For many people, the first skincare routine that they’ll build is one for acne-prone skin. As teens and tweens start to experience hormonal fluctuations, their skin can go a little haywire—so, it makes a lot of sense to get started with a skincare routine to help manage oiliness and zits. Keep reading to find out how to build a great skincare routine for your acne-prone skin (or how to help your teen build their routine for themself!)

These skincare suggestions also work for non-teenage acne. If you’re entering your twenties, thirties, or even fifties and find that you’re developing adult acne for the first time, these same steps and ingredients will work just as well for you. It’s all about helping your skin find a way to maintain balance for itself as your body changes, whether you’re going through puberty or menopause.

Skincare basics for your first skincare routine

Cerave for acne prone skin

My first piece of advice for building a skincare routine, especially to treat oily or acne-prone skin, is not to go overboard. Especially for younger skincare users, it’s important not to add in too many steps at once. Start with a few things and give each one time to see if it’s working well.

In your teen years, your skin cycle turns over quickly—approximately every 21 days, which is a number that gets longer as you age. So, when you’re trying a new product to see if it’ll help your skin find balance, give it at least 2-3 weeks before scrapping it for something new.

My second piece of advice is my most important one. If you live in a very dry location (like the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), be kind to your dry skin! Check for signs of dehydration and treat those first. Dehydrated skin will overproduce sebum to try to make up for how little moisture is in the air, which can lead to oiliness and breakouts that aren’t actually hormonally-driven. If your skin is both oily and flakey, prioritize cleansing and toning products that are gentle and hydrating instead of stripping or de-greasing. Often, this helps balance your skin and will allow your sebaceous glands to stop overproducing oil on its own.

How to choose a cleanser for acne-prone skin

Salicylic acid cleanser

Select a cleanser for your acne-prone skin that isn’t too stripping. You want it to remove the excess oil that’s sitting on your face, but not leave your pores feeling tight and squeaky-clean.

If you have large pores, opt for a foaming cleanser. If you have small pores and dry flakes as well as oiliness, try a lotion-type cleanser. To amp up your cleansing experience, look for a cleanser with gentle chemical exfoliators like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide acts as an antiseptic to help reduce acne breakouts with continuous use, and salicylic acid helps remove dead skin cells to prevent breakouts before they start.

For acne-prone skin, make sure to cleanse in both the morning and night.

How to choose a toner or serum for acne-prone skin

Toners and serums are a great way to add a treatment step into your skincare routine. Look for lightweight, oil-free products that feature ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin C, sulfur, and gentle retinols. Apply these products before your moisturizer and let them sink into the skin before you move on to the next step.

I recommend using only one treatment at a time for your acne, and especially adding only one treatment at a time. That means if you’re using a product with AHAs, you’re not also using a product with retinol in it; if you’re using a product with Vitamin C, you’re not also applying a salicylic acid gel everywhere; etc. Anything with a chemical exfoliant component to it will make your skin more sensitive, and mixing too many of these products at once can cause breakouts, peeling, UV oversensitivity, or chemical burns. If you’d like to layer multiple treatment products, make sure to talk to a dermatologist before doing so.

This is also a great place in your skincare routine to use an LED light therapy mask to help manage and treat your acne. Apply your serum or toner and turn on your mask (pre-moisturizer) for the best results.

How to choose a moisturizer for acne-prone skin

Acne treatment pimple patches

Finally, finish your skincare routine with a great, oil-free moisturizer for acne-prone skin. I recommend choosing something lightweight but hydrating for the nighttime and an oil-free moisturizer with SPF for the daytime. Many acne-treating products increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, so it’s especially important to make sure you’re applying your SPF during the day and your retinols (if any) only at night.

This is also a great place in your skincare routine to use treatment products like pimple patches, which help absorb oil and prevent you from picking at any active acne spots. Remember—you can toy with your routine as needed, adding different products like moisturizers and pimple patches as your needs change. Just make sure to make those changes slowly so your skin has the time it needs to respond.

Shop skincare products online at Best Buy today to start building your custom skincare routine.

Rae Chen
Rae Chen covers everything from handbags to speakers here on the Best Buy Plug-in Blog. They can also be found at, where they've been writing about beauty & wellness since 2007.



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