Clear skin: we all want it. But, between hormones, pollution and other pore-clogging aggressors waiting to wreak havoc on our complexions, achieving a clearer, blemish-free complexion can seem like an impossible feat. Fortunately, though, clear skin is totally attainable according to dermatologists—but it does require a few lifestyle changes to get your skin right back on track. To find out for ourselves what women with clearer skin do (almost) every day, we sought the advice of three top dermatologists.
Here are the top dermatologist tips on how to clear blemish-prone skin:
1. DO: Use a Cleansing Brush
If you want clear skin, you’re going to have to cleanse better. According to board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a cleansing device is the best way to start, “as it takes off more dirt, bacteria and makeup from your skin.” In addition to providing the skin with a deep cleanse, cleansing brushes exfoliate the surface of the skin, leaving it looking and feeling softer and smoother, thus revealing a more clear complexion.
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2. DON’T: Use Just Any Face Wash
On top of cleansing your complexion with a sonic cleansing system, Dr. Jaliman suggests switching to a mild cleanser specifically designed for acne-prone skin. If you are experiencing breakouts, the right face wash allows you to cleanse your complexion thoroughly without stripping the skin of its natural oils. This can often lead to an increase in oil and more breakouts. Since mild cleansers are more gentle on the skin, you can follow up your regimen with a stronger acne product that targets breakouts.
3. DO: Use a Toner
If you aren’t already using a toner in your morning and evening skin care routine, now is the time to start. Dr. Jaliman suggests choosing “a toner with glycolic acid or salicylic acid to unclog the pores for clearer skin.” In addition to promoting clearer skin, toners can also balance the skin’s natural pH level and soothe your complexion.
4. DON’T: Pick, Poke or Pop Pimples
We know you’ve probably been told this a thousand times, but we thought one more reminder wouldn’t hurt. According to Director of Clinical Research at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, Dr. Jeremy Brauer, picking, poking and popping your skin will not get you the results you’re looking for. If you have a pimple that you’re desperate to pop, try applying a spot treatment or pimple cream to the affected area instead of picking. After all, pimple creams are designed for this sort of skin care woe.
5. DO: Apply Topical Retinoids Before Bed
If you are experiencing a bout of acne, Dr. Brauer suggests giving topical retinoids a try. Applying a topical retinoid made from antioxidant-rich vitamin A to your complexion as part of your nighttime routine can help to unclog follicles and, in turn, may help acne treatments work better and faster.
6. DON’T: Skip Sunscreen
Frequent sun tanning doesn’t just increase your risk of developing skin cancer, it also triggers breakouts on those with acne-prone skin. “Sun, heat and humidity can cause oil glands to become overactive, which can lead to acne breakouts,” says board-certified dermatologic surgeon and associate at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Dendy Engelman. Another skin sin that you’re probably guilty of? Not applying sunscreen! To make sure you don’t break out, choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreen.
When it comes to breakout-prone skin, finding a sunscreen that works with your skin type and lifestyle and doesn’t cause new blemishes is actually easier than you may think. Dr. Brauer suggests choosing the broad-spectrum kind, meaning an SPF that will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB sun rays.
7. DO: Use a Clay Mask
Need a facial but don’t have time? Dr. Jaliman suggests treating your complexion to a weekly at-home clay mask facial. You can use your favorite bentonite-infused face mask or create your own! To DIY your own clay mask, Dr. Jaliman suggests combining two tablespoons of all-natural calcium bentonite clay powder with one tablespoon of water and one tablespoon of honey to form a paste. Apply it onto the skin and let it work its magic for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing off with a warm washcloth. Pat the skin dry and voilà! “This will leave your skin feeling smooth, yet hydrated,” says Dr. Jaliman.
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8. DON’T: Neglect Your Diet
As much as we hate to admit, we’re all a little guilty of splurging on junk food every once and a while. And while it may be satisfying to our cravings, junk food is not beneficial for our skin. Dr. Jaliman suggests cutting down your processed food, sugar and dairy intake since those can lead to breakouts and recommends “eating a diet rich in antioxidants instead.” That being said, you can still succumb to your sweet tooth with a healthy sweet, like antioxidant-rich fruits and berries.
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9. DO: Consider LED Light Therapy
If you feel like your topical acne treatments aren’t working fast enough, consider bringing out the big guns—we’re talking about handheld LED devices. “LED (light emitting diode) therapy is a form of low-level light energy that penetrates the skin to cause different reactions and target different issues,” explains Dr. Robin Evans, board-certified dermatologist at Southern Connecticut Dermatology. “This type of energy in the wavelength spectrum of 600–1300 nanometers can penetrate deep into the skin and be absorbed. This can result in skin rejuvenation, repair of tissue and promotion of wound healing. The energy can also target bacteria, inflammation and stimulate collagen.”
10. DON’T: Skimp on Sleep
Easier said than done, right? But, for the sake of clear skin (and your sanity), Dr. Brauer says to make it a point to get a better night’s sleep. When you sleep, the skin works to restore itself through a process called regeneration, and lack of sleep can lead to a tired-looking complexion, dark circles, puffy under-eye bags and sometimes even breakouts. Whether this means turning your phone or TV off an hour earlier than usual, taking a relaxing bubble bath before bed or giving meditation a try, you’ll be glad you did!
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11. DO: Sanitize Your Gadgets
We hate to break it to you, but your cell phone could be one of the reasons for your breakouts. According to Dr. Jaliman, the bacteria on your phone will cause breakouts. Her solution? “Don’t rest your phone against your face, use earbuds instead!” In addition to earbuds, you should also consider wiping your phone down with a disinfecting wipe or cotton pad dampened with rubbing alcohol.