How to Choose an Effective Acne Treatment Kit
Depending on the severity of your acne, finding a way to get it under control can seem overwhelming or difficult. But it's not impossible. People with more experience in their acne journey would admit that they went through times of trial and error regarding acne kit tools. And because skincare is a matter of routine, they've discovered that it's an assemblage of products—not just one product—that helped them get out of the breakout cycle or become completely acne-free.
Do Skincare Kits Really Work?
As one of the toughest skin types, acne-prone skin requires extra care. Hence, extra effort is required if you want breakouts to subside. What's more, acne treatment varies from one person to another, depending on your skin type and age. Your skin's response to anti-acne solutions will also depend on the grade of your acne, ranging from mild (grade 1) to severe (grade 4).
This is where the beauty of anti-acne treatment kits comes in. Pre-assembled acne treatment sets contain a controlled amount of active ingredients that prevent the skin from becoming further irritated and therefore inflamed, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach. This prevents your skin from being bombarded by too many of the same or different active ingredients that come from separate cleansers, treatments, and moisturizers.
Since serious skincare manufacturers know what ingredients jive the best and what don't, kits take out the guesswork from what solutions will work well together. This helps you avoid applying too many products on your skin.
What's in a Skincare Kit?
The contents of an ideal anti-acne kit will vary depending on the severity of your acne and your age. The time of day and season of the year also determine what you apply on your face. However, an anti-acne kit should include products for each of the basic steps in a skincare routine, where the general principle is that products are applied from those with the thinnest consistency to the thickest. Here they are in the order of application:
A thorough cleanse will remove dirt and excess oil from your face that may have built up after your cleaning routine the night before. This may include dust or other particles on your beddings and pillowcase that were absorbed by your skin overnight. At night, you should always remove any make-up before going to bed. Cosmetics can clog your pores, especially if they're oil-based.
Removing your makeup before you sleep also allows your skin to breathe throughout the night even as the rest of your routine accelerates the skin repair process.
A toner opens up your pores so that your skin can better absorb the next products you'll apply on your face. Toners with hydrating and exfoliating properties are best for skin with acne, especially if you're using drying acne treatments.
You may have to skip toners if they irritate or over-dry your skin or sting open pimples. You also don't have to use toners if you use a prescription acne medication that dries your skin.
3. Anti-acne treatment
Any acne-healing solution should be applied right after cleansing. This can be an active serum, an over-the-counter gel or cream, or doctor-prescribed medication. But you should wait for your face to dry first before application so that your skin and pores can absorb it.
Moisturizers seal in all the ingredients that you have so far applied on your skin and keep skin cells hydrated. Products that are oil-free and non-comedogenic are best for acne-prone skin. "Comedone" refers to pore blockages, so non-comedogenic solutions will reduce such incidents. Dermatologists advise that you use a moisturizer with the same brand as your serum or acne treatment solution so that you can optimize the benefits of the latter.
Sunscreen is your defense against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays no matter what age you are. Some moisturizers have built-in sun protection so you don't have to apply a separate cream or lotion.
Pick a facial sunscreen for your face instead of a product that you can apply to the entire body. Similar to moisturizers, oil-free and non-comedogenic sunscreens are best for acne-inflicted skin. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
6. Eye cream
Your night routine will include everything you apply on your skin during daytime except sunscreen. But because you're not exposed to external or environmental stressors while you're sleeping, evening is the best time to apply products that need to penetrate deep into your skin and do intense repair. Eye creams help smoothen wrinkles and firm up the thin skin around the eyes through hydration. You can apply eye cream before applying serum and moisturizer.
Kits don’t usually include a facial mask, but it’s a helpful addition to your nighttime ritual, especially since your skin is highly receptive to active ingredients at night. You can use a hydrating or clay mask for oily skin once or twice a week after cleansing so your face can absorb as many ingredients from the product as possible.
How to Choose an Effective Skincare Kit
Check the Ingredients
The best over-the-counter acne treatment for adults is free of irritants and filled with ingredients that minimize inflammation:
Choose a gentle and creamy cleanser that is free of sulfate, particularly sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or ammonium lauryl sulfate, also considered as the "big, bad three."
Sulfates are what make face washes lather. However, they can be harsh on your skin as they're the same ingredients found in dishwashing soap. They strip your skin of moisture, causing your sebum glands to go on overdrive to overproduce oil.
You don't need to let the cleanser stay long on your face. You can rinse after spending 30 to 60 seconds massaging your face using the cleanser. Cleansing twice a day is enough as over-cleansing may disrupt your skin's pH balance due to the depletion of natural oils.
Avoid oil-based moisturizers, particularly coconut oil and cocoa butter, lanolin, and petrolatum.
Moreover, keep out of products containing alcohol ("denatured alcohol" or "alcohol denat"), which can irritate skin and later cause inflammation.
Instead, go for humectants or substances that retain moisture in the skin such as glycerin.
You'd also want to steer clear of silicone and the silicone-based dimethicone. They're non-comedogenic, spreadable, and long-lasting in terms of moisture retention. However, silicones more than lock in moisture, they also seal in sweat, sebum, and dirt along with it.
Lightweight lotions or gels will work best on oily skin types while moisturizing creams are more compatible with dry skin types.
Serum is the "main course" of your skincare routine. Less thick than moisturizers, they contain small molecules that can carry active concentrated nutrients deep into your skin, beyond the outer epidermal layer. Effective serums contain salicylic and glycolic acid.
Your skin can better absorb their active ingredients when you cleanse with warm water so your pores open.
Match Your Acne Kit to Your Skin Type
- Dry Skin
It's a misconception that only oily skin types suffer from acne. Acne can also develop on dry skin when skin cells build up on the surface, causing it to become irritated and inflamed. It's your body's automatic and immediate immune response. At the same time, dry skin causes your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which may trigger the clogging of your pores that can eventually lead to pimples and acne.
The drying effects of many acne treatments can make acne control doubly challenging for dry skin types. In choosing over-the-counter products for this type of skin, go for more emollient or moisture-retaining creams, ointments, or lotions instead of astringent and water-based solutions. Give your topical solution time to work, but consult your dermatologist if your skin gets irritated after a few minutes.
When cleansing, pick cream or lotion cleansers instead of foaming products that usually dry your skin.
You may also have to reapply your moisturizer more than twice daily. Your skin specialist might advise you to apply a moisturizer first before your acne medication to reduce dryness and irritation.
- Oily Skin
The best acne products for oily skin are the opposite of what works for dry skin: a foaming cleanser will leave you with a cleaner and fresher feeling than a lotion or cream-based product. Moreover, choose an exfoliating cleanser to reduce excess oil on your face.
Facial wipes or cloths are also recommended to wipe off sweat when you can't immediately wash your face.
You can use an astringent to further control oil after cleansing and to get rid of oily shine on your face in between washings. Astringents with salicylic or glycolic acid help prevent breakouts. Over-the-counter salicylic acid and topical retinoids also reduce large pores.
The rest of your kit—from moisturizers to sunscreens and makeup—must be water-based and oil-free. They're often gel-based and don't feel thick or heavy on your skin. Consult your doctor if your current medication is too greasy or heavy.
Know What Products Suit Your Age
The right acne treatment kit is appropriate for your age. Acne among women is usually due to hormonal changes that happen during puberty, before and after pregnancy, and throughout the menopause period (from perimenopause to post-menopause).
Knowing which ingredients and products your skin needs the most during your current life stage is the key to finding the best acne kit for hormonal acne:
- During your teenage years:
Your skin can become oily when you're a teenager due to the hormonal changes happening in your body. This can make your skin prone to acne breakouts. This can be a good time to start using salicylic acid for exfoliating the skin and de-clogging pores. Meanwhile, benzoyl peroxide is good for getting rid of acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation.
Sunscreen should've long been a part of your regimen by now.
- In your 20s:
Mild levels of alpha hydroxy acids such as mandelic acid help exfoliate the skin. They break down your dead skin cells to resurface the skin and brighten its complexion. Moreover, your skin's elastin production begins slowing down after you turn 20. Therefore, retinol or Vitamin A is another ingredient to look for in your products to help you deal with signs of aging.
- In your 30s:
Hyperpigmentation can start happening in your 30s. You can use the aromatic organic compound hydroquinone to lighten darkened skin, including those acne-related blemishes.
- In your 40s:
The 40s can hasten aging signs, especially among women as some can enter perimenopause at this time. Your skin dries up more easily as your estrogen level declines. Invest in a cream that targets your eyes and neck, where fine lines and wrinkles are most apparent.
- In your 50s:
At this stage, you should pick more powerful serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens that will protect your skin from the elements during the daytime.
Applying an eye cream and lip mask at night will be more valuable than ever to keep your skin hydrated.
- In your 60s:
Look for moisturizers with mild emollients like glycerin that trap moisture to help smoothen and soften dry and scaly skin.