I have discovered the following about my own skin from years of trial and error and plenty of research. If you do not have the basics of skincare covered yet, then you have no business moving on to targeted acne solutions, especially not exfoliating actives. Please use great caution when introducing a new acne-fighting product. My routine is the result of many years of slow introduction and cautious experimentation. It should not be used as a shopping list for a newbie. Please read Part 1 for a summary of my acne troubles and my philosophies!
My Week in Acne (Calm Week)
Some weeks, my skin is groovin. It looks fabulous, feels fabulous, and the only acne on my face is of the healing variety. That is, no emerging active acne, no aggravated clogs, and no intense redness. For these weeks, I maintain my schedule but I take advantage of the calm and enjoy my moisturizing, luxurious routines. I will usually keep up my actives routine but skip clay masking and spot treating with zinc. Since I'm not soothing active inflammation, I just need to keep my moisture barrier happy and avoid causing new clogs.
My Week in Acne (Crazy Week)
On the other hand, I get these weeks- the ones where my skin is going nuts and exploding in every possible way. I've got weeping open acne, emerging cysts which stubbornly refuse to show a head, and bumpy texture indicating widespread clogging.
The most important thing is to not panic when this happens. I used to panic because I had no backup plan- well now I have multiple strategies to attack all these issues, which means I don't have to pick and scratch and freak out. This contributes overall to the health of my skin, as "disruptive" weeks have minimal long-term impact.
The following routines are "excerpts" and only include the acne-focused parts of my routine. I moisturize heavily each night and also use plenty of hydrating products every morning. All treatments are used at night only, unless specified in parentheses:
Putting It All Together
Pictured here is a sample full morning routine of mine and a sample full evening routine with the acne-targeting products circled in red to show how outnumbered they are by the ones which have nothing to do with acne!
Sample Morning Routine with acne treatments circled
Sample Evening Routine with acne treatments circled
Those of you with sharp eyes who are used to perusing ingredients lists on CosDNA will see my non-acne treatments do contain anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients like aloe, panthenol, centella, snail, and bee venom. In fact, I do orient my whole routine toward countering irritation and inflammation, however I do not compromise my moisturizing products by expecting them to serve two purposes. No "servant" can serve two masters- in this analogy all your products exist purely to serve your skin's individual needs. You should expect a moisturizer to moisturize and not to do a ton of things. Part of why my routine is so extensive is that I want each of my products to only serve singular purposes. By layering and combining them I can serve all my skin's needs- without demanding too much from any one product.
If you are new to skincare, and this looks overwhelming, I'm not surprised! This is not a routine that a newbie should start right off the bat. If it took me years to perfect my current stable routine, that should tell you something. There's no secret sauce- I have no magic knowledge (and if I did, I would tell you.)
The "secret" is taking months and years to listen to your skin and let it guide you. You have to observe how it responds to each ingredient you introduce. I know from experience some things are a waste of my time, so I don't bother incorporating them. I also see how well my acne responds to some treatments that other people hate. Customizing a multi-faceted routine for your specific types and behavior of acne is something that takes a long time, and if you are patient, you will develop a similarly robust routine that works for you!