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
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.
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.
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.
Hyperpigmentation can start happening in your 30s. You can use the aromatic organic compound hydroquinone to lighten darkened skin, including those acne-related blemishes.
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.
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.
Look for moisturizers with mild emollients like glycerin that trap moisture to help smoothen and soften dry and scaly skin.