any disease, is an imbalance in your system,” says Peloso. “Remember to keep everything in balance and to recognize when you get out of it for a little bit, like if you’re traveling or not eating right—in effect, acne could flare up. But don’t get too upset—just recognize it and get back to your good habits.” The thing is, your skin’s fragile. Don’t go wild trying all different products, and try to avoid common triggers that could cause inflammation. Stress can induce acne, after all. “Don’t be hard on yourself—you don’t want to have a random pimple set you back,” says Peloso. You’ve gotten this far, after all—that’s a lot to conquer.
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