Minimal Skincare Routine for Acne

woman with acne-free skin

If you’re suffering from acne and need a simple routine to improve your complexion then look no further. The perfect skincare regime for acne will aim to regulate sebum production; minimise skin redness/inflammation; and include active ingredients which will not only reduce current breakouts but prevent them from coming back.

While it can be difficult to balance simplicity and results, we’ve aimed to provide you with a minimal skincare routine for acne-prone skin that will provide results without overdoing it.

Step 1. Cleanse

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser for Acne-Prone Skin

This should be the first step of any skincare routine, acne sufferers or not. You want to cleanse your skin twice a day, ideally in the morning and night. Acne sufferers typically have oilier skin which is responsible for blackheads and clogged pores. In addition to this, any acne medication or serums you might be using can lead to sensitivity. Using a harsh cleanser will only agitate the skin making problems worse.

To combat this, we advise you do a thorough cleanse with a gentle product. Cetaphil’s gentle cleanser is the product we recommend for this purpose. It’ll leave your skin squeaky clean without being overly drying. You want to make sure you’re thorough when cleansing to scoop away those unwanted oils and dirt. If your skin is oilier, Cetaphil also do an cleanser for oily skin.

Be careful though, while you want to make sure you achieve a thorough cleanse, you don’t want to over-cleanse. Over-cleansing happens when you cleanse your face too many times a day (twice is optimal), or you use harsher soap-based cleansers which strip your skin of essential oils. Your skin might begin to overproduce oil to combat the dryness; this could be making your acne/skin oiliness even worse.

Step 2. Serum

The Ordinary - Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

You’ll want to apply any serums prior to moisturising. Find serums with Glycolic Acid (AHA) Or Salicylic Acid (BHA) in them as they are active spot fighting ingredients. These acids help exfoliate the pores preventing them from being clogged and leading to further breakouts. They’re also essential to reduce inflammation.

Salicylic acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory acid that helps to clear up congestion and unclog pores. It’s also on the WHO’s list of essential medicines. Read our article on Salicylic Acid: The Acne-Fighting, Anti-Inflammatory Hero.

Try The Ordinary’s Range of AHAs/BHAs, all at excellent price points:

The Ordinary – Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

The Ordinary – Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary – Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Step 3. Moisturise

Another critical step in any acne-based skincare routine. Regardless of whether your skin is oily or not, moisturising is still required. Using acne fighting serums and treatments can lead to dry skin, so best not to skip out. Not moisturising dry skin can also cause oiliness and breakouts as the sebaceous glands in your pores will work overtime to combat the dryness.

The moisturiser you use should be non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t clog your pores. This usually means lighter moisturisers that are free from oil.

Paula's choice Oil Free moisturiser for acne prone skin


Paula’s Choice – Clear Oil Free Moisturiser. This is a fantastic light moisturiser with Niacinamide to help reduce the appearance of pores and dull skin. Niacinamide helps to regulate sebum production. It’s also oil-free and includes antioxidants to reduce any redness.

RRP: £28.00

Step 4. Sunscreen/SPF

By using AHA/BHA serums you’re making your skin more susceptible to UV damage. It is critical that you use SPF protection when stepping out in the sun, to protect your skin from any further redness or irritation. You should be applying sunscreen anyway, UV rays accelerate the aging process by damaging collagen and elastin in your skin.

We recommend a light SPF gel with a minimum of SPF 30+ protection. This will feel nice and cool on the skin, provide effective protection from UVA and UVB rays and also not clog the pores.

To sum it up

An effective daily skincare routine for acne will contain these 4 elements;

  • Cleanser
  • Serums
  • Moisturiser
  • SPF

This simple 4 step routine can make all the difference, especially if you’re just starting off with skin care routines. It’s good to initially be consistent with products as opposed to changing them around. If you’re constantly cycling what you’re using you don’t have the time to appreciate the benefits of any one product. As always, if you see no improvement after a few weeks/your acne is especially problematic, seek dermatologist/medical advice.

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