If your acne has been severe or persistent enough to send you running to your dermatologist, you probably ended up with a tube of medication with the “apply pea-size amount” instructions printed on the front. You do exactly that. Congratulations. You’ve begun your journey towards a clearer complexion – and flakey skin – and crepey eyes.
Acne meds are notoriously drying. Whether you’re using an over-the-counter treatment or a prescription – benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or a tretinoin – you need to take certain precautions to prevent yourself from looking like the Crypt Keeper.
Here’s how to apply your acne meds properly:
1 – Protect your eyes
Your orbital (eye) area is the most fragile skin on your face. You don’t have oil glands around your eyes. Simply put, the area is thin, dry and delicate.
Start with a clean face. No products. Gently pat eye cream onto entire orbital area. This area extends all the way around the eye – from under the brow to right above the cheekbone. When using acne meds, opt for a creamier moisturizing eye cream. Failing to do so may allow medication to creep into the skin around your eyes – this will make your eyes look dry, crepey and old.
*At night, add another step. After applying eye cream, use some petroleum jelly or Aquaphor, warm in the palm of your hand for better spreadability, then apply under the eyes. This will help push your eye cream into the skin while creating a strong barrier against the medication. You will look greasy – so don’t do this step in the daytime if you will be leaving the house.
2 – Apply acne medication
Deposit the prescribed amount onto one finger. Tap the product once on the forehead, cheeks and center of chin. Gently – I repeat – GENTLY spread the product over your face making certain to stay far away from the orbital area. Do not rub. Do not apply too much product around the mouth. The area around the mouth is thinner than the forehead and chin, which makes it more susceptible to drying and flaking.
Now wait. Do not apply moisturizer until your skin has absorbed the medication completely. If you do not wait, your moisturizer will mix with the medication and spread into areas that you want to avoid.
3 – Moisturize
Moisturize! Your skin is in battle. Give it some relief. I know, a lot of us acne-prone folks are also oily – but keep in mind – you need hydration in order for your skin to be healthy. Even oily skin can be dehydrated. Your skin needs water. Use a good oil-free, water-based moisturizer. A moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid is a great option. Hyaluronic acid absorbs thousands of times its weight in water from the atmosphere – leaving your face more supple and hydrated. If you don’t have the funds to invest in the fancy-schmancy stuff – just get the oil-free variety from the drug store. It’ll do the job.
4 – Sun Protection
Use a sunscreen – SPF 30 or higher. Again, your skin is going through a lot. Don’t subject it to the harsh rays of the sun. It can’t handle all the stress right now. If you want to be tan, spray it on or use bronzer.
5 – Exfoliate
Limit exfoliating to once a week – twice, at most. Most acne meds, especially prescription ones, accelerate cell turnover – causing older skin to slough off and flake. In order to remove the dead skin, you may use a manual exfoliator – a product with microcrystals or beads – or you could use a chemical exfoliator like glycolic acid, which comes most often in liquid form as a toner. In either case, be extremely gentle. You cannot scrub away acne so don’t try.
I really like Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Kit. It retails for approximately $25 US dollars and you can find it at any drugstore or major retailer. Philosophy also makes a microdelivery peel kit that retails for about $65 US dollars and can be found at Sephora as well as many department stores.
My hands-down favorite exfoliator is the Clarisonic Brush. It’s a soft rotating brush with a rechargeable waterproof handle that gently and thoroughly cleans the pores and exfoliates the skin’s surface. It’s expensive, $175 and up, depending on the kit you choose – but I think it’s worth it. Clarisonic brushes are sold at Sephora and Nordstrom.