The Best Acne Skincare Routine To Deal With Stubborn Acne – (The Comprehensive Guide)

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It’s no doubt that acne is one of the most depressing and annoying skin issues suffered by millions of people all over the world. 


In fact it is the eighth most common skin disease worldwide.

Not only does this pesky, nasty-looking zit cause pains, emotional distress and discomfort but also affects one’s self-esteem. But the good thing is, no matter how persistent and recurrent an acne is, it can definitely be treated and managed as well, all you need is to employ the best acne skincare routine, and say goodbye to those nasty-looking pimples for good. 

But before you dive into that, don’t you think it’s a good idea to know what acne really is?

What Is Acne?

Acne occurs due to congestion of oil, dead skin cells, bacteria and dirt which leads to pore blockage and when the pores of your skin becomes clogged with these debris, pimples definitely sets it.

“When skin pores get clogged, usually by dead skin cells, oil cannot discharge and accumulates in the pore and under the skin, creating a whitehead or blackhead, This is a perfect environment for [the bacteria] Propionibacterium acnes, which then flourishes and causes inflammation, creating pimples” explains Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a Kansas City dermatologist and editor

Find The Root Cause Of Your Acne.

Before plunging ahead to treating your acne breakouts, it’s a good approach to find the root cause, so as to keep yourself informed of future prevention measures.

There are so many factors that can trigger the occurrence of acne. 

Factors such as:

Excess Oil (Sebum) Production.

When the sebaceous glands produce excess sebum in circulation, this could trigger the risk of clogged pores, and when the pores are clogged, it instigates the occurrence of acne breakouts. People with oily skin tend to experience the occurrence of acne more often, therefore it’s advised to utilize skincare products or routine that can help regulate excess oil production. You can read our skincare routine guide for oily skin.

Comedogenic SkinCare Products.

Comedogenic skincare products are products containing pore-clogging ingredients which could clog up the pores, thus stimulating the eruption of acne breakouts. It’s always advised to have a good knowledge of the ingredients list of a skincare product before purchasing and also perform a patch test prior to usage. 

Not Washing Your Pillow Case Regularly.

Keeping good hygiene doesn’t only dwells on bathing everyday and keeping your environment clean, it is an all-rounder thing, which also extends to regularly washing your bedsheets and pillow case. These materials, especially pillow-case (where the face mostly lays) contains microbial and bacteria when not regularly washed (and replaced with a clean one) and using them that way exposes skin to potential bacteria and microbial which can promote the occurrence of acne. 

Hormonal Changes.

Hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menstrual cycle could as well trigger the occurrence of acne. 

Many women experience acne during pregnancy. It’s mostly common during the first and second trimesters. An increase in hormones called androgens can cause the glands in your skin to grow and produce more sebum — an oily, waxy substance that lubricates the skin. This oil can clog pores and lead to bacteria, inflammation, and breakouts.

During the menstrual cycle, just before your period starts, estrogen and progesterone levels drop. This can trigger your sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum. Too much can result in clogged pores and breakouts. Hormones can also increase skin inflammation and the production of acne-causing bacteria. 

Certain Medications.

Some certain medications such as birth control pills or corticosteroids can actually trigger acne appearance.

Certain drugs, including corticosteroids, lithium, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, androgenic steroids, DHEA, and medications that contain bromides or iodides, can also cause the eruption of acne.


Your diet could also influence the occurrence of acne. 

A diet high in refined sugars or carbohydrates, such as bread and chips can as well invite the occurrence of acne.

One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne, while those who regularly ate pastries and cakes had a 20% greater risk.


Heredity could also be a root cause for your experience of acne. 

Having parents who had acne could one way or the other pass on to you.

Some family lines may have a genetic tendency to overproduce sebum, leading to oily skin that can trap bacteria in pores, resulting in more frequent breakouts. That being said, there is every tendency for acne to run in families.

Some studies have shown that one is likely to develop acne if his or her mother had acne at any point in her life. And also has a higher chance of developing acne if a higher number of family members had acne history.


Depending on the nature of some jobs, there is a higher tendency that you may develop acne. Example: Exposure to industrial products like cutting oils, polyhalogenated hydrocarbons, coal tar, petrol, and other physical, chemical, and environmental agents may produce acne.

After finding the potential root cause of your acne breakouts, it’s time to determine the kind or type of acne you have. 

So, what type of acne could you be suffering from?

Types Of Acne.

  • Blackheads: These are mild types of acne that take a small bumps appearance on the skin due to clogged hair follicles. These bumps are called blackheads because the surface looks dark or black.
  • Whiteheads: These are types of acne that forms when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria become trapped within the pores. whitehead acnes are white in colour because the bacteria inside of it doesn’t undergo a chemical reaction.
  • Papules: These types of acne are usually small, red and raised bumps caused by inflamed or infected hair follicles.
  • Pustules:These types of acne are small, red, tender bumps with white pus at their tips. They usually contain pus due to an infection of the pore cavity and they can be painful.
  • Nodules: Nodular acne is hard, painful and occurs deep under the skin. Nodular acne often lasts for weeks or months, unlike regular pimples that often heals within a few days. Acne nodules don’t develop a white head and may remain as hard knots under the skin.
  • Cysts: Cysts acne are tagged as the most serious type of acne. They often develop in large sizes. They occur deeper within the skin, often look like boils on the skin, filled with pus and painful to touch.

While treating acne, you have to keep things simple, by keeping things simple, it means you have to keep your skincare routine very simple, this is to avoid overloading your skin with skincare products which could potentially lead to comedogenicity – clogged pores.

Acne Skincare Routine – Morning (AM).

Step 1: Cleanse.

ZapZyt Acne Wash Cleanser. 

Best The Ordinary products for oily skin, clogged pores treatment



Before commencing your skincare routine, first thing first, you cleanse your skin, to get rid of nasties and impurities such as dead skin cells and oil lingering on skin surface and within the skin pores. 

Therefore, for this purpose, you need a gentle cleanser that won’t be too stripping on the skin. I recommend The ZapZyt Acne Wash Cleanser, which contains 2% salicylic acid. 

Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid), derived from White willow (salix alba). Not only does it help the skin shed dead skin cells from the top layer and decrease redness and swelling (inflammation), but also treats acne as it unclog the hair follicles (pores) of dead skin cells and other pore-clogging impurities and nasties. 

ZapZyt Acne Wash Cleanser contains 2% salicylic acid, in supplement with skin soothing and moisturizing ingredients to deeply but mildly cleanse and exfoliate your skin, without stripping-off your moisture barrier or making your skin overly dry. Read the full review here

If you’re concerned that a 2% salicylic acid-based cleanser may be too much for your skin, you can go for lower-concentrated salicylic acid-based cleanser. Recommended: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser. A hydrating cleanser, which contains ceramides and 0.5% salicylic acid. 

How To Cleanse. 

Squeeze out a reasonable amount of the facial cleanser, apply on your face, gently massage for 60 seconds, then wash off using clean water. Pat your face with a clean towel (don’t rub), then move over to the next step of your skincare routine.

Step 2: Hydrate. 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5.

The ordinary skincare routine




After cleansing the skin, your skin tends to lose some moisture, this is where hydration comes in. And to ensure the skin is optimally hydrated after cleansing, you need to apply a hyaluronic acid serum. 

Hyaluronic acid helps replenish skin of lost moisture, as it’s a humectant which pulls moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate skin surface. This doesn’t only help hydrate the skin, thus replenishing it of lost moisture by promoting skin superficial hydration, but also creates a healing environment for acne to heal. 

The Ordinary hyaluronic acid serum combines hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 in their formula. Vitamin B5 also called pro-vitamin B5 helps to keep skin soft, smooth, and healthy by deeply hydrating the skin, to keep skin quenched by absorbing moisture from the air. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help stimulate your skin’s healing processes. Read the full review here

How To Apply.

After cleansing your skin, while the skin is damp or moist (don’t towel dry), move ahead to apply 4-5 drops of hyaluronic acid serum, massage until fully absorbed. 

Step 3: Treat.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%.

The ordinary skincare routine




Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. It’s rich in anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which makes it an effective treatment for acne and rosacea. Similar to retinol, azelaic acid puts a stop to future outbreaks and cleanses bacteria from your pores that causes acne. It also mildly exfoliates the skin, curtails redness and reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Yes, it’s a multifunctional star skincare ingredient. 

Don’t take my word for it, there are so many research studies backing up its acne-targeting potentials.  

In a single-blind research study of 289 patients with comedonal acne, the topical azelaic acid preparation was compared with 0.05% tretinoin cream over a period of 6 months. In both controlled studies, 20% azelaic acid cream significantly reduced the number of acne lesions and yielded clinically relevant improvement rates. In the study of comedonal acne, 20% azelaic acid cream was equally effective as 0.05% tretinoin cream in reducing the number of comedones with lesser side effects.

The Ordinary azelaic acid formula combines azelaic acid and silicone. While azelaic acid does its job, silicone being an occlusive will help form a breathable barrier at the top layer of the skin to avoid moisture-loss, thereby influencing skin adequate hydration, fill in lines and pores and protect the skin from chemical exposure and other environmental damages. You can read a comparison review between The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice azelaic acid.

The Paula’s Choice Azelaic acid is yet another good choice of azelaic acid formula at 10%. Good thing is, it couples azelaic acid with salicylic to hit acne harder. 

How To Apply.

Apply a pea-size amount of the azelaic acid solution. Dot it all over your face to ensure and even-coverage. Gently massage till fully absorbed. 

Step 4: Moisturize.

Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Gel Cream.

Acne Skincare Routine



While treating acne, you need to use lightweight skincare products to avoid risking clogging the already clogged-pores. And using a lightweight moisturizer is highly recommended. That’s why I recommend the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Gel Cream. 

This moisturizer pairs five (5) different types of moisture-replenishing hyaluronic acids with squalane oil – a naturally occurring non-comedogenic lightweight oil alongside green tea and other skin hydrating and soothing ingredients to collaboratively supply intense hydration and moisture to the skin, while feeling lightweight and not heavy on the skin, (which can be discomforting). This moisture-rich moisturizer serves weightless hydration. I am talking from experience. You can read my full review here

Other lightweight moisturizers to explore are Isntree Green Tea Fresh Emulsion, COSRX Advanced Snail All In One Cream and Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser.  

However, if you have very dry skin, and you’re concerned the above recommended moisturizers won’t adequately moisturize your skin, you can explore thicker moisturizers like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion or The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

These moisturizers are thicker/richer in texture but non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), thus making them very recommended for individuals with extremely dry skin. 

How To Apply.

Apply a generous amount of the moisturizer, while you gently massage into the skin until completely absorbed.

Step 5: Protect. 

Missha Aqua Sun Gel SPF 50. 

Best melasma treatment


In every skincare routine, sunscreen is a MUST!. This is to protect your skin from the dangerous UV rays of the sun. 

The Missha Aqua Sun Gel SPF 50 is a recommended sunscreen to prevent sun rays from hitting your skin. It’s a physical sunscreen from the Korean brand which doesn’t leave any trace of white cast behind while optimally and effectively protecting your skin from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Read the full review here

How To Apply.

Squeeze out a three-finger-worth amount of the Missha Aqua Sun Gel SPF 50, and apply to your face and neck, gently massage till fully absorbed. Read how to properly apply sunscreen

Acne Skincare Routine – Night Time (PM).

Step 1: Remove Your Makeup.

This is an important step during your night-time skincare routine. You need to take off your makeup using a makeup remover or makeup remover wipes. If you wore waterproof makeup, then take it off using a waterproof makeup remover. Taking off your makeup relieves your pores of clogs, dirt and oil (attached to the makeup) alongside removal of sunscreen residue too. 

Step 2: Double Cleanse. 

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser.

The Ordinary Skincare Routine




Double cleansing is a practice of cleansing the skin twice, first with an oil-based cleanser, then secondly with a water-based cleanser. The reason for this is to ensure an (adequate cleansing, without overly stripping the skin of its moisture-barrier) as the oil-based cleanser helps breaks down make-up, oil, sticky-dirt and sunscreen residue applied during the day, while the water-based cleanser helps rinse them all off, mildly exfoliate the skin, unclog pores and also targets acne. 

Double cleansing is essential in a skincare routine, for adequate skin cleansing without actually over-striping skin of its moisture barrier. 

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser contains squalane, which gently cleanses the skin. Squalane is a lightweight and skin-friendly oil which not only helps break down stubborn makeup and sunscreen residue, but also hydrates the skin simultaneously. 

After oil-cleansing, you should plunge ahead to cleanse the second time with a water-based cleanser. CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is recommended for this purpose. 

And it’s advised not to use exfoliating or moisture-stripping cleansers while using tretinoin (or retinoids) to avoid incurring inflammatory-irritation in the course of treatment. 

How To Apply.

Squeeze out a reasonable amount (careful not to squeeze out too much) a little goes a long way.

Gently massage it on your face for 2 minutes, then rinse off. After that, proceed to your water-based gentle cleanser. 

Step 3: Hydrate.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5.

The ordinary skincare routine




After cleansing, you have to hydrate your skin to replenish it of lost moisture. Remember, the skin tends to lose some moisture after cleansing. Replenishing it of lost moisture is a good approach to encourage skin hydration. And The Ordinary hyaluronic acid serum is a good choice.

How To Apply.

Apply 4-5 drops of hyaluronic acid serum while your skin is damp, massage until fully absorbed. 

Step 4: Treat.

Azelaic Acid & Tretinoin.

When it comes to treating persistent or stubborn acne, combining two active acne treatments in the course of treatment is your best bet. And what acne treatment combination is best suitable to fight the battle? — azelaic acid and tretinoin

How does the combination of these actives battle acne? Tretinoin stimulates cell turnover, which unclog the skin pores and resurface the impurities, while azelaic acid enters the pores, to mildly exfoliate and decongest the pores of pore-clogging impurities while targeting and killing acne-causing bacteria as well.

So technically what this means is, when tretinoin unclogs (opens) the pores, azelaic acid gets into the unclogged pores to kill acne causing bacteria and gently exfoliate the skin.

The combination of these two actives is an explosive bomb to blast acne flare-up. 

Talking from personal experience, the combination of these actives did wonders for my persistent acne, clearing them up effectively and leaving my skin completely acne-free with an improved skin texture and complexion. Read my experimental-review on the combination of azelaic acid and tretinoin for acne treatment

It’s advised you shouldn’t use high concentrations of both acids while starting out. Start with lower concentration such as azelaic acid 10% and 0.5% tretinoin, then you can move to higher concentrations of both acids when your skin must have built tolerance or acclimated to the acid combination. 

If you have very sensitive skin and you’re concerned about the tretinoin causing irritation to your skin, you can employ the sandwich method of application. That is, after applying your hyaluronic acid serum, apply a moisturizer, before applying tretinoin, (when tretinoin must have fully absorbed), then move ahead to applying azelaic acid, before finally sealing everything with a moisturizer. 

You can as well, apply a moisturizer before applying tretinoin, (when tretinoin must have fully absorbed), then apply a moisturizer again, before applying azelaic acid, (allow azelaic acid to fully absorb), before finally applying a moisturizer for the last time to seal everything in. 

The aim for this is to protect your skin barrier from direct hit of the acid combination if you have sensitive skin. 

It’s a good thing to note that, applying a moisturizer before tretinoin won’t reduce tretinoin’s efficacy, but reduces chances of incurring inflammatory-irritation associated with tretinoin or retinoids use. Same applies to azelaic acid too. You can read a full guide on how to apply tretinoin to keep you well informed

How To Apply Them. 

Apply a pea-size amount of tretinoin, dot it all over your face to encourage an even-application, while you gently massage into your skin. Wait for one (1) minute, then follow-up with applying azelaic acid, using the dot application method as well to encourage an even-application, while you gently massage into the skin till fully absorbed. 

Step 5: Moisturize. 

Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Gel Cream.

Acne Skincare Routine



Then finally seal everything in with your moisturizer, to keep the skin hydrated and moisturized all night. You wouldn’t like to wake up in the morning with your skin feeling dry right? So do the needful. 

The Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Gel Cream delivers weightless hydration to the skin, all thanks to its richness in moisture-rich ingredients. Other lightweight moisturizers to explore are, Isntree Green Tea Fresh EmulsionCOSRX Advanced Snail All In One Cream and Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser.  

As aforementioned, if you have very dry skin, and you’re concerned the above recommended moisturizers won’t adequately moisturize your skin, you can explore thicker moisturizers like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion or The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

These moisturizers are thicker/richer in texture but non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), thus making them very recommended for individuals with extremely dry skin. 

How To Apply.

Apply a generous amount of your moisturizer. Gently massage into your skin till fully absorbed.  


Acne Patches.

UNNIE SKIN Pimple Patches.

You can as well apply an Acne patch on the affected area. Acne patches offer a concentrated treatment as it covers the affected area and delivers its treatment, thus stimulating a faster healing process. 

I recommend the UNNIE Acne Patch, as it’s packed with Hydrocolloid & Salicylic acid for clearing pimples, zits, blemishes for face and skin, thus keeping the skin clear and acne-free. 

How To Apply.

After cleansing your face, apply the Unnilook Acne Patch,on the affected area, leave it on for five minutes. Then take it off. Go ahead and apply your moisturizer afterwards. 

In Conclusion.

Experiencing acne is annoying and depressing, but with the proper acne skincare routine, I believe the acne will bow down in defeat. Ensure to always take precautions to avoid the recurrence of acne breakouts during the course of treatment or after treatment. Also, don’t forget to always reach out to your board certified dermatologist for professional guidance. 

Disclaimer: This guide is strictly for informational purposes. Consult with your board certified dermatologist first, to professionally examine the situation of your acne before exploring this acne informational guide.

UP NEXT: A Fan Of The Ordinary Brand? Then Here’s A skincare Routine For Oily Skin Using Solely The Ordinary Products. 


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