There is something especially demoralizing about dealing with severe acne as an adult. You have your very grown-up challenges to face (the bills, the work, the constant existential questioning) and you’ve got the (ahem) distinguished look of someone who has lived some life. So, adding a smattering of angry spots and a greasy T-zone to the mix may feel unfair.
Alas, acne doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, at any time (regardless of your age and with zero consideration for whatever else is going on in your life). And we’re not going to sugarcoat things: It can take a lot of trial-and-error to troubleshoot your breakouts. For many, this involves some intervention by your dermatologist, who will prescribe oral or topical treatments as needed.
In the meantime, here are some seemingly random yet tried-and-true products we always incorporate into our routines whenever we’re going through a bumpy patch.
1. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash
Treating acne requires some checks and balances. You want to remove enough excess oils from your skin to prevent it from clogging your pores but not so much that you strip your skin (which will trigger an increase in oil production). This gel cleanser delivers on all fronts; the oil-free, non-comedogenic and fragrance-free formula lathers up generously and leaves your face feeling refreshed, but never tight or dry thanks to the added ceramides and glycerin.
2. Vanicream Moisturizing Cream
This moisturizing cream is as bland as it gets, but when you’re dealing with acne or another skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, this is a very good (and necessary) thing. Free of common irritants like fragrance, dye, lanolin and formaldehyde, and non-comedogenic to boot, it is the rare moisturizer that we use from head-to-toe without having to worry about causing another breakout or reaction. (Note: It’s on the heavier side, so start with less than you’d normally use; for context, a single pump is usually sufficient for our entire face, neck and upper shoulders.)
3. Hero Cosmetics Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30
If you have a deeply rooted fear of sunscreen, we completely understand. It used to look and feel like a goopy paste that all but smothered your skin, but we assure you that SPF has gotten so much better (and dare we say, cosmetically elegant?) over the last few years. We’re currently enjoying this lightweight sunscreen from Hero Cosmetics. Made with zinc oxide, it has a 100 percent mineral formula and is formulated specifically for acne-prone skin. Plus, it has a subtle green tint to it that counteracts any redness.
4. Cocokind Reusable Cotton Rounds
You know how you’re supposed to ice an injury to reduce inflammation? The same goes for a particularly large pimple. Apply ice to the offending blemish for 5 to 10 minutes (making sure to take 10-minute breaks in-between) to quickly bring down some of the redness and swelling. We like to use these soft reusable rounds as a buffer between our skin and the ice cube.
5. Starface Hydro-Stars
Because when life hands you pimples, you may as well slap a star-shaped sticker on them? In all seriousness, these hydrocolloid patches aren’t just for show. They’re made with hydrocolloid, which is a flexible material that’s commonly used for wound healing in hospitals. When applied over a recently erupted spot or one that’s coming to a head, it will help drain any remaining fluid from the area, flattening the spot faster as a result. (They also create a barrier for when you absentmindedly touch your face, which causes spots to linger longer).