Sometimes I get questions from people who are super new to having acne. The conversations usually go like this (bonus points if we’re DMing).
Person with new acne: Hi, what do I buy to not have acne?
Me: Hello, friend, it is me, person very experienced with having acne, umm, *glances at wall of products I own* some stuff?
Person with new acne: Yeah, but, like what?
Me: uhh CosRx cleanser — oh, I hear my mom calling me to dinner [from 1500 miles away], peace.
I want to be helpful, but sometimes it’s hard to give clear answers that people can act on given that it’s taken me THIS long, hundreds of products, and I still have acne. Less acne, but it’s not like I’ve found some miracle cure or something.
But I do think there are some basic things that people can buy to start tackling the issue. This isn’t meant to be a starter routine; I have an affordable starter routine post already. Rather, I’m inspired by the starter pack meme that used to be popular…except minus humor and irony and honestly all the things that made it what it was.
My guidelines for selecting the products:
- no more than 4 (the meme has parameters)
- stuff someone who lives where I live can buy easily and get fast
- products that can both help in the short-term and in the long-term
- nothing crazy expensive
As always, introduce these products to your routine one at a time to make sure they don’t set off any crazy reactions. Acids like the Nip + Fab pads and retinoids like Differin will cause your skin to purge if there are clogs in it (likely there are clogs in it), so don’t be shocked if you initially have more zits — to determine if you’re purging out the nasty or just breaking out, refer to this guide by Lab Muffin. I’d pick either the acid or Differin and try it for 6 weeks and then slowly introduce the other to minimize the risk of overexfoliation and reaaaaaaally crazy purges.
Anti-Acne Skincare Starter Pack
If you have acne, I really really really think you need these patches in your supplies. They’re little stickers that cover the open wound to keep it moist and protected. As long as the blemish is open, they help suck the nasty pus and serum out, flatting the zit sometimes overnight. When I have a monster zit and I’m home, I change these patches like wound dressings, a new one every eight hours or so to keep my skin healing. I have a full review below:
These pads aren’t my favorite acid product ever, but they have a few things going for them. One, not expensive. Two, convenient. Three, a high enough pH so that you don’t melt your face off accidentally. These contain glycolic and salicylic acids (glycolic at 5%), and they’re a fairly gentle introduction to acids. For some acne, this may be all you need — it may not be necessary to ratchet up the intensity, and I think it’s always best to go with the minimal risk products first before resorting to things closer to battery acid.
This cleanser is affordable, easy to buy, and has a good (and low-pH) formulation. I don’t love the tea tree scent, but I suppose we can’t win them all. If you want to know more about how this cleanser relates to Dante’s journey through Hell (uhhh), there’s my full review:
Just a few months ago, Differin — a retinoid once available only by prescription — became available over-the-counter at the 0.1% concentration. I’ve been testing it since mid-February, and I dig it. On my skin, it’s fairly gentle (I’m not experiencing the wild #tretface molting that lots of people have when adjusting to sister retinoid tretinoin), but also really effective at unearthing long-buried crap. It’s affordable, easy to buy, and proven by ~science~. Get on me.
Bonus Product: Sunscreen
If you’re shedding skin thanks to acids and acne medication, good sun protection is even more important. Protect that baby skin! I’m partial to the 2015 version (baby blue tube) of Biore’s Watery Essence for daily use — it doesn’t feel like sunscreen (because it’s not water resistant) and dries super fast.
I’m away from my desk right now, so bear with me while I approve comments and respond to questions. 🙁
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking those links before you shop means that fan-b receives a small commission, which helps to support the blog. Please see my full disclosure for more information.