A woman applying SLMD Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment as part of her acne routine

How to Build the Best Acne Routine for You

If you’ve got acne, your first step is skincare. Dermatologists like Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) recommend incorporating key over the counter ingredients into your cleanse, treat, moisturize routine to treat acne. Here’s how to build the best acne routine for you, based on your skin's unique needs.


4 minute read

Maybe it started out slowly, with just a pimple here and there — but after a while, the breakouts kept coming. And now, it’s official: you’ve got acne.

So what’s the next step? In most cases, it’s skincare. There are a variety of over the counter, FDA-approved ingredients that are recommended by dermatologists (like Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper) to treat acne. The trick is to incorporate these ingredients into your basic cleanse, treat, moisturize regimen depending on your own skin’s unique needs.

Here’s how to build the best acne routine for you.


How to treat blackheads and whiteheads

Otherwise known as open and closed comedones, blackheads and whiteheads are really just clogged pores. They’re full of dead skin cells and excess oil that gets trapped inside the hair follicle.

So in order to prevent them, Dr. Lee recommends focusing on exfoliating and promoting cell turnover. That helps keep dead cells from building up inside the pores. Her favorite ingredients for tackling blackheads and whiteheads include:

How to treat inflammatory acne

Red, swollen, and sometimes painful pimples start out as clogged pores. But when C. acnes bacteria starts multiplying inside the hair follicle, it can provoke an immune response. This is why papules, pustules, nodules and cysts are called inflammatory acne.

If you’re dealing with this type of acne, introducing antibacterial ingredients into your routine is key:

  • Benzoyl peroxide — an oxidizing agent that penetrates into pores and kills acne-causing bacteria. Try: SLMD Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Lotion.
  • Sulfur — a good choice for those sensitive to BP, this natural mineral helps curb sebum production and C. acnes bacteria.

Dr. Pimple Popper’s tips for building an acne routine

#1 Listen to your skin

Especially if you have inflammatory acne, your skin may be irritated and feel sensitive when you first start using acne products. While it’s important to follow the packaging directions, it’s also important to pay attention to clues your skin is giving you.

Typical side effects from acne treatments include peeling, mild redness and dryness. Oftentimes, skin adapts and these symptoms lessen in time. You can try using the products less frequently, and increase as your tolerance allows.

But stinging, burning and swelling are red flags that mean the product isn’t a good fit for your skin — so move on to another solution.

#2 Don’t skip the moisturizer

According to Dr. Lee, this is one of the most common mistakes people make when building their acne routine. And it’s the reason why her SLMD Acne System includes a lightweight moisturizer.

Because excess sebum is a major contributor to breakouts, all acne-fighting ingredients by design can strip oils out of your skin. So it’s important to keep your skin moisturized with a product that‘s formulated for acne-prone skin.

Try: SLMD Dual Defender SPF 30 for day, and Facial Moisturizer for night.

#3 Keep spot treatments handy

Of course, targeted acne treatments are ideal for addressing pimples that come up unexpectedly. Try using a salicylic acid spot treatment on areas when acne tends to pop up, like during hormonal breakouts or underneath your mask.

Use benzoyl peroxide on pimples that are already formed. If you have a hard time keeping your hands off of your pimples, try a medicated acne patch with salicylic acid.

#4 Stick to it

An acne routine only works if you use it consistently, says Dr. Lee. It doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming, either. But it can take a few months to see results, so don’t get discouraged. Be kind to yourself, and understand that it’s okay to forget to wash your face before bed once in a while — but be prepared for a morning pimple or two. Just get right back into your routine.

#5 Know when to see a dermatologist

While most people can manage their acne quite successfully with over the counter options, some may need to see a dermatologist. If your acne is severe and your skincare isn’t working, or if you’re concerned about scarring, your doctor can help you with prescription medications.

Dr. Lee’s last word

I started SLMD Skincare with my Acne System because I knew that most people could treat their acne at home if they just had the right routine. And if you listen to your skin, you can customize it to really manage your breakouts.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


Shop the Article