Cover We spoke to a dermatologist about the ins and outs of acne-prone skin (Photo: Getty Images)

New York-based dermatologist Dr Howard Sobel shares tips on how to care for and get rid of acne-prone skin—from the skincare ingredients to look out for, to the common mistakes to avoid

In the world of skincare, “acne-prone” skin is one of the core phrases that get thrown around pretty frequently—whether it’s being used in beauty products labels or just in conversations about one’s skin woes. 

For many people, acne-prone skin is fast becoming their new skin condition amidst the pandemic along with “maskne”—breakouts (including enlarged pores and excess oil) that caused by constant friction of the mask on the skin. And if you’re one of the many struggling with acne-prone skin where you found yourself dealing with more frequent breakouts lately, but not sure which beauty solutions to opt for in order to keep the skin as healthy as possible, you’ve come to the right place.

We asked New York-based dermatologist, Dr Howard Sobel, who’s also known as the founder of Sobel Skin—a premier medical spa offering end-to-end dermatological skincare in New York—for advice on handling acne-prone skin. Read on to learn more about this common skin condition, including causes, skincare steps and common mistakes to avoid to help control it.

See also: Maskne Is Real: Face Mask Breakouts And How To Prevent Them

What is acne? What exactly causes acne and how can we prevent it?

Often associated with oily skin, acne occurs when sebum mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria and clogs the pores. According to Sobel, there are different types of acne that require different treatments.

Hormonal acne: It is one of the most common types of acne, in which an increase in hormones (around the time of your period) speeds up oil production that causes pimples to form. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the two best ingredients to use prior to your period as the combination can prevent hormonal acne from surfacing at all.

Inflammatory acne: It comes in two forms—papules, which are patches of red pimples that don’t come to a whitehead; and pustules, which do fill with white or yellow pus. Both are caused by bacteria and can be treated with benzoyl peroxide as this ingredient works to kill bacteria. For pustules, you may also want to use a spot treatment and make sure to not pop these pimples.

Cystic acne: It’s caused by a combination of genetics and hormones that speed up oil gland production to create large and painful pimples that are very difficult to treat. You should reach out to a dermatologist if you experience this type of acne on a consistent basis, and ask for a prescription medication and cortisone injections to reduce inflammation.

Blackheads and whiteheads: They are caused by clogged pores. It’s best to incorporate salicylic acid into your skincare routine to treat this type of acne as it helps to remove oil and prevent the pores from clogging up. This ingredient is also vital to exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells that may also be blocking your skin from having clean pores. 

See also: How To Care For Oily Skin––And The Mistakes To Avoid Making, According To A Dermatologist

How to build an effective skincare routine (morning and evening) for acne-prone skin?

It is important to find a skincare routine and be consistent in order to see permanent results in the future. Practising a solid routine for both day and night is the best way to take care of your skin. You should always make sure that you are using the proper products as many are designed for specific times of the day, for example, sunscreen in the morning and throughout the day, and retinol at night.  

For the unacquainted, retinol not only helps with ageing, but also does wonders to eliminate acne by clearing out dead skin cells and unclogging pores. A quality retinol product, such as the Sobel Skin Rx 4.5% Retinol Night Treatment, which features the highest level of OTC Retinol concentration that deeply penetrates the skin without irritating or drying the skin out, would help cure acne while fading the stubborn acne scars, pigmentation that linger after breakouts. The treatment also contains a patent-pending delivery system Scientific Delivery SD-100, that mimics healthy, young skin structure, and ensures better absorption of active ingredients.  

See also: Dr. Barbara Sturm Shares Tips On How To Exfoliate Your Face For Glowing Skin

What are the skincare ingredients to look for?

Retinol (the true gold standard for all skin types!), benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, niacinamide and azelaic acid are a few ingredients that are great for those who are acne-prone. 

Common skincare mistakes to avoid

Oftentimes, individuals start a new skincare routine and are not consistent with it. Continuously starting and stopping your skincare regime usually leads to flare-ups, irritation, redness and dryness as your skin has not been given the proper time to acclimate to the products introduced. Additionally, many people skip applying sunscreen in the morning, which is a very important step, especially for those using strong acne-clearing products as they can make your skin more susceptible to the negative effects of UV rays. 

See also: How To Use Face Oil For Glowing Skin, According To Drunk Elephant Founder Tiffany Masterson