The Right Way to Build an Acne Skincare Routine

Oily skin and acne skincare

An acne skincare routine is just what you need to clear yourself of blemishes. Having oily skin, hormones, and the stress of running a business and a job is the perfect combination for breakouts. Trying to be a responsible adult and get an IUD because you don't want to have any pregnancy scares in your 20s, also a setback on the quest for flawless skin. I have always struggled with acne since I was a teenager, but never more than a breakout here or there during that time of the month. Now that I'm an adult and thought I would be well on my way to looking like J.Lo, some things have changed. I have been dealing with a lot more stress and hormonal acne as I've gotten older, and it hasn't been a walk in the park. Having great skin and developing a skincare routine is important for your personal life and your career.

Skin is the biggest organ in the body and our faces are important vehicles of communication. Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston conducted a study and found that people with facial blemishes weren't evaluated as positively. Why? Because the interviewers didn't focus on what they were saying, as much as what they were looking at. “The more the interviewers attended to stigmatized features on the face, the less they remembered about the candidate’s interview content, and the less memory they had about the content led to decreases in ratings of the applicant,” said Juan Madera, a professor at the University of Houston and co-author of the study. Hopefully, that was a very real example of how ignoring your skin can be hindering you.

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Great skin will help boost your confidence, Develop executive presence and save you time. 

When you aren't worried about what's wrong with how you look, you can focus on making the best impression. Being self-confident manifests itself in the way you interact with others and the way your carry yourself. Your higher self-esteem and the sparkle in your personality make all the difference in how you communicate, negotiate and operate. They all contribute to your executive presence. According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation, being perceived as a leader is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. 

So what is executive presence? It's that wow-factor, charisma, and magnetism that allows you to influence others and be decisive and poised under pressure. It also includes verbal communication skills, body language, assertiveness and appearance. Guess what falls under the appearance category? Being well put together, dressed appropriately, and proper hygiene. When you are intentional about the way you look and your skin, you save yourself time and energy getting ready in the morning, because you are not piling on tons of inappropriate makeup to cover your blemishes. 

Related Reading: Executive Presence 

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How to Build an Effective Acne Skincare Routine

I am very intentional about my success and don't plan on letting a few pimples make me feel insecure and keep me from the C-Suite. Developing a skincare routine takes a few steps, but really just requires consistency.

1. Get a personalized acne routine.

You can go to a dermatologist or esthetician to get an assessment. If you're lazy or cheap like me, you can take the "Lets Solve It Quiz" on www.SolveMyAcne.com and identify the best products for your skin type and breakout type. Not all pimples, blackheads and hormonal acne are created equal and not all products work on all skin. For me, I have combination skin and a combination of whiteheads and cystic acne. Ew. Here are my results.

Lets Solve It Quiz Results

2. Pick the products that work best for you.

Finding the right skincare routine and products takes a lot of trial and error, but for the most part you will need the following:

Products You Need for an Acne Skincare Routine

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Serum
  4. Targeted Treatments
  5. Moisturizer
  6. Exfoliant
  7. Mask


You should avoid anything that's too harsh and will dry out your skin. If it's a foaming cleanser, it's probably doing too much and will cause more breakouts. You will get that "squeaky clean" feeling, but your face will feel tight, look dull, and begin to overproduce oil and cause more breakouts. I like cream cleansers like Neutrogena's Rapid Clear Cleanser, because it has maximum strength Benzoyl Peroxide, the acne medicine dermatologists recommend most for clearer skin, without a prescription. When my face is beat, I'll remove the makeup with wipes or tea tree oil first, then clean with my Mary Kay Cleansing brush. (It's wayyy cheaper than a Clarisonic, fyi. Let me know if you want one.) 



Many people skip toner and shouldn't. You would be surprised at how many times, you think your face is clean and the toner picks up dirt and makeup that you left behind. Not only does it remove any oil or makeup residue, it also balances your skins pH level and preps your it to receive whatever treatments you put on next. I use Mario Badescu's Aloe Vera Toner, a mild, alcohol-free toner. Many people would opt for something "stronger," but with the cleanser and treatments having skin-drying ingredients, I don't like to abuse my face with too many abrasive products. 

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Serums are the secret sauce of skincare. They are packed with active ingredients whatever your concern is, whether that's brightening, repairing, smoothing texture, hydrating, or anti-aging. Since my #1 issue is acne scaring and uneven skin tone, I TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum so I can get my glow back.


Targeted Treatments

This is where you start attacking your biggest skin concern like blemishes, dark spots or even eczema. Because these products have powerful ingredients, they are usually used at night and as spot treatments. You don't rub it into your whole face, just dab on the affected areas. Retinols and hyperpigmentation treatments fall into this category. I use Paula's Choice Resist Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser for my hyperpigmentation at night, and Neutrogena's Spot Treatment and the Leave on Mask for the zits. I treat zits during the day and the dark spots at night.



While nobody likes to be ashy, moisturizer is key to making sure you're radiant and that your makeup goes on smoothly. If you've every noticed that your foundation is looking kinda weird, it could be that your skin isn't hydrated enough. If you have acne, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer Pink Grapefruit has you covered with the addition of salicylic acid to fight breakouts, but I like something with a little more hydration since the acne treatments dry my skin. I use a collagen moisturizer that I got from my esthetician at the spa, but Pond's Cold Cream is a good alternative as well. Just make sure it has SPF. (Btw, Using foundation with SPF in it can cause you to look gray, so it's best to have it in the moisturizer.) 



Masks are a great way to pamper yourself and treat your skin. Grab a sheet mask that best fits your skins needs and relax twice a week. I use the Indian Clay Mask to deeply cleanse my skin on Sundays and a sheet mask to pamper it mid-week. 



And, I'm not talking the ones with the beads. You need to exfoliate your face and encourage new cell turnover.  You can use product like peels with chemical exfoliants in it, or a dedicated physical exfoliator like a sugar scrub; either way, you don't need to use this more than 2 times a week. While I love Ole Henriksen's Sugar Scrub, I do use Mario Badescu's Rolling Cream Peel which is much gentler since it's non-granular. This is a major key when you have acne scaring and hyper-pigmentation. I alternate between these two.

Acne Skincare Routine in Practice


  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Serum
  4. Acne Spot Treatment
  5. SPF Moisturizer


Cleanse first then:

  1. Mon: Peel
  2. Wed: Sheet Mask
  3. Fri: Sugar Scrub
  4. Sun: Indian Clay Mask


  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Serum
  4. Dark Spot Treatments
  5. Hydrating Moisturizer

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Neutrogena. The opinions and text are all mine.