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Everyone’s acne skincare routine is different and the way you treat your acne will depend on your skin type, eating habits, lifestyle, and genetics. If you struggle with acne, my number one recommendation is to go to a dermatologist. Buut…

If you don’t have the ability to see a dermatologist and need good advice, I strongly recommend going to see a skincare specialist at Sephora. They undergo special training that covers skincare ingredients, how to assist clients with common skincare concerns, and how to recommend products that are appropriate for a clients specific needs. I’m not affiliated with Sephora at all, but I do credit the beginning of my acne healing journey to a Sephora skincare consultant who introduced me to toners and gave me some skincare ingredients to look up!

Want to find out how I cleared up my acne? Keep reading for the products I used, my routine, and what I’m doing to work on my hyperpigmentation.

My Acne Story:

Acne and hyperpigmentation has been a main skincare concern for me since I was a teenager. I never had to use prescription medication or specialized products, but I was always self-conscious of my constant breakouts and hyperpigmentation. I relied on popping pimples and covering them with the latest and greatest full-coverage makeup. My skin calmed down in college and for a good portion of my early twenties, but when my acne flared up again between 24-26, I was heartbroken. I was in my mid-twenties and struggling terribly with acne clustered on my t-zone, cheeks, and hairline. Most of my peers who had struggled with acne as teenagers were past that stage and happily going about their acne-free adult lives while I slapped on full-coverage foundation every single day.

To be honest, a huge part of healing my acne came from recognizing that I needed to heal my mental health. I was working a stressful job (that I absolutely LOVED, but ended up leaving), barely sleeping, eating poorly, always running from one obligation to another, and not washing my makeup brushes for who knows how long. When my mental health suffered, my physical health suffered and it manifested in adult cystic acne. When I was self-conscious about my skin, I was stressed about how “bad” it looked, and when I was stressed out, I would pick my skin and subsequently make my breakouts even worse. Queue a never-ending vicious cycle of breakouts, low confidence, and poor health habits.

Once I realized the damage I was inflicting on my skin, I slowly changed my habits, asked for help at Sephora, and began researching skincare ingredients scientifically proven to improve acne and minimize hyperpigmentation.

My Skin Profile:

Combination-Dry and Sensitive to Fragrance and Dyes

It took a lot of trial and error, a ton of patience, and a bunch of reading and research to finally figure out my skin profile.

Acne Skincare Habits I Changed:

  • Swapped everything I drank for water, except my morning coffee because ya girl needs to be awake some of the time!
  • Changed my pillowcase 3 times/week especially between gym and non-gym days.
  • Adopted a simple skincare routine that I did religiously every single morning and evening no matter what. (Like seriously no matter what!!)
  • Consciously stopped picking my face. (This one was definitely the most difficult because it was a sub-conscious compulsion for me to just reach for my face while working, eating, talking to someone etc…)
  • Stopped using all kinds of different drugstore masks every week.
  • Learned about skincare ingredients and asked for help!
  • Cleaned all my makeup brushes with anti-bacterial soap every time I used them.
  • Temporarily stopped wearing makeup. (I went from wearing makeup every day to wearing it maybe once a week or once every other week.)

Acne Skincare Routine (Months 1-3)

Acne Skincare Routine

These products worked extremely well for me, but I can’t guarantee that they will have the same effect on you. Like I mentioned earlier, the very best advice I can give you for addressing your acne is to see a dermatologist.

Acne Skincare Product Notes:

  • Sunscreen is by far the MOST important skincare product you can use on your skin. The effect of exfoliants and treatments, if you’re not shielding your skin from harmful UV rays, will be at best minimized and at worst, put you at increased risk of sunburn and sun damage.
  • When you are switching up your skincare, do it slowly and only change one item at a time unless you’re 100% sure that you’re not sensitive to any of the skincare ingredients listed on your new product. Also, always do a patch test.
  • It’s safe to use Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids (AHA) and Beta-Hydroxy-Acids (BHA) as directed, but tolerance can be vary person to person. I have relatively sensitive skin, so I am very careful to use these products sparingly. Remember, less is always more!
  • Toners are usually a mix of AHA’s so be careful introducing them into your skincare routine.
    • Here’s how I did it:
      • Week 1 – Every 2 days only in the evening.
      • Week 2 – Every day in the evening.
      • Week 3 – Every day in the morning and evening.
  • I NEVER use a toner and an additional exfoliating treatment in the same day and because my skin can be sensitive, I try to give my skin a 24 hour break from AHA’s and BHA’s before and after I use an exfoliating treatment.

My Current Hyperpigmentation Skincare Routine

Hyperpigmentation Skincare Routine

Why I Switched Toners:

I switched from Ole Henrikson to The Inkey List toner just because it was cheaper. The Ole Henrikson Glow2OH toner is $29 and The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner is $10.99! I still use and love both toners and I recommend them equally.

How I Treat Active Breakouts (AM/PM)

  • I skip the Alpha Arbutin and Azelaic Acid because they treat mainly dark spots and dullness.
  • I replace them with the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum and extra hydration with the Hyaluronic Acid + B5.
  • Note: This DOES NOT work overnight necessarily. I use this routine for a few days until the breakout subsides.

Finding the right acne skincare routine, changing my poor health habits, and getting myself in a better mental state has changed my life and my skin for the better. I’ve been able to heal my acne and keep breakouts at bay for almost a month now. I do still get occasional pimples and the rare cystic spot, but they’re no longer clustered and constantly popping up with no reprieve.

Why do I use The Ordinary and The Inkey List

Honestly, this could (and probably will) be a separate post, but I’ll try to sum it up quick here! I use The Ordinary and The Inkey List because they use ingredients scientifically proven to work and in concentrations designed to treat skin conditions effectively. Both companies take a no BS approach to skincare, their products are affordable, and in my personal experience they truly work.

Shop my picks from The Ordinary and The Inkey List below!

Thoughts on Adult Acne and Self-Confidence

Having acne and hyperpigmentation as an adult is definitely a struggle, but it’s not impossible to heal. Everyone’s acne journey is different, but no matter what stage you might be in now, you and your skin deserve love and care. Throughout my journey, I’ve felt shame about my skin and there was a point in my life when I wouldn’t take pictures unless I had makeup on because I felt like I NEEDED to cover my skin. Granted, I’m still most confident wearing makeup and my skin is miles better than it was a year ago, but what changed for me was my confidence. I wear makeup now to improve the look of my skin, not because I feel like I have to or because I’m ashamed of my skin, but because I like to and I love using makeup to enhance my features.

It’s easy from an outsider’s perspective to simply say that “outward appearance isn’t everything.” (Even if it is true.) It’s much more difficult to internalize that and truly believe it when you’re self-conscious or embarrassed by your skin. Do what feels comfortable for you, but have patience with your skin and how it progresses. It’s ok to not want to take photos or to feel more comfortable wearing makeup than not, but it’s not ok to talk negatively to yourself or resent your body. It’s a journey so these habits may not be easy to break right away. I know they weren’t for me, but stay the course and keep at it!

If you’re struggling with adult acne, you’re not alone and you can 100% get your skin to a place where you feel confident! It may take a little while, but consistency is key. Celebrate your small wins and celebrate your huge milestones. Your skin doesn’t hurt today because your acne isn’t as inflamed? Amazing! You didn’t pick at a blemish that popped up? I’m proud of you! Take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself during your journey.

Alright, I think that’s about it from me today! If you can’t already tell, this is a topic that hits super close to home and that I’m very passionate about. I hope you found something in this blog post helpful and that you’re thriving on your skincare journey! Check back next week for a full breakdown of the skincare ingredients I look for in skincare and ingredients I stay away from!

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