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Acne washes | Starter products

Acne cleansers are often one of the first true skin care products we start with when hormones start kicking in. Read more...




Photo: Techei

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Acne cleansers are often one of the first true skin care products we start with when hormones start kicking in. Navigating aisles and figuring out which one to try can be daunting for parents and early teens or tweens. Also, remember this is a time when kids are just learning how to care for their skin on a daily basis!



How to Start a Skin Care Routine

There are some skincare basics to really learn to get your routine off to a great start. Essentially we have some basic skin needs that should be covered.

The Basics for Skincare

  • Cleanse your skin

  • Protect your skin

  • Repair your skin, if needed

How to accomplish these steps will vary from person to person based on your own time and other commitments. Although it would be great if everyone could set aside time every morning and evening for our skin, this can be a challenge at first. Instead of focusing on rigid routines, I counsel you to first start by seamlessly integrating these basic steps into your existing day-to-day habits. Once this is accomplished, over time it is natural to expand on this routine.

For cleansing, this may mean that you set aside time in the morning and/or evening to wash your face. For others, it may mean that you take a moment to wash your face in the shower. For first-time acne wash users, placing the acne cleanser in the shower may be the most effective way to accomplish this step.

For protecting the skin, remember that inflammation is one of the components of acne. If our skin is irritated or inflamed, this can contribute to breakouts. Taking the time to apply a moisturizer or a moisturizer with sunscreen added can help repair the skin to make it less acne prone, especially if choosing a non-comedogenic product.

And, lastly, repairing the skin is focused on taking a moment to look at your skin and determine what bothers you about your skin. If you are dealing with breakouts, this is an opportunity to use either a spot treatment to focus on problem areas or overall treatments focused on the prevention and treatment of acne.

Now onto ...

The Basics for Acne

Acne is primarily made up of 4 main components:
  • Excess Keratin

  • Excess Oil/Sebum

  • Bacteria (Cutibacterium acnes, formerly known as Propionibacterium acnes)

  • Inflammation

Although there are a number of contributing factors to causing acne, hormonal changes tend to lay the foundation for these to trigger breakouts.

For this post, I will focus on step 1 in your skincare routine for acne: Cleansing.

The main ingredients to focus on in the acne aisle include :
  • Salicylic acid

  • Benzoyl peroxide

  • Sulfur

  • Charcoal


Salicylic Acid

Good for...

✔️ Early acne ✔️ Mild acne ✔️ Sensitive skin


✔️Excess Keratin

✔️Excess Oil

This cleanser contains salicylic acid as its active ingredient to reduce oil and buildup on acne-prone skin. It’s a great “starter” acne product. Most middle school / junior high-aged kids are just learning to wash their faces daily and develop a routine. I find that having them start by using this product in the shower introduces them to cleansing their face, shoulders, and back with added goals in mind. The goal is cleansing and preventing/ treating acne.


Benzoyl Peroxide

Good for... ✔️ Inflamed acne ✔️ Oily skin Addresses... ✔️Excess Keratin ✔️Excess Oil ✔️Bacteria

When acne is a bit more aggressive or widespread- face, chest, and back - switching to a benzoyl peroxide cleanser is often the next step. The additional benefit for improving acne, especially back acne and inflamed acne, can come at the price of more dryness. Cleansers are great because they do not stay in contact with your skin for too long making them effective without being too irritating for the skin. My patients that play sports, sweat, and feel like they get breakouts on their shoulders and back find this cleanser a nice option. Be mindful of the bleaching effect of benzoyl peroxide on towels and bath mats, however!


Good for... ✔️ Most types of acne ✔️ Oily skin ✔️ Sensitive skin Addresses... ✔️Excess Keratin ✔️Excess Oil ✔️Bacteria ✔️Inflammation

Although sulfur is not widely found in acne cleansers, it actually addresses each aspect of acne from excess keratin and oil, to bacteria, and inflammation. There can be an odor associated with sulfur-containing products that can make them less favorable to some.



Good for... ✔️ Oily skin Addresses... ✔️Excess Oil

Charcoal applied to the skin is overall harmless and is not likely to irritate the skin. The theory behind adding it to products is that it may possibly absorb extra oil from the skin. If you have found a benefit in treating your scalp with charcoal-containing topicals then it is perfectly ok to continue. It would likely be best for people that have an oily scalp. It is a milder alternative to help reduce the oiliness without excessively drying the skin or hair.



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