My Skincare Routine for Acne-Prone Skin

Adult Acne Skincare Routine

Shirt / Hat

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my skin, and that has, in my opinion, 50% to do with the products I use, and 50% to do with the way I eat. I’ve written about my philosophy on eating, and today I’m tackling the other piece: My skincare routine for acne-prone skin!

I have been promising this post for a long time, and I’m so excited that it’s finally live today! I am not only sharing my current skincare routine including all of the products that I use morning and night on my face and neck, but my new friend, Dr. Whitney Bowe, a celeb dermatologist, is weighing in on what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong.

To be super clear before we start, this post is in no way sponsored. I just fell in love with Dr. Bowe after hearing her speak a few weeks ago and am so intrigued by her wealth of knowledge.

Her insight has been incredibly fascinating and starting today, I’m taking pretty much all of her advice because if you ever meet this woman in person, you’ll think she’s 20 years younger than she is (no exaggeration).

I started my last email to her by saying: “My skin is very oily and acne-prone but also starting to age. It’s been so hard to manage both at once!”

Her response?

“This is growing increasingly common. Adult acne is reaching epidemic proportions! I see patients in my office every day who are experiencing adult acne and it can be incredibly frustrating and persistent.  Prescriptions which target acne symptoms will only take you so far if you do not address the root cause of the acne, starting from the inside out through diet and lifestyle modifications, in addition to adding topical products like retinol.”

So I followed up by sending her every product that I use morning and night. She weighed in on some of them below! My products and comments are in italics and her feedback is in regular copy below each one.

MORNING

1. No cleanser
I recommend cleansing your skin in the morning. I tell my patients that you want to steer clear of harsh, abrasive cleansers which will disrupt your skin’s healthy natural barrier. Instead, opt for a gentle, pH balanced, hydrating cleanser to wash away the residual products from the night before and to start your day with a clean slate.

2. Thayers Witch Hazel with Aloe: On a cotton pad
If you cleanse gently, you can skip using the cotton pad with witch hazel. Sometimes toning can actually dry out the skin, and the skin tries to respond by pumping out more oil (paradoxically), leading to breakouts!

3. Dermalogica Biolumin-C Serum: On face, neck, and chest
I recommend that my patients incorporate topical antioxidant products into their skincare regimen to protect their skin against free radical damage. One key ingredient to look for is Vitamin C, but not all Vitamin C formulas are created equal in terms of stability and bioavailability, meaning the ability of the active ingredients in a particular product to be absorbed by the skin so that they can have their optimal impact.

I love that you are using one of my favorite serums because it’s made with two highly stable forms of Vitamin C which work together to ensure long term stability.

4. goop Perfecting Eye Cream or Skinceuticals Eye Balm– I also love this Kiehl’s eye cream for a fraction of the cost
Dr. Bowe: I absolutely recommend using a product which is formulated specifically for the gentle skin tissue around our eyes. Some eye products can cause irritation around the eye or even a burning sensation for those with sensitive skin. SkinCeuticals products are always a great choice because the company devotes a lot of energy and effort into quality testing and efficacy testing, which is very important to me when I make a recommendation.

5. Skinceuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50
Skinceuticals makes great products. For your skin type, I would consider trying a sunscreen that is specifically noncomedogenic and geared towards acne prone skin, such as this one from La Roche.

6. Ice roller: For mornings when I’m extra puffy and/or tired!

EVENING

1. Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Cleanser Note: I used to use my Clarisonic nightly but now once a week after hearing Dr. Bowe speak!
Awesome first step in the right direction! So many of my patients over-exfoliate. We are definitely obsessed with that squeaky clean feeling and the concept of sanitizing, scrubbing, etc. We were raised with the germ theory, so this is something we are going to have to really work to reframe our mindset on what clean and healthy really means when it comes to our skin.

People assume it’s about not showering, but actually, I shower regularly and wash my face twice per day. It’s about re-learning how to clean our skin without wreaking havoc on the delicate balance of healthy bacteria which comprise our microbiome – which is what we need to do in order to have healthy, radiant skin in the long term.  I recommend using fingertips only most of the time, with the exception of using a tool or a scrub only once or twice a week to exfoliate.

2. Neutrogena Eye Makeup Remover 

3. Thayers Witch Hazel with Aloe: On a cotton pad
I would probably give your skin a bit of a break from this step. Don’t do it every day!

4. Every other night: Skinceuticals 1.0 Retinol– I started with a 0.5 Retinol and worked my way up. Retionl products are not cheap but they last for a long time and make a huge difference!
LOVE!  Retinol is so important to maintain youthful, healthy skin AND helps to combat acne! Many people are afraid to include a retinol in their skincare routine because they are concerned their skin will become red and irritated. For that reason, I often suggest that patients begin with a lower level of retinol and introduce it slowly – only several nights per week. You are doing a beautiful job of incorporating retinol into your routine and being mindful of what your skin can tolerate. At this point, I wonder if your skin could handle a prescription strength retinoid if you cut out the toner and dial down on exfoliation even more? It’s something to consider.

5. On retinol nights: Acure Mattefying Moisturizer– I use this in the summer and Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream in the winter

6. Every other night: Dermalogica Biolumin-C serum: On face, neck, and chest (no moisturizer on these nights)
I love that you are alternating a retinol with a high quality Vitamin C serum! You get gold stars for this approach!
(Editor’s note: I learned this from her when I saw her speak but I’ll take the gold stars!)

7. goop Perfecting Eye Cream or Skinceuticals Eye Balm– I also love this Kiehl’s eye cream for a fraction of the cost
Dr. Bowe: I absolutely recommend using a product which is formulated specifically for the gentle skin tissue around our eyes. Some eye products can cause irritation around the eye or even a burning sensation for those with sensitive skin. SkinCeuticals products are always a great choice because the company devotes a lot of energy and effort into quality testing and efficacy testing, which is very important to me when I make a recommendation.

See Dr. Bowe talk about adult acne on Megyn Kelly TODAY and read more in her book, The Beauty of Dirty Skin!

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  1. Elizabeth said:

    Where is that shirt from?!

    7.11.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      J.Crew Factory! Just added a link and it’s on sale for $27 too!

      7.11.18 · Reply
  2. Rosie said:

    I wish this was laid out in more of an question/answer type segment. It’s slightly confusing, because I’m not sure what is Dr. Bowe’s commentary, and which is yours. I assume most is Dr. Bowe’s.

    7.11.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thank you for the feedback! I just added a line to make it more clear, let me know if that helps. Her commentary is under each product. Mine is what is in italics. I hope it’s more clear now!

      7.11.18 · Reply
  3. AB said:

    I just want to say I LOVE the format of this post! I love that instead of just saying what you do, or just having an interview with a derm, you combined both into one post. Such an excellent and informative post. Also, unlike another commenter, I found it easy to follow.

    7.11.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Hahah thanks AB! I’m so glad you liked it. xx

      7.11.18 · Reply
  4. Quinn said:

    Loved this post! So creative and informative.

    7.11.18 · Reply
  5. Heidi Hunt said:

    Love this post! Could you please share the link to the 0.5 Retinol you used?

    7.16.18 · Reply