acne + breakouts

14 min read

I’ve got acne prone skin, now what?

a guide with tips on how to manage breakout prone skin 

i’ve got acne prone skin, now what?

Acne can really put a damper on our day, our week, even our month… If you’re struggling with continuous breakouts and can legally buy your own lotto tickets or ponder the isles of Bevmo for a sophisticated bottle of vino, then it might be time to consider that your just prone (I’m at the ripe age of 30 and still have a very healthy relationship with my acne cleanser and that’s ok!) There’s no shame in that game. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with not having perfectly clear skin (we’re all human), but dealing with breakouts all the time is still frustrating, so I’m here to share some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to deal with breaking out- long term.

First things first- no, you’re not “dirty.” And yes, we have tried washing our pillowcases. That’s not the problem, but thanks for the unsolicited advice. A lot of times, people love to tell us what we’re doing “wrong” with our skin, and while they may mean well, this can come off as insulting. In-fact most people who are breakout prone are far more knowledgeable and careful about their skin than someone who’s not (you’re reading this article so clearly you’re doing your research!). But let’s talk about some of the less obvious things that could help you along your journey. Keep in mind it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  

Here’s how to look after breakout prone skin:

1: product knowledge

Using the right products is key if you're breakout-prone. You can't use just one product for acne treatment. You'll most likely need more than just a spot treatment, so finding a good acne-prone skin care routine that suits all your needs 100% is necessary. For instance, someone who deals with an occasional blemish would be fine using just an acne gel or spot treatment every once and a while, but someone who is breakout-prone needs to invest in an entire regimen that aids in breakout prevention, rather than just one thing. 

In my experience, it’s better to stick with one line vs. choosing different products from different lines. This can get confusing and stressful. Most skincare lines will have a product line specifically focused on acne, which can save you time and dreadful decision making when choosing products. My current obsession is Dermalogica’s Clear Start line. It will cover all your bases, and all the products are super gentle so you can use them every day without having to worry about getting dried out or irritated AND rest assured that they’ve done their research. All the products in this line are focused on treating acne & breakouts while still nourishing your skin. Once you’ve found your regimen, the key is staying consistent. It can be easy to fall off the wagon if your skin is clearing up, but keep in mind that preventing breakouts is a lot easier than treating them. Here are some ingredients to keep in mind while choosing products.

key ingredients to help fight acne 

  • Salicylic acid 
  • Benzoyl peroxide 
  • Retinoids 
  • Niacinamide 
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Glycolic Acid 
  • AHA & BHA 
  • Sulfur

2: the glow up 

Once you've got your skincare routine on lockdown, the next thing to evaluate is your makeup routine. Anything that you put onto your skin is being absorbed into your pores, so it's equally important that you're using clean, non-comedogenic makeup. This especially rings true for breakout-prone skin. Good skin starts with good products, but if you're going to throw on a thick foundation with not so great ingredients, you're already losing half the battle. Do your research when choosing makeup. Keywords to look for next time you're browsing the shelves at ULTA are non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), light-weight, water-based, and oil-free. Some makeup lines have even started to create makeup specifically for breakout-prone skin (Hallelujah!). So if you can spring for makeup with acne-fighting properties, I say go for it. 

Always…I repeat…always wash your makeup off before bed. The safest way to ensure you have removed all your makeup is to double cleanse with an oil cleanser 1st (my personal fav is Precleanse) followed by a gel or foaming cleanser. You want to make sure your cleanser contains acne-fighting properties such as salicylic or benzoyl peroxide. Clear Start’s Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash contains .50% salicylic acid to fight breakouts and is formulated with eight soothing botanicals, so you don’t have to worry about getting irritated. A win-win. To ensure a smooth application of product, use a moisturizer after cleansing and exfoliate a few times a week. Clearing Defense SPF 30 doubles as sunscreen. 

Another thing to consider is how you’re applying your makeup. If you're using makeup brushes you should be washing them once a week with a gentle soap (baby soaps are best). Yeah I know, they are high maintenance but those brushes carry bacteria and old makeup and trust me, you don’t want to smear that all over your face. Beauty blenders should be washed regularly as well and replaced every 3 months. Applying makeup with your fingers isn’t always ideal for acne prone skin. Our fingers aren’t the cleanest and you don’t really want to press foundation into your skin. This can increase clogged pores. If you prefer using your fingers that’s fine, just make sure to wash your hands prior to application and be gentle while blending in. If you're using a powder foundation try dapping on with the brush as opposed to a swirling or circular motion. This can also cause unnecessary congestion in the pore so the lighter the better when applying makeup. 

3: diet and hormones 

This is probably the most complicated subject when it comes to managing your breakout-prone skin. While we may be able to control the things we eat, our hormones prefer to march to the beat of their own drum. Hormonal breakouts usually (but not always) occur on the chin and jawline and tend to be deeper and larger than a regular pimple. If you think your acne is caused by a hormonal imbalance, you want to check in with a dermatologist on this one. Things like birth control, stress, age, and lifestyle are all associated with major hormonal changes, and it’s important to talk to a professional to see what could be causing it. But let’s talk about something we can control… our eating habits. Yes, I know…nobody wants to be told to cut out sugar or dairy because um hello, have you ever had Queso dip? But if you’re really struggling with your skin, it’s worth exploring. We now know that foods that are high in sugars and dairy products aren’t the best for our body, let alone our skin, so limiting or even eliminating these things from our diet can be a great place to start. Here’s a little guide for which foods to avoid and which foods that can help with breakout-prone skin.

foods that can trigger acne 

  • Chocolate  
  • Fast food 
  • Some carbohydrates (pasta, white rice, white breads)  
  • Milk  
  • Ice Cream  
  • Sugar and processed foods  
  • Cheese  

non- triggering skin healthy foods 

  • Blueberries  
  • Dark greens & leafy veggies 
  • Brown rice 
  • Quinoa 
  • Peas & beans 
  • Nuts 
  • Unprocessed fruits

4: keep your hands off your face 

After touching so many things each day from door handles, constant picking up of objects, to railings on public transportation, your hands are covered with bacteria, which can lead to the clogging of your pores. The last thing you want is to put that bacteria on your face. Touching your face often or even worse, picking at an inflamed breakout, will only lead to more breakouts.

5: keep your hair off your face

If you have oily skin, you probably have oily hair. Oily hair brushing against your face will end up transferring that oil directly onto the skin. Excess oil, sweat, and built-up debris are a great way to clog pores, which can lead to more pimples and blackheads. Additionally, if you use thick gels or pomades with an abundance of oils/lipids, try to apply them away from your forehead. If you notice pimples appearing on your forehead and along the hairline, your hair and/or the products being put in your hair could likely be the culprit. 

6: wash your pillowcases 

Dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, and makeup often collect on a pillowcase. Cozying up to clean fabric at night can help keep your complexion clear. To prevent new breakouts from developing overnight, we recommend switching your pillowcase anywhere from every few days to daily, especially if you’re a regular makeup wearer—the type of pillowcase you use matters too. Although silk is often recommended for fighting fine lines, a breathable fabric like cotton is better when it comes to preventing breakouts. When washing your pillowcase, it’s also best to avoid fabric softeners and fragranced detergent. 

7: clean your cell phone 

Think about it, your face produces oil and sweat which gets onto your phone when you’re on a call. If you don’t clean that off, during your next call, you’re pushing it back into your skin, along with any bacteria that has grown. To clean it gently, wipe the exterior with a microfiber cloth or disinfecting solution daily.

8: relax 

Have you ever noticed how pimples tend to appear before a stressful event like an exam, job interview, or presentation? Stress wreaks havoc on your skin. Breakouts can be exacerbated when your body is in a stressed state, so try to relax and take a breather.

9: sleep

Even if you’re using acne treatments, not getting enough sleep can sabotage your efforts to clear breakouts. Lack of sleep can trigger your adrenal glands to get over productive during the day, and this can lead to excess oil production. 

it’s ok to have acne 

It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with acne and breakout-prone skin, and that’s OK. In today’s society, it’s easy to feel the pressure to look perfect, but the truth is that we all have flaws. That’s what makes us who we are. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t let it ruin your day, your week, and especially your month. You can have acne and still look like a whole snack. Chances are you’re noticing it way more than anyone else is anyway. So what’s the #1 rule with having breakout-prone skin? Be kind to yourself. Because you, my, friend are beautiful. ☺ 


  • Product knowledge: Figuring out which regimen is right for your skin, patience is key.
  • The glow up: Light-weight, non-comedogenic makeup are a must, also remember to wash off your makeup at night.
  • Diet and hormones: Eat non-triggering healthy foods to help control hormonal acne.
  • Keep your hands off your face: Your hands can transfer acne causing bacteria to your face.
  • Keep your Hair off Your Face: Oil in your hair can cause breakouts. 
  • Wash your Pillowcases: Clean fabrics can help keep your skin clear.
  • Clean your Cell Phone: Oil and sweat transferred to your phone can transfer right back to your face.
  • Relax: Less stress, less breakouts.
  • Sleep: Catch some Zzz’s to help your skin produce less oil.