Your Clear Skin Countdown: 25 Pro Tips for Getting Rid of Acne

Kick your skincare routine into high gear with these blemish-busting and pimple-preventing tips to get flawless skin

1. Always wash your face before bed. Not washing away the day’s grime? You’re asking for a breakout. Stash cleansing wipes on your nightstand for nights when you’re too tired to move.

2. Don’t skimp on sudsing. Wash your face for 30 to 45 seconds with a dime-size amount of cleanser. That’s how long it takes to clear dirt and oil off your face.

3. Wash off ALL your cleanser. Leftover cleanser equals leftover dirt and oil. Rinse with tepid water until skin feels clean and smooth and no longer slippery or soapy. Hot water dries out your skin, and cold water won’t open up your pores.

4. Be gentle. Scrubbing too hard leaves skin rough and red. Don’t fight with your face. Skip harsh scrubs and even washcloths, which can be too rough on your face and can cause irritation. Use your hands instead. Be sure they’re clean, or you’ll transfer acne-causing dirt and oil right back!

5. Suds up your cleanser in your hands first. It helps activate the ingredients, so they are more effective when applied to your face.

6. Don’t skip your morning wash. Hairstyling products get absorbed by your pillowcase then transfer to your skin — if it’s not cleared away in the A.M., it’ll clog your pores!

For an AM wash, try something brightening that’ll help wake up your skin. Also, if you have a hard time getting up in the morning, a cooling face wash can help you really look alive.

7. Try a cleansing brush. Sometimes even after you wash, there’s makeup left on your skin, and that buildup leads to breakouts. Using an exfoliating brush with your basic cleanser loosens and removes the leftover makeup that has seeped inside your pores! The brush can get deeper into your skin than just your soaped-up fingers.

It may be a bit of a splurge, but for $68 you can get the4D Motion Facial Cleansing Brush, which is supposed to cleanse better than hands alone, reduce appearance of pores and allow skincare products to absorb better.

8. Don’t overwash. If your skin still feels oily, instead of washing again (which can make your skin produce even more oil!), try an astringent after cleansing.

9. Exfoliate. The trick is to remove the layers of dead skin cells and dirt that are blocking your pores — and your skin’s natural glow. Products with alpha hydroxy and lactic acids exfoliate gently to make you look radiant.

10. Wash, then exfoliate. When washing, first use a mild face wash to cleanse your skin. Then, lightly massage exfoliator onto your face. This may seem redundant, but before you exfoliate, you want a clean canvas, so that the exfoliant can focus on digging out the stubborn dirt and oil that are stuck deeper inside your pores.

11. You need to clean your phone, too. If you’re seeing pimples on your cheeks or anywhere near the area where you hold your phone, they may be from those hour-long convos with your crush. Your phone picks up lots of dirt and bacteria (from your hands, your bag, the kitchen counter), which can then get transferred to your face when you’re chatting on the phone. Wipe your screen with an anti-bacterial wipe often to get rid of dirt and germs.

12. Step away from your hands. You know how you rest your face on your hand while you’re studying? That might be the reason for those blemishes on your cheek or jaw. You’re constantly touching things that have germs—anything from your phone to your locker—so putting your hands on your face for a long period of time can cause dirt and bacteria from anything you touch to get into your pores.

13. Change that pillowcase! Not changing your pillowcases enough can also cause your skin to break out. Even if you wash your face every night, your pillowcases carry dirt and sweat from your hair, hands, and build up from the products you use on your face at night, which can clog your pores, so it’s a good idea to change them every few days.

14. Less is more. Too many products can irritate and too many steps may tempt you to skip. When it comes to your skin, more is definitely NOT more. In other words, trying a bunch of different remedies at once won’t boost your chances of making the zit disappear — more likely, it’ll just wreak havoc on your skin and turn a teeny-tiny pimple into a red, blotchy mess.

15. Seriously, DON’T POP IT. Popping can cause infections, making the situation worse. Instead, dab a sulphur treatment on problem areas morning and night. It brings down swelling until your zit disappears.

16. Derms are here to help. At-home treatment not working? See a dermatologist. A few appointments to set up a regimen, plus, check-ins every three to six months may get you in the clear.

17. Know your options. Benzoyl peroxide products are great at fighting pimples, but can be drying to your skin, so use them only once a day (or every other day). If it’s drying out or irritating your skin, switch out your cleanser for a gentle formula. (Keep up your regular acne spot treatment, but use just a dab!) It will clear away dirt and oil without stripping your skin of moisture. Salicylic acid (in creams, gels, astringents, or masks) dries less than benzoyl peroxide, so it can be used with more-drying cleansers.

18. You might try a prescription. Topical antibiotics are available only with a prescription and work by killing the bacteria on your skin that cause acne, and by reducing inflammation. Some examples of topical antibiotics are erythromycin and clindamycin. Your doctor may prescribe you them in conjunction with another topical treatment such as one containing benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid such as Retin-A.

If you tend to break out on the reg, avoid flare-ups by using a benzoyl peroxide face wash, or by applying a thin layer of a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to your whole face before bed. It will kill any bacteria that could cause zits to sprout.

19. Wash those brushes! Make sure to wash your makeup brushes regularly with brush cleanser or baby shampoo. If you use makeup sponges, use disposable ones and discard them after each use. These tools can accumulate bacteria, which can lead to breakouts. Dirty brushes can make the most expensive skincare routines go to waste.

20. Be consistent. If you want great skin, care for it each day. Sporadic care won’t do it. And don’t expect any overnight miracles. It takes time for skin-clearing ingredients to kick in. Starting a skincare routine now will give you plenty of time for your skin to adjust by the time you walk through those double doors.

21. Try an oil-free moisturizer. Acne treatments dry out blemishes and the rest of your face! Slather on an oil-free moisturizer with sunscreen every day to keep your skin smooth and protected. Choose an oil-free, noncomedogenic (non-clogging) formula.

22. Get some sleep. A late-night study sesh or binge-watching your favorite Netflix show until 3am is not healthy for you or your skin. Not sleeping enough can make your hormones get out of whack and raise your body’s stress levels, which can make you breakout. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep to look and feel your best.

23. Get your SPF on. Sunscreen isn’t just for summer—your skin needs protection every day, even in winter. There are now sunscreens for every skin type imaginable—even ones that help make your skin less oily, so your face stays matte and pimple-free! Look for a daily moisturizer with SPF that says it’s “lightweight,” “oil-free,” or “oil-controlling.” For the highest level, look for a PA++ rating, it covers both UVA and UVB rays, so you’re guarded against everything from burns to future wrinkles!

24. Carry oil-absorbing sheets in your bag. Use them to blot away any shine that pops up while you’re out and about.

25. Pat skin dry. It seems like such a tiny thing, but skin is very delicate. Gently pat dry instead of harshly rubbing.

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