Look closely at your beauty counter, because there might be a product to blame for your flare-ups. Those who've been fighting acne know that nothing is being added to the cart, without a thorough inspection of the ingredients. If you're trying to curate your own bulletproof anti-acne skincare routine - one that doesn't trigger, irritate or worsen breakouts - then read on to discover a Dubai-based dermatologist's picks.
What causes acne-prone skin?
Acne-prone skin is often synonymous with an oily T-zone, but zits can also be found among some dry skin types, too. "It's any skin that has the propensity to develop whiteheads, blackheads and inflamed lesions, such as papules, pustules, nodules or deep, pus-filled cysts," said Dr Samar Khalil, general and cosmetic dermatologist at Skin Experts Polyclinic in Dubai.
"Acne is most common in teenagers; however, nowadays, we're seeing a lot of patients with adult acne," she added. If you skipped hormonal teenage acne, then you might be frustrated at the late-stage breakouts in your mid-twenties, thirties or even forties. Luckily, there is a plethora of targeted skincare products to prevent pores from clogging.
When sebum (oil secretions) and skin cells block our pores, we may notice whiteheads and blackheads, at first. Dr Khalil says that as the inflammation increases, red bumps and painful zits begin to surface. Sometimes the root cause could be genetics at play, and at other times, stress, pore-clogging skincare products, or, simply, our diet.
"There have been times when I've told my patients to cut out dairy products, specifically cow's milk, and their acne improved markedly," said Dr Khalil, who also highlights foods that increase your blood sugar, like pasta, bread and soft drinks, can trigger excess sebum production.
What is best for acne-prone skin?
Our skin expert describes an easy-to-follow skincare routine for mild acne. As long as you know which ingredients to look for, you can become a pro at fighting zits. "In the morning, wash your face with a cleanser and apply a serum, followed by a moisturiser and sunscreen. Reserve retinoid treatments for the night," said Dr Khalil.
Go for products with retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin. "There might be some skin purging for three to six weeks, when the acne becomes worse before it gets better," she added.
Since acne treatment can dry out the skin, and thereby damage the skin barrier, moisturising is an integral step of your routine. Stick to lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturisers that are preferably in gel or lotion form, advises Dr Khalil.
Check out the best cleansers, serums, treatments and moisturisers for acne-prone skin below, per our expert's recommendation. To avoid post-acne dark spots and depressed scars, Dr Khalil stresses a dermatologist consultation early on in your treatment stage.
1. Best Cleanser: La Roche Posay Effaclar Gel Purifiant, 400ml
Dr Khalil reaches out to French skincare brands the most, one of them being La Roche-Posay. In terms of cleansers, she recommends the Effaclar Micro-Peeling gel, formulated for acne-prone skin. Key ingredients include salicylic acid, its derivative LHA (lipohydroxy acid), and sebum-reducing zinc. The gel cleanser washes away excess sebum and unclogs pores. Buyers leave five-star reviews, several highlighting how the cleanser doesn't dry out their skin. Some have used it for their body acne, as well, and noticed results almost immediately. It's a product that's been frequently recommended to reviewers by dermatologists.
2. Best Cleanser for Mild Acne: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, 473ml
Our expert finds this CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser gentle enough on mild acne or sensitive skin. The gel cleanser lathers into a foam and dispenses three essential ceramides to restore and maintain the skin's natural barrier. Hyaluronic acid keeps the cleanser from drying out the face, while niacinamide (vitamin B3) reduces irritation. Reviewers with acne-prone skin use this product to clear the occasional breakout and double cleanse before bed, noting how it melts the makeup off their faces. They also like that it's scent-free.
3. Best for Blemishes: Avène Cleanance Comedomed Anti-Blemish Concentrate, 30ml
Target post-acne blemishes with milk thistle oil. Dr Khalil says the Avene Cleanance Comedomed concentrate reduces existing blemishes and prevents new ones from forming. The plant-based active ingredient also helps clear blackheads. Its non-greasy, scent-free formula is made with acne-prone skin types in mind. The gel is applied to the face in the morning and at night, daily, though some can experience purging - a temporary reaction to specific ingredients that cause breakouts, dryness, flaking, and peeling - which is why reviewers have reduced application to once a day.
4. Best Daily Moisturiser: Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion
Acne-prone skin needs a lightweight but hydrating moisturiser that doesn't run the risk of clogging pores, says Dr Khalil. Cetaphil's non-comedogenic moisturising lotion works for the face and the body, and is enriched with six different moisturisers, vitamin E and B5. It claims to restore the skin barrier in one week, being paraben- and fragrance-free.
5. Best Sunscreen: Isdin Fotoprotector SPF 50+ Fusion Water, 50ml
Picking an acne-friendly sunscreen can be tricky, but watery formulas that are non-comedogenic or not pore-clogging might just fit the bill. Dr Khalil likes the Isdin Fusion Water SPF 50+ for its ultra-light texture and quick absorption. This chemical sunscreen goes on thirty minutes prior to sun exposure and is then reapplied every two hours. The hyaluronic acid ensures sufficient hydration, too. Those with oily, acne-prone skin leave five stars in the reviews and appreciate the matte finish.
6. Best Value Sunscreen: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream, 50ml
This K-beauty classic is filled with aloe vera leaf goodness, meaning it's a soothing sunblock that works great for irritated, acne-prone skin. The Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50+ is so lightweight that several reviewers compare the texture to a regular moisturiser. Like the Isdin bottle, this hydrating sunscreen goes on 30 minutes before sun exposure. Buyers with acne leave five stars on the absence of a white cast and mention experiencing no flare-ups. Some even use it in lieu of their daytime moisturiser because of the healthy glow they get.
7. Best Serum: Eucerin DermoPurifyer Triple Effect Serum, 40ml
Formulated for acne-prone skin, the Eucerin DermoPurifyer Triple Effect serum can be applied after cleansing and before your moisturiser, advises Dr Khalil. It's packed with three active ingredients that fight acne and acne marks: Salicylic acid helps reduce blackheads and whiteheads, licochalcone A has anti-inflammatory effects, and thiamidol lightens hyperpigmentation. The brand promises results in two weeks.
8. Best Treatment: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1%
A topical retinoid acne treatment, La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Adapalene Gel increases skin cell turnover. As the skin renews at a faster rate, Dr Khalil says it's normal to expect some purging during this time. Retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A, is also a brilliant anti-ageing ingredient. This oil- and fragrance-free treatment is applied to the entire face once daily, or every other day to prevent irritation. It's also our best dark spot corrector for acne-prone skin.
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