The Acne Sufferer’s Handbook

Ashley Weatherford, author of the skin-centric blog August Skin, first learned about face masks from her father at a young age. Since then, she’s experimented with any product she can get her hands on—especially those formulated to battle acne and oil. Here, she shares her tips for fighting hard-to-treat blemishes.

Set a Routine

Stay consistent, remain patient, and never forget that your stance on dirt and bacteria should be a lot like Regina George’s on sweatpants on Thursday—not gonna happen. Look for with labels and ingredients like oil-free, salicylic acid, and kaolin. Keep these products around for at least two weeks (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is clear skin) and be mindful that anything that comes into contact with your face is also a potential breeding ground for acne bacteria. So wash and disinfect cell phones, pillows, and especially your hands—the state of your face depends on it.

Choose Products Wisely

An acne routine, no matter how consistent, is only as good as its products. You’ll need a power cleanser and a twice (or thrice) weekly scrub to slough away pore-clogging dead skin cells. Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel and Philosophy’s Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash are your best bets. If you wear makeup, or you’re like me with a face that’s a magnet for oil, do yourself a favor and try Dermalogica’s Precleanse or Koh Gen Do’s Spa Water prior to face washing so that your cleanser’s acne-fighting ingredients can penetrate skin more easily. For targeted treatments, nothing works better than Evologie’s Intensive Blemish Serum, where it acts like an invisibility cloak to blemishes until they’ve vanished. And I triple-dog dare you to find a mask that loves your skin more than GlamGlow’s SUPERMUD Clearing Treatment—a clay confection of ingredients that detox, brighten, and smooth skin (use twice weekly).

Don’t Forget to Moisturize

Lightweight moisturizers are almost as essential as cleansers (or maybe more, the jury is still out) because after all the washes and masks, your skin needs a bit of hydration. The best ones to try are Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar (it’s as if they bottled a cloud) and MenScience’s Advanced Face Lotion, which is technically for men but strong enough for you.

Extra Credit

When it comes to clear skin, I’ll try almost anything once. While the days I gave up dairy, meat, and high glycemic foods are memorialized on my calendar, the one dietary change I can stand by is cod liver oil. The supplement is like an elixir for beautiful skin; I hoard Carlson’s formula like a Doomsday-prepper stores batteries. Swallow one teaspoon daily and you'll notice the change in your skin.

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