With so many beauty products on the market, and with new brands launching almost every day, it can be a challenge to find the right skincare for your concerns. But with problem-prone, breakout skin and acne, the challenge is even tougher. At least you’re not alone – some of our favourite celebs have also struggled with breakouts, from Chrissy Teigen to Taylor Hill and Selena Gomez.
Even with problem skin, the variety of concerns may vary. From hormonal to cystic acne, whiteheads, blackheads and oily to dry skin, finding the right skincare products will ultimately require a period of experimentation. Furthermore, your skin condition may vary over time, or even from week to week, requiring you to keep a range of skincare products for different occasions.
What causes breakouts?
Hormones: You know the type – it shows up monthly, or whenever your body goes through a hormonal shakeup, like puberty or menopause. Getting hormonal spots doesn’t mean you have oily skin or acne – don’t strip your entire face with harsh products, just use spot treatments when necessary.
Bacteria: Propionibacterium Acnes, to be precise – which is where we get “acne” from. Think of dirty phones, unwashed pillow cases, touching your face with your hands all the time…
Inflammation: Stress is the big culprit here, but it could also be caused by illness or food allergies or intolerance.
Sensitivities Allergies, and reactions to products, foods or environments your skin doesn’t like.
What should you avoid?
Whatever your skin type, when it comes to acne, one thing you want to avoid is using harsh, abrasive products that can aggravate the skin. Thick and textured creams, while heavily moisturising, will clog pores, while ingredients such as SLS, alcohol, benzoyl peroxide and sulphur, which are used to target acne head-on, can dry the skin. And don’t over-exfoliate – it will only cause your skin to produce even more oil.
How can you treat it?
To treat breakout-prone skin, the key is to be gentle. Don’t scrub your face or overload it with products. Gently cleanse twice a day – try to avoid foaming cleansers, which strip all the moisture from your skin. Then exfoliate with an acid-based toner featuring glycolic acid or other AHAs and BHAs, and always moisturise, avoiding products with mineral oil and shea butter, which clogs pores.
Besides skincare products, what else can you do to combat breakouts?
- Don’t touch your skin!
- Always wash your hands, wipe down your phone and try to avoid touching bacteria breeding grounds like escalator railings.
- Change towels and bed linen regularly.
- Include lots of healthy fish oils in your diet, like omega oil supplements and eating avocado and oily fish like tuna and sardines.
- Take a daily probiotic to keep your gut healthy – your skin also reflects what’s going on inside your body.
Right, now you know how to start tackling problem skin, let’s look at what products are best for each skin type – and you can shop them all right here!
What to do if you have oily skin?
There are two major myths when it comes to oily skin: first, that it needs to be stripped of all oil in order to look flawless and matte, and second, that you should only use oil-free products. But think about it – if you strip your skin of all oil with harsh ingredients like SLS and alcohol, all it’s going to do is over-produce even more oil, to overcompensate, which will only clog your pores. And so the cycle continues. The trick is to gently balance your skin’s oil production with cleansing oils (even if that sounds counterintuitive) as part of your double-cleansing routine, weekly clay-based masks (don’t leave them on too long), acid toners and gentle moisturisers.
Primally Pure cleansing oil oily skin
Dermalogica clearing skin wash
Circumference green clay detox face mask
Pixi glow tonic
Differin oil absorbing moisturizer with sunscreen
What to do if you have combination skin?
Sometimes your skin doesn’t know what it wants… dry in some spots, oily in others. You still need to cleanse it properly twice a dayWhatever your skin type, a proper double cleanse is essential to keep those spots at bay. Use gentle cleansers that won’t strip the skin of its natural oils while still helping to decongest pores. Follow with a targeted serum with hero ingredients like niacinamide, and a lightweight moisturiser.
Origins Checks and Balances frothy face wash
Aesop In Two Minds facial cleanser
Kiehl’s ultra facial cream
ApotheCARE Essentials Phytodefend protecting serum
What to do if you have dry or sensitive skin?
Dry skin is caused by a lack of oil and is a skin type, not skin condition. Dry skin can look dull, is easily irritated and doesn’t absorb products easily. Irritatingly, dry skin can still suffer from breakouts! The goal here should be to add moisture to your skin with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and to avoid anything harsh or foaming. Look to balm, gel and oil-based cleansers, serums and moisturisers.
Simple Water Boost Micellar facial gel wash
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos glycolic night serum
3 spot treatments for all skin types
1. PIMPLE PATCHES
Zap those spots with a targeted, prolonged application of bacteria-fighting ingredients.
Cosrx acne pimple master patch
2. SULPHUR TREATMENT
Formulated with sulphur to fight blemishes, salicylic acid to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and zinc oxide to provide oil control, this cult formula tackles spots while helping prevent new ones from forming.
Kate Somerville EradiKate blemish treatment
3. PURIFYING SPOT TREATMENT
Dab on this refreshing gel formula a few times a day to help reduce breakouts and calm your skin.
My Clarins Clear-Our Targeted blemish treatment