The more I read about actives like acids and retinoids, the more I realize that nasty side-effects like red, sensitive, peely skin don’t necessarily have to happen in order for the product to be effective. In fact, lots of people end up slowing down their progress toward clearer skin by plowing into a hardcore routine with acids and prescription medication, which results in a lot of purging and pain, requiring time off from the good stuff.
On top of side effects from heavy-hitter actives, there’s the time commitment of actually putting this stuff on your face. Some people really enjoy the act of doing skincare. I…don’t. Sorry. I like putting on makeup when time allows, but skincare just isn’t that exciting for me to actually do at this point. I’ve slapped a lot of stuff on my face in an effort to get better skin, and now I want to get down to really living in this skin.
As a result, I’ve been searching for ways to speed things up and get better results with less effort and skinpocalypse. Here’s what I’ve found.
Three Advanced Skincare Hacks for Skin with Acne
1. Do the hard stuff in the morning before cleansing
If you’re using something like a peel, a mass-market “peel” (here I’m thinking something like Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial or the Ordinary’s 30% AHA/2% BHA), or a strong retinoid, consider applying it first thing in the morning — even before you wash your face. This obviously isn’t going to be ideal if you have a long and heavy night routine, but if you don’t wake up sludgey feeling, your skin’s natural protections can really help buffer products so they don’t unnecessarily knock you on your ass. Your…face. Uhh.
We’ve been told for ages to apply acids and reinoids/retinols at night because they make skin more susceptible to sun damage. The thing is, they make skin more susceptible to sun damage by removing layers of it — your skin is going to be photosensitive 24/7 if you use these hard actives. Claiming that the product needs to be applied at night seems to have suggested to people that their skin would not be susceptible to sun damage during the day, and that’s absolutely not true. Two lessons: apply actives when you want and wear sunscreen daily. Lost on which sunscreen? I like this sunscreen a lot.
2. Wash off your retinoid after a few minutes
A few months ago I read this post and my mind was blown.
Mega props to dat_glo_tho on Reddit for bringing this to light. Some caveats: if you’re using a time-release prescription retinoid like Retin A Micro or a retinol such as 99.9% of the stuff you can buy in US drugstores and also the Ordinary’s 1% and 2% “retinod”, this isn’t really going to work because those do require more contact with your skin. Consult your Curology derm about whether Short Contact Therapy is ok with your prescription since most mixes contain other actives that might require more on-face time.
If you’re using regular old Retin A or Differin, try this if you’re feeling the irritation! I don’t find OTC Differin to be very irritating at all, but the formula is kind of slick, annoying, and it can travel if I go to sleep after putting it on or apply other products over it before it fully sinks in. I kept having my Differin travel and then cause neck burns (!!!) as I read before bed. Truly horrifying. Also a path to having to explain awkwardly to coworkers that giant hickey-shaped burns on one’s neck are not from one’s loving partner, but one’s love-hating retinoid. DO NOT WANT.
3. If you have oily or normal skin, a lactic acid serum can be a sleep mask
As I explained on Twitter a few nights ago, my enthusiastic embrace of exercise means that I just have a whole lot less time for skincare at the moment. My normal routine when I’m not testing new products is oil cleanser -> water-soluble cleanser ->BHA ->AHA. My current AHA of choice is BellEvolve Lac-Luronic Serum, which has lactic acid (hydrating) and hyaluronic acid (very hydrating). That’s it. Done. In bed. Trying to hit my sleep goal.
I’ve noticed a few things with my skin. It’s breaking out A LOT less. That could be due to a lot of factors including weight loss and exercise balancing the hormones that are driving the breakouts (I’ve never been able to pin my acne to specific foods, and I’ve experimented a lot). But maybe my skin just likes the minimal, acid-heavy routine.
I’ve also noticed that my skin doesn’t heal and fade PIH (the red/brown pigmentation left over after a zit fades) as fast as when I have a full routine. The creases of my nose are getting a bit battered. Eventually, I’m going to need to add some steps back in, but for now, I’ll take it.
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