My Dermatologist Approved Routine For Acne Prone Skin

Skintellectual Stories is our storytelling series that shares the skincare and wellness routines of our community of editors. Our editors are real people with everyday skin remedies to combat everyday skin concerns. Looking for an I-Can-Totally-Relate pick me up? Keep reading for today's Skintellectual Story. 

Editor: Eryn Danielle, @eryn__danielle

Skin Type: Oily, sensitive to fragrance

Skin Concern: Hyperpigmentation

My adult acne struggles began after going off birth control at the end of 2018. I had struggled with acne for a bit in my teenage years. After a brief stint using Ziana (a combination of Vitamin A derivatives, Clindamycin and Tretinoin), my skin was relatively blemish-free throughout the end of high school and college. I didn’t have to think much about the products I was using, other than remembering to put on sunscreen daily.

My relationship to my skin changed when I became involved in the beauty and self care industries. As a previous Showroom Editor at Glossier and Digital Marketing Coordinator at Chillhouse, I was exposed to more products than I had ever seen. I would eagerly invest in the latest masks, serums, and cleansers with no understanding of my skin type. Maintaining this skincare regimen became a costly and taxing process, that I, frankly, couldn’t afford. I was slowly wrecking my skincare barrier and my bathroom counter was full of half-used products that I grew tired of.

When I made the decision to go off birth control, a few months later I began experiencing persistent acne on my forehead and cheeks. It was worse than any acne I had had in the last few years, and much worse than any breakouts I had in high school. The most difficult part of getting acne was the scarring and hyperpigmentation that would linger for weeks afterward. I would cover any dark marks I had with layers of concealer and to maintain this image of having “perfect skin” that most people assumed I had through my work as a model and movement artist, or the industries I had previously worked in. Seeing imagery of young girls and women with perfect blemish-free skin, or needing little to no makeup started to deeply impact my confidence. 

There was also a tremendous void within the beauty and wellness industries. Black folks were being left out of conversations, products were not tailored to our skin types, and at the time there were no conversations about hyperpigmentation and scarring within the many skincare and wellness articles I had read over the years. I had no idea who the skincare experts were for women of color, and felt that many of the concerns I had fell on deaf ears. 

The best thing I did for my skin was finding a dermatologist who focuses on people of color. I cannot stress how important this is. Not only were my concerns about hyperpigmentation validated and understood, I learned specifically about what my skin needed to heal. I learned that taking care of my skin also meant getting yearly body scans for any early signs of skin cancer. My dermatologist, Dr. Lian Mack of Glam Derm (based in Manhattan, NY) has a very pragmatic and simplified approach to skincare. She encouraged me to put down all the excess products (ex. Toners, essences, masks, etc), to stop spending money on expensive spa treatments, and instead go on Differin Gel (adapalene 0.1%) to suppress my oil production and heal my hyperpigmentation.

I began using Differin at the beginning of quarantine. My dermatologist warned me that it would take about six to eight weeks to see full results, but I began seeing improvements in my skin around week three. The great thing about Differin, is that it is an affordable, over the counter, retinoid that is gentler than some of the prescription retinoids out there. I had limited purging and I noticed that any acne I did have healed much quicker than usual. Using Differin healed so many of my skin concerns, and I was able to really streamline my routine. Below is my most current skincare regimen! It is much simpler than it used to be and I’ve found solace in having a reliable routine that I can sustain. 

(Please note these products were recommended to me by my dermatologist and estheticians that I’ve been seeing for months now! Would recommend chatting with experts about your specific skincare concerns to find the best solution for you)

My Daytime Routine:

  1. I cleanse with IS Clinical Cleansing Complex! This cleanser was recommended to me by Glow Bar founder Rachel Liverman. I love how effective, simple and hydrating this cleanser is. It keeps my skin balanced, without drying out my skin.
  2. I gently pat my skin dry, but still allow it to be a bit damp! I then Apply NIOD Fractionated Eye-Contour Concentrate. I found that eye creams didn’t do anything for me, but I loved how this concentrate really sinks into my under eye area. A little goes a long way since the formula has a slippery texture. I use my ring finger to dab a bit under my eyes and near my brow bone as well.
  3. Then apply IS Clinical Pro Heal Serum. I introduced this serum after about five weeks of using Differin. I was ready to add Vitamin C into my routine and this was another recommendation from Rachel. A little goes a long way for this product as well!
  4. I follow up with CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. The formula is lightweight and so smoothing. It’s the perfect moisturizer for me and I haven’t found anything that quite compares yet!
  5. My last and most important step is applying sunscreen! I use Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen or Biossance Mineral Sunscreen depending on the day! Biossance is great for when I am outside and want to be more active! It’s got a heavier formula and feels a bit more like a traditional sunscreen. I use Supergoop if I’m stepping out to run errands. It’s a lighter formula that feels satiny. It is also clear which is amazing for darker skinned people who want to avoid the white cast that most sunscreens leave!

My Nighttime Routine:

  1. Double cleanse! I use Elemis Pro Cleansing Balm to break down any oil, dirt, or makeup I'm wearing. It’s amazing at removing eye makeup and doesn’t burn my eyes which is a plus. I usually just massage the balm directly on my face and then I add water after about thirty seconds. I rinse off and then use Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser to work on overall brightening. (Please note, it’s not recommended that you combine cleansers with salicylic acid with Differin gel).
  2. After cleansing, I let my skin dry completely! This is crucial for applying Differin gel. After my skin is dry I apply NIOD Fractionated Eye-Contour Concentrate on my under eye area.
  3. Then I apply a pea-sized amount of Differin Gel to my face! The instructions are pretty specific about how much is needed and they don’t recommend putting on more than advised. Also, Differin is not meant to be used as a spot treatment! It must be applied to your entire face to see results! Now that I’ve been using it for about four months, my skin acne has calmed down tremendously.
  4. I then use CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion and that’s it!**

Masks:

  • I use Golde’s Clean Greens and Lucuma Bright masks 1x per week. They are indulgent, clean, and Black-owned. They’ve been a staple in my routine for over a year now and their effectiveness has increased after using Differin! I use this when I think my skin needs a little pick-me-up.

Pro Tip: When I first started using Differin, I chose to layer it on top of my moisturizer to help with irritation. After a week or two, I started applying Differin under my moisturizer to increase its effectiveness! You can use it both ways.

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