The Best Skincare Routine For Aging AND Acne-Prone Skin

by Gio
best skincare routine for aging acne-prone skin

Who said that acne is only for teenagers?

Sometimes, it sneaks up on you as soon as you hit menopause. Other times, it’s more impatient and gets you in your 30s.

Like you hadn’t enough on your plate already. Like, you know, wrinkles… How the heck do you deal with both at the same time?

If you fight acne aggressively, your skin will become so dry, your wrinkles will be more obvious than ever. If you treat wrinkles with rich creams or sunscreens, you’ll make your acne worse. Argh!

Fret not. You can treat both acne and wrinkles at the same time. Luckily, some of the best antiaging superstars double as acne fighters. You just need to introduce them into your skincare routine in the right way. Here’s how:

Want easy access to this routine? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “Acne + Aging Skincare Routine” cheatsheet:

Morning Skincare Routine

1. Gentle Cleanser

The #1 mistake women make when dealing with acne? Picking a cleanser that’s way too harsh in an effort to dry the acne away.

It ALWAYS backfires. A harsh cleanser dries out the skin, which reacts by producing even more sebum. Skin is dried out alright, but the acne’s still there.

Instead, opt for a gentle foaming cleanser. Anything with sodium lauryl sulfate is banned. It’s too harsh and irritating. Stay away from bar soaps and milky cleansers, too. They can clog pores and worsen acne.

Best Picks:

  • Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): ph 5.5. Available at Sokoglam and YesStyle.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($6.99): ph 6.2. Available at Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00): ph 5.5. Available at Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice. 

Related: How To Pick The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

2. Exfoliant

Acne’s a job for salicylic acid (BHA). It’s the only exfoliant that gets deep inside the pores, removing all the excess sebum, dead skin cells and other crap that’s clogging them up.

It removes dead cells from the surface of the skin, so they won’t end up in the pores and clog them again. Basically, it keeps your pores clean so breakouts can’t happen.

By the way, salicylic acid must stay on your skin for hours to work its magic. Leave rinse-off products on the shelves. They won’t work as well.

PRO TIP: yes, you can use salicylic acid and glycolic acid (an antiaging superstar that boosts collagen production) together. The Drunk Elephant serum below has both. Or, you can buy two separate exfoliants and alternate them. Up to you.

Best picks:

Related: AHAs vs BHA: Which One Is Right For You?

3. Antioxidant Serum

Free radicals are your skin’s biggest enemy. These unstable molecules lack one electron. They desperately crave it. So, they crawl through your body looking for healthy molecules to attack and steal the electron from.

The attacked molecule is now a free radical, looking for another electron to steal. It’s the start of a deadly chain reaction that leads to wrinkles and dark spots.

Antioxidants stop free radicals in their tracks. Your body knows free radicals are coming, so it naturally produces antioxidants to destroy them before they can wreak havoc. 

But, your skin needs a lot more antioxidants than your body can naturally produce. That’s where a healthy diet and skincare come in.

You’ll find plenty of antioxidants in skincare products. Vitamin C. Vitamin E. Green tea. Resveratrol. Coenzyme Q10. Ferulic acid. Superoxide dismutase…

The best one? None of them. Just like your body doesn’t need only kale, your skin doesn’t need only green tea. The more antioxidants you feed it, the younger and healthier it is.

Best Picks:

Related: 5 Things You Need To Know About Antioxidants

4. Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet. It attracts the water in the air into the skin and binds it there. It’s so good, it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water!

Another pro? Hyaluronic acid works well both in high and low humidity conditions. No matter where you are, it’ll do the job!

Some antioxidants serums or moisturizers already have enough hyaluronic acid to keep your skin happy. If not, use a separate hyaluronic acid serum now.

Best Picks: 

Related: Spotlight On Hyaluronic Acid: Why You Should Add It To Your Skincare Routine

5. Moisturizer With Niacinamide (Or Add It With A Booster)

This is the most challenging part. Your skin needs a moisturizer loaded with antioxidants to fight free radicals and hydrating enough not to turn your skin into a flaky mess.

And niacinamide. Plenty of niacinamide. It’s a form of vitamin B3 that fights wrinkles, fades dark spots, hydrates skin, soothes irrations and treats acne. There’s nothing it can’t do.

But, texture matters here. Anything that’s too rich and creamy is out of the question. That’ll clog your pores and worsen your acne. Instead, go for lightweight lotions and emulsions.

PRO TIP: don’t bother with moisturizers with SPF. You’d have to apply at least 7 layers to get the level of SPF stated on the packaging!

Best Picks:

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Niacinamide In Skincare

6. Sunscreen

Another challenge! The best sunscreens use zinc oxide, but it’s so thick and greasy, it may cause breakouts. You can totally give it a try and see how it goes.

But, don’t limit yourself. In this case, it may be worth to go for a sunscreen hybrid that mixes zinc oxide with safe synthetic filters. Or, if your skin is super oily, go down the synthetic route entirely.

Just make sure there’s no alcohol in sight. Alcohol is often used to turn rich and creamy formulas into almost-runny, thin concoctions. But, it’s terribly drying and could trick your skin into producing even more oil. That’s the last thing you want.

Best Picks:

  • EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50 Sunscreen + WetForce For Sensitive Skin & Children ($42.00): available at  Nordstrom and Ulta
  • Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($34.00): available at Blue Mercury and Dermstore

Night Time Skincare Routine

1. Double Cleaser

Time to take the makeup off, ladies! I love oils for this. I know, I know. But, hear me out.

Remember what your chemistry teacher said about “like attracting like?” Oils like jojoba oil attract the oils in your makeup and sunscreen, making it easier to rinse them off the skin.

My fave oil for acne-prone skin is jojoba. It’s very similar to human sebum so it doesn’t clog pores or irritate your skin. It’s an old friend.

Yes, it leaves a residue behind. If it bothers you, remove it with your morning foaming cleanser. Done.

P.S. Some foaming cleansers have oils in there too and can remove makeup. Check the ingredient list before  splurging on a second cleanser.

Related: What Is The Oil Cleansing Method?

2. Vitamin A

Why use one treatment for acne and one for wrinkles when the one will do? With vitamin A, you can kill two birds with one stone. Here’s why:

Vitamin A comes in many forms. You can go down the prescription route and get yourself some tretinoin or you can stick to OTC serums with retinol. Retinol works more slowly, but it’s gentler on the skin.

Mind you, both will irritate and dry out your skin at first. That’s why it’s best to start slowly. Use it only two or three times a week to start with and increase frequency gradually.

It’s also not a bad idea to start with a small concentration of retinol (believe it or not, 1% is A LOT) and work your way up slowly.

PRO TIP: vitamin A makes skin more prone to sun damage. Use it at night only.

Best Picks:

Related: Which Strength Of Retinol Do You Need?

3. Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Again, this is optional. If you’re already getting your hyaluronic acid somewhere else, you can skip this. But if your skin’s on the dry side when you wake up in the morning, use a separate hyaluronic acid serum at night.

4. Moisturizer With Niacinamide

No, you don’t need a different moisturizer at night. Your skin needs at night what it needs in the morning. Just buy the one and use it twice a day.

Related: Day VS Night Moisturizer: Is There Really A Difference?

What is your skincare routine for aging and acne-prone skin? Let me know in the comments below!



Sherry G June 19, 2017 - 2:57 pm

I’m 57 but still struggle with small breakouts, especially if I moisturize. Salicylic acid worked really well. However, now that 1% Adapolene has been approved for OTC in the States, I’m using that. Its wonderful! My skin is smoother, softer and it’s minimized my pores. It doesn’t have the same anti-aging properties of tretinoin, but it’s gentler and there are a couple of studies showing minimizing of fine lines and melasma. I’m loving it!

Gio June 24, 2017 - 8:17 am

Sherry, yay! Glad it’s working so well for you. About time more antiaging treatments hit the market (but it means we must be more careful about how we use them. 🙂 ).

Amy November 12, 2017 - 3:03 pm

Hi!! For the exfoliant, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, would I wear this in the morning? The bottle says to apply at night. Thanks so much!!

Gio November 26, 2017 - 11:44 am

Hi Amy, yes, glycolic acid is best used at night, right after cleansing.

Beth May 16, 2018 - 3:07 am

The Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos is listed as a step in the morning. Is this correct?

Gio May 18, 2018 - 3:54 pm

Beth, I put it in the morning so it wouldn’t interfere with retinol. But you can use them on alternate nights, if you prefer.

Ángela August 16, 2017 - 12:29 am

Hi! I’m 15 and I’ve got some pimples’ scar because of acne and some pimples around the mouth. I use a “sulphur soap” in that zone everyday and I exfoliate once a month. Next, I rince my face with cold water and put a green cream especific for acne. But I still have pimples and black spots. Do you have some advice for me. Thank you xoxo

Gio August 19, 2017 - 9:40 pm

Angela, first of all, stop using soap. It’s too drying for the skin. Try a gentle gel cleanser instead. Next, start exfoliating more often. Use an exfoliant with salicylic acid three or four times a week. What cream are you using for acne?

helen August 16, 2017 - 4:42 pm

Hi there, thank you for such insightful info.
I noticed you don’t have a toner of sorts in your routine. Do you think it’s necessary?
And if i were to use one, what should i look for?

Gio August 19, 2017 - 9:51 pm

Helen, no, I don’t think a toner is necessary, unless you have very dry skin that needs the extra bout of hydration. I’ve written more about that here:

Jenny @ Support Your Beauty August 30, 2017 - 7:08 am

Hi Gio,

The environment we are living and the food we are eating affects the skin. Sometimes our skin looks old that doesn’t reflect how young we are. This skin care routine is important to fight aging and acne as we grow old. Thank you for sharing these tips Gio. Will come to pass by again next time.

Gio September 1, 2017 - 3:44 pm

Jenny, I agree. Our diet and environment play a much bigger role than we think. There’s only so much skincare products can do if we don’t eat right and use sunscreen.

Tina September 6, 2017 - 8:01 pm

Thank you so much for your article! It encouraged me to take the first step and change my routine. I have never heard about Paulas Choice, but your recommendations and the site made me order Resist Anti-Aging Serum – Deluxe-Probe + Resist Anti-Aging Deluxe-Proben Set which contains the most of the products you wrote about . The Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00) and Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($46.00) are a little bit expensive for me, so that i decided to order Vichy Mineral 89 and AVENE PhysioLift PRECISION Falten-Filler instead. I am 33 with sensitive combination skin, around my period i have break outs and sometime my skin is dehydrated because of anti-acne cosmetics like Effaclar, which i was used to buy when i was younger till now 😀 So its high time to fix my choice and to adapt my cosmetic to my age and skin issues. Thank you one more time to take this step! Best regards!

Gio September 8, 2017 - 9:22 pm

Tina, well done! I’m so glad you took this step, you’ll make your skin really happy. 🙂 Let me know how you get one with the new routine!

Just one more thing. Don’t start using all the products on the same day. Introduce them one at a time so if one of them doesn’t work as you wish, you’ll know who the culprit is.

Tina September 26, 2017 - 9:53 am

Hey 🙂 I just wanted to share that my skin look brilliant! I used almost 3 weeks the Resist Anti-Aging Serum + Resist Anti-Aging Deluxe Set and I can say everything changed. I waited to pass through my period ( in this time my skin is normally in its most horrible condition) and everything went perfectly. Without single problem. My skin looks like baby skin. The results were obvious after a week. So I don’t have acne. But I still have some wrinkles- that’s why I would add now the retinol product. Thank you so much for this article!

Gio September 29, 2017 - 6:19 pm

So glad the new routine is working so well for you, Tina! The retinol will definitely help with your wrinkles, too.

Lana September 24, 2017 - 8:36 am

Hi Gio,
Thank you for the article, it reveals a lot for me.
Paula’s choice has 2 forms of BHA, liquid and gel. Which one would you prefer? Shall I put moisturiser over it? I live outside US and can’t find in our shops exactly what you’ve mentioned (RESIST daily pore-refining solution 2% BHA), but there is a lot of others of this brand.What would you recommend?

Gio September 29, 2017 - 12:24 pm

Lana, that depends on your personal preference. The liquid has a toner-like texture and is formulated to help BHA better penetrate the skin. The Gel has a gel-like texture that’s more suitable for oily skin. You can’t go wrong with either. It’s just a matter of what texture you like most.

Rohini October 11, 2017 - 7:09 pm

It is a nice article. Needed some help to cure my acne. I am facing acne issues since a year now and now have some breakouts on my cheeks. My cheeks are the most affected ones. I have some acne scars and permanent pores on my cheeks. I eat pretty healthy like fresh green vegetables (homemade green juice everyday) and do not eat any junk food and dairy and also workout on daily basis.
My skin care routine is:
Morning: Cleansing, Toning (Apple Cider Vinegar + Rose water / Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner Rose Petal ), Aloevera (Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Juice), Vitamin C(Triple C Lightning Liquid from COSRX), Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence by COSRX, Burt Bees Salicylic Acid moisturizer, Rosehip oil and sunscreen.

Night: Cleansing, Toning, Aloevera (Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Juice), Snail Mucin Essence, Burt Bees Salicylic Acid moisturizer, Retinoid, Rosehip oil + Jojoba Oil (Sometimes I also apply Grapeseed oil or avocado oil).
For new breakouts I do a spot treatment with Tee Tree Oil.

I use AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid by COSRX twice a week in the morning and night after my Toner.

But, I am still not able to see any significant difference in my skin. Can you please help me? I also have some questions:
1. Is it better to apply essential oils after moisturizer or before moisturizer?
2. Vitamin C now seems to have become slight yellow color. Do you think I should discard it? Do you recommend any better option for Vitamin C.

Sorry for the long post. But, I really need some advice that what is going wrong in my skincare routine.

Gio October 14, 2017 - 11:27 am

Rohini, first of all, discard that apple cider vinegar toner immediately! ACV is very drying to the skin, which just aggravates your acne. I would also stop using Burt Bees Salicylic Acid moisturiser. It may have salicylic acid but its ph is too high for it to work so it has NO effect on your acne. You’re far better off using one of Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliants or The Ordinary Salicylic Acid.

Apply essential oils after moisturisers. But if you have acne, it’s best to stick to oil-free moisturiser. Jojoba and rosehip oils are usually safe even for acne-prone but I would keep oils to an absolute minimum.

Yes, if vitamin C is changing colour, it is losing its anti-acing properties. 🙁 Vitamin C should be used very fast.

Alice Mugno October 12, 2017 - 4:29 am

HELP! I’m 57 years young. Oily skin, some breakouts and flakeyness on cheeks,and did I say some wrinkles to? I have tried everything! I need a skin care regimen spelled out for me. I have tried so many products from high end to low: Thank you.

Gio October 14, 2017 - 11:31 am

Hi Alice, I have spelled out the best skincare regime for acne and wrinkles in the post above. Just be sure to focus on one step at a time. You don’t want to overhaul your skincare routine all at once. Find a gentle cleanser first (you can check out one of those I recommend in this post) and when you’ve got that down, move onto the next step. Hope this helps.

LMG October 15, 2017 - 7:42 am

Dear Gia, am tweaking my skincare routine based on your advice re skincare for aging and acne prone skin. Happily I already have a lot of the products you recommend, but I’d like to add niacinamide. Would you recommend the Ordinary’s product? I prefer to keep my routine as simple as possible and use products with multiple ingredients, but am happy with the moisturizer I have.

I used Paula’s Choice BHA 1% for a year and it made no difference to my very stubborn clogged pores (2% was too strong), would you recommend the Drunk Elephant glycolic acid for dry skin? I already use the retinol products you recommend, but could be too much all together. Have been using a glycolic toner, but take your point that it needs to stay on the skin. Thanks Gia

Gio October 19, 2017 - 1:00 pm

LMG, if you have oily skin then yes The ordinary niacinamide and zinc would be a good option for you. It can help you keep oily production under control but it’s not a treatment for stubborn acne.

The Drunk Elephant Glycolic Serum can be used by all skin types. If BHA alone didn’t work then adding the glycolic acid may help. But I wouldn’t use it together with retinol. It’s best to alternate them and use them on different days.

Ninia October 27, 2017 - 10:45 am

I am 31 with oily and acne prone skin, and one wrinkle/fine line on my forehead. No other wrinkles but I’m trying to avoid them. It would be great if you would have something to say about my routine. It feels like I av tried everything except strong prescriptive medication (but I only have mild acne). Also, I am taking lithium since 14 years which as acne as a common side effect, but stopping that is no option.
My routine:
Morning+evening cleanser:
The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter followed by micellar water. Any foaming cleanser I ever tried dried my skin.
Toner: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50.
Morning moisturizer: Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Mineral Moisturizer SPF 30 for normal/oily skin. (Also SPF 15 in foundation and adds extra mineral sunscreen powder if in the sun).
Evening moisturizer: BIODERMA Sébium Hydra Moisturising Compensating Care (since the Lotion P50 is quite strong).

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:45 pm

Ninia, your skincare routine is very good. The Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 should help you keep your pores clean and prevent acne. If this isn’t happening, lithium may very well be the culprit but I understand there could be medical reasons why that’s necessary. I’d try adding retinol to your skincare routine as that can help with acne too. You can find my fave picks here:

Elbie December 26, 2017 - 2:24 pm

There is a wealth of great information here, but unfortunately not a lot of wealth in my pockets to afford a skin care regimen that covers each of these areas — especially knowing how little product is in so many high-end, high-expense products. Do you have an article addressing aging/acne prone skin care on a budget, or is there a condensed regimen of the barest essentials you’d recommend for those of us with limited time or limited resources? I always keep in mind that expense covers both the total cost of product as well as the volume/utility, and would happily pay more for something that will either last longer of be much more effective, but not knowing which items are the best investments overall for healthy skin has me confounded as to where to begin. Thanks for your advice and your expertise!

Gio December 31, 2017 - 8:49 am

Elbie, I haven’t done a post on skincare on a budget yet because I always try to include both drugstore and high-end options in all my posts. But I will consider it in the future. In the meantime you can find almost of all of these products/ingredients (with the exception of sunscreen – but that is coming soon!) in The Ordinary range. Their products are really affordable but packaged with high concentrations of active ingredients that really deliver. Hope this helps.

marissa val December 30, 2017 - 6:59 pm

As someone with aging acne prone skin, the Somaluxe Renewal Serum is great for improving my skin tone. After using for the past 2 months, I have seen a definite difference in my skin and haven’t had issues with any pore-clogging acne (still get the occasional hormone related acne but this type of acne isn’t related to skin care products). Its light weight and non-greasy feeling. No annoying smell! My dermatologist was impressed with my skin at my last appointment!

Gio January 19, 2018 - 4:32 pm

Marissa, that’s great. Glad you’ve found something that works so well for you. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer January 4, 2018 - 9:13 pm

I use a gentle cleanser just followed by a rice powder exfoliant (dermalogica). I’d like to start using the clinical retinol product you recommended. I’m 36 with aging and acne prone skin. I’ve recemtly moved up north and now my skin is super dehydrated. That might be the reason why I feel like I’m looking a bit old too, haha. If I start the retinol after my cleansing routines, what would you suggest for a moisture boost to deal with the dehydration?

Thank you!

Gio January 19, 2018 - 3:53 pm

Jennifer, first of all, start with a low concentration of retinol. I’ve linked to Paula’s Choice booster here but she has plenty more serums with retinoids that are gentler and a better choice for newbies. You can also find more recommendations about retinol products for newbies here:

You should definitely moisturise your skin well afterwards. You can find my fave moisturisers for dry skin here:

Kelsi Kuhn January 5, 2018 - 6:42 am

Hi Gio! First off, I would just like to thank you for everything you’re doing. I’ve become a skincare junkie over the past year and this website clears up all of the questions I’ve previously had to spend hours googling! I’m a 25 year-old fashion model living in NYC and while I know I’m still young, I’m wanting to be proactive about aging as I’m competing for jobs with girls who are fresh faced 16 year-olds. I’ve started to see some first signs of aging around my eyes, mouth, and forehead.

I’ve also been battling hormonal acne on the sides of my chin and mouth since I was 19. As a result, I went on Accutane and it left my previously oily skin terribly dry ever since (my forehead and nose are less dry). My skin was clear for a few years but the acne has come back, leaving me with deep cystic acne (usually 1 or 2 at a time) and the lovely pink post-acne marks that come with it. I’m experiencing dry skin to the point of peeling in that area as well.

My current routine includes:
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser (DAY + NIGHT)
Clarisonic 2x/ week
Estee Lauder Synchronized Recovery Complex II Serum (DAY)
Ole Henriksen Truth Serum (DAY)
Murad City Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF50 (DAY)
Keihl’s Creamy Eye Treatment (DAY + NIGHT)
Clindamycin Phosphate Lotion 1% (NIGHT- prescription from dermatologist)

Wondering if I’m doing too much to my skin (I’m fair with pink undertones and develop redness pretty easily)? Would love any feedback to combat the horrible trifecta of dry/acne prone skin that is also sensitive while also getting a step ahead on anti-aging! I feel so lost most of the time.

Kelsi Kuhn January 5, 2018 - 6:45 am

Forgot to add I’ve been using Keihl’s Ultra Facial Cream as a moisturizer in the mornings 🙂

Gio January 19, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Hi Kelsi, I hear. Skincare can be terribly confusing when you’re dealing with only one problem, let alone three. Plus, in your case, great skin is so important for your job.

I wouldn’t say that you’re doing too much but I don’t see anything particularly hydrating in your skincare routine to counteract the drying effects of your acne medication. I’d try and add at least a hyaluronic acid serum to your nighttime routine. NIOD Multi Molecular Complexion is a great choice.

I’d also lay off the Clarisonic for a while and try lactic acid instead. It’s a more gentler way to exfoliate your skin and is suitable for sensitive skin too.

Start with these changes and see if you notice any improvements. We can tweak your routine firther later on but it’;s not good to change too much too soon. 🙂

Akila January 12, 2018 - 4:23 am

Hi Gio! I came across your blog last week and have been reading so many of your informative articles–THANK YOU and great work! This post in particular is exactly what I was looking for. A few questions:
a) I have dark skin with hyper-pigmentation around my mouth (my skin is oily but around my mouth gets dry at times) and very dark spots from acne scars. Any particular strategies to target these areas? I also have large pores and a couple large pore ”holes’ that have appeared on my forehead in recent years. Any suggestions?
b) I have little time in the morning with two small kids but I can pamper myself a bit more at night. Are there things from the regimen you mentioned above that I can tweak to save me time in the morning but still get all the benefits? And do I need to wait a certain amount of time between layering certain products?
c) When starting a new product, how long do you recommend one tries it to really get an accurate sense of whether it’s working or not and before adding another new product to the mix? I currently don’t have much of a skincare regimen (just facewash and moisturizer) so am excited to implement your suggestions, but I would like to try things systematically (i.e, control variables) to really know what may be working for me and what is not. Since discovering your blog, I have purchased salycilic acid, a vitamin c serum that also contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, and a new moisturizer (it does not contain niacinamide but has green tea, Resveratrol & Hyaluronic Acid). Any suggestions on how I can most effectively test these out first and what to add or switch later on depending on initial results?
Thank you for your time!!!

Gio January 19, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Hi Akila, thank you. So glad to hear you like my blog and find it useful.To answer your questions:

1. There are many things that can help lighten dark spots but I believe in trying the gentlest ones first and moving onto the big guns if they don’t deliver. To start with, I’d use salicylic acid every night straight after cleansing and, a couple of times a week, a serum with retinol. Retinol can be irritating so start with a small concentration and work your way up. As your skin gets used to it, you can up frequency too.

2. You can definitely move exfoliation at night. In the morning, just cleanse, use vitamin C, moisturise and sunscreen. If you choose a moisturising sunscreen, skip moisturiser. As a rule, you should wait before a product has almost dried before going in with the next layer.

3. Skin takes 28 days to renew itself so that’s how long it takes to know how well a skincare product really works. I recommend you add a new product to your skincare routine every month. I know it’s slow but at least you’ll be sure not to skew the results.

Hope it helps!

Akila January 24, 2018 - 5:57 pm

Hi Gio,
Thank you so much for your detailed response! It was helpful! I genuinely appreciate that you take the time to answer all of your readers’ questions–I think it’s wonderful and rare. 🙂
A couple more questions:
1) I am looking to find an acne-friendly moisturizing sunscreen with niacinamide (budget-friendly would be helpful too). Any suggestions? Being dark skinned, I never burn, so feel that the Olay Regenerist SPF 15 mentioned in your post may be enough sun protection for me, but perhaps I am mistaken?
2) If I can’t find this all in one product, then I am thinking of buying Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra High Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+ and adding The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% with it. Do you think this would be a good option for me and should I apply The Ordinary serum first then the sunscreen, or can I put a drop of the serum into the sunscreen and then apply the mixture once on my face? Is there any difference between these methods?
3. I have read that layering products or mixing products diminishes their effectiveness, as it dilutes them. Is this true? On the other hand, all-in-one products with many ingredients may not have as high of a dosage of each ingredient, although they are more convenient. What are your thoughts on this?
Since reading your blog I have not only gained so much more clarity on skin care, but have gotten excited about it too! Thanks again and I am eager for your response.

Gio February 2, 2018 - 5:27 pm

Hi Akila, yes, mixing products can dilute them and make them less effective. This is particularly true for sunscreen. Mixing anything with them will greatly reduce the SPF. I’ve written about it here:

The best option is to use The Ordinary niacinamide first and then layer Paula’s Choice sunscreen on top.

As for the Olay moisturiser, it’s not so much the SPF number that counts but how much you apply. To get the SPF on the label, you’d need top apply a small glass shot to your face. That’s very difficult to do. 🙁

Sarah January 13, 2018 - 1:31 pm

Thank you!!! After reading your article I started researching the Paula’s’ Choice products. I purchased pretty much the above routine you suggest. I’m a week into my new skincare regimen and I can already tell a difference. I’m 37 and definitely showing signs of aging: forehead wrinkles, dark spots, etc. Plus the fun bonus of pimples. My breakouts are not crazy, but always on my chin area. A frustratingly constant presence. I am loving the simplicity of the Paula’s choice products. Your links go to the Skinstore, but I would actually recommend purchasing right from the PC website. They have discounts, free samples, and I got free shipping. It ended up being the best deal after I shopped around. Anyway, thank you for the good advice above, it steered me in the right direction!

Gio January 19, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Sarah, so glad they’re helping. I’m very careful with the products I recommend. If they don’t contain actives that can really help deal with your skincare issues, what’s the point? Paula does, which is why I love it so much and use it frequently, too.

Thanks for the tip, too. I have many links to the Paula’s Choice’s website so not sure why I’ve linked to Skinstore here. Maybe something was temporarily out of stock on PC. Anyway, glad you’ve got everything you need and at the best price too. 🙂

Paula January 18, 2018 - 3:13 am

Hi my name is paula.. i m 33 years
I have oily skin.. my cheeks have pores and some scars.. I recently changed my routine.. I am using loreal 360 face wash with 2% salicylic acid.. and i am using natural grapeseed oil and jojoba oil at night.. also tea tree oil.
In morning i am using bit of grpeseed oil and netrugena sheer shield sunscreen..
Please suggest do i have to add or remove something as where i live there i hardly get nice brands only drugstore products are available..
I am concern about my cheeks with some scars and pores..

Gio January 27, 2018 - 10:26 am

Hi Paula, I’d switch to a leave-in exfoliant with salicylic acid. SA works better at keeping the pores clean and small when left on the skin for several hours rather than washed off after a minute.

Sabrina Reynolds January 18, 2018 - 6:30 pm

If I use these products, can you please check the order to make sure I’m using the products correctly?

1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($30.00)
3. Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($46.00)
4. Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($15.49)
5. Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($22.00)

1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00) (Daily or every other day??)
3. Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00) (Daily or every opposite day of Drunk Elephant??)
4. 4. Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($15.49)

Gio January 19, 2018 - 1:30 pm

Sabrina, yes, your skincare routine is fine. At night, I’d use the Drunk Elephant serum and Retinol booster on alternate days. Too much of a good thing can do more harm than good.

Sabrina Reynolds February 20, 2018 - 2:53 am

I started my facial regime (exactly what you recommended), maybe a week after I posted a comment. My face has completely cleared up and I maybe have one blemish on my face. I have old dark marks from previous acne marks that are healing. Thank you for all your help. If I use this regime, do you recommend I use an eye cream for prevention of dark circles, wrinkles, etc?

Gio February 24, 2018 - 11:21 am

Sabrina, I’m SO glad to hear my recommendations helped and your skin has cleared up. I usually don’t recommend eye creams because they’re just facial moisturisers in smaller jars. But if your skin in the undereye area is different from the rest of the face (for ex, your underye area is drier than the rest of the face) then I would definitely consider a separate eye cream.

Autumn January 20, 2018 - 1:17 am

Hello! I’m almost 47 years old and for the last 2 yrs.I’ve been battling super dry skin with acne on my chin..crazy hormones. I’m fair-skinned, flush easily and take allergy meds daily which I think dry me out. I’ve been fortunate to have good skin most my life and have used Aveeno or Neutrogena day and night creams but they didn’t seem to be enough as I’ve aged. I’ve always kept my skincare routine super simple…currently using Simple Micellar cleaner for sensitive skin in a.m. and p.m. and a natural face oil serum by Oria (etsy shop) that seemed to help the dry/flakiness but not the acne. Your blog has thankfully educated me about the different types of products and I know the oils im using now arent exactly helping. I’d like to try some new things that you’ve listed but my concern is that I seem to have an allergy or sensitivity to hyaluronic acid. I’ve tried 3 different serums or gels over the last 2 years (Mychelle/Philosophy/Neutrogena that made my face feel like it was on fire the second I put it on. So now I’m hesitant to try anything cuz I’m afraid my face is just going to burn off LOL! If I were to add any one thing right now what do you think would be the most important?

Gio January 28, 2018 - 11:36 am

Autumn, sorry to hear hyaluronic acid didn’t work for you. Do you know if the serums/gel had other ingredients in the common that may have caused the reaction? In any case, I understand why you’re weary and want to stay away from it from now on.

If I were to recommend you only one thing, I’d say switch oil. Go with rosehip. It’s. very moisturising and it helps with acne too.

Ashley January 20, 2018 - 3:05 pm

Hi Gio! I love your posts, thank you so much for what you do! Getting advice from someone knowledgable can be very difficult!
I have a question regarding tiny flesh coloured bumps. I get these especially on the sides of my face, they take forever to come to the surface. I’ve started using Differin, and eased in slow, I rotate through benzaclin, a salicylic acid peel by eminence and differin. I still get these bumps and am wondering if it’s too much oil, not enough moisture..,etc? Here’s my routine:
Cosrx low ph wash
Eminence thermal spring whip moisturizer
Eminence red currant spf
Airbrush makeup

Heimish balm
Cerave hydrating cleanser or thylox sulphur soap occasionally but it’s drying
Benzaclin or eminence exfoliating peel or differin
A drop or two hemp oil and rosehip seed oil.

I’m not totally happy as some days I feel oily, dehydrated and it emphasizes some lines and makes my makeup look terrible. I have a cabinet full of products but want a routine that works! Oh, I also get microdemabrasion done once a month.

Thank you so much for your help!

Gio January 28, 2018 - 12:29 pm

Hi Ashley, it definitely sound like your skincare routine is drying out your skin, which is now crying out for more moisture.

I’d recommend you do away with the sulphur cleanser as you’ve said it’s drying. I’d also give up on hemp oil and use only rosehip. See if that reduces the oiliness a bit. I’d also use NIOD MMHA serum or another hyaluronic acid serum morning and night to give your skin more moisture without adding more oil. Hope this helps.

Judy January 22, 2018 - 10:28 pm

Hard to believe (even for me experiencing it) but I am in my 70’s and still breaking out with what seems to be fluid filled small acne spots! I need help with a skin care line that will normalize my face, back & chest!!
I had mild acne as a teenager and acne stopped completely when I was pregnant with my children, which leads me to think it’s hormonal but I’ve tried everything. Hope you can help.

Gio January 28, 2018 - 3:08 pm

Judy, oh no! Unfortunately acne can get you at any age. I’d start with exfoliating every morning with a leave-in salicylic acid exfoliant (both Paula’s Choice and The Ordinary make good ones) and use rosehip oil at night. Hope this helps.

Carrie January 26, 2018 - 6:10 pm

Hi there! Are these products safe to use while breastfeeding?

Gio February 2, 2018 - 3:26 pm

Carrie, I’d stay away from anything with vitamin A and benzoyl peroxide. But everything else is safe.

Grace January 31, 2018 - 4:36 am

For your morning routine, I thought we are not suppose to mix Vitamin C (antioxidant) with Niacinamide?
I recently bought and used a lot of The Ordinary products, but my face started breaking out after 1-2 weeks then I realized I was mixing retinol with AHA (face palm)
But here is my routine:
philosophy purity face wash
fresh rose deep hydrating toner
blite vital treatment essence
eye cream
the ordinary niacinamide 10%
origins gel moisturizer
philosophy purity face wash
fresh rose deep hydrating toner
blite vital treatment essence
eye cream
I know use aha one night and retinol another night
origins gel moisturizer

Can I use lactic acid in the morning? Doesn’t it make your skin sensitive to the sun? Also, should I use niacinamide at night as well? And should I use more products such as vitamin C or hyaluronic acid?
Plz help! Thank you so much!

Gio February 2, 2018 - 4:44 pm

Grace, yes it’s ok to mix vitamin C with niacinamide. I’ve explained why here:

When you say you use AHA at night, do you mean lactic acid? If so, keep your routine as it is.

Good skincare isn’t about throwing every good ingredients at your skin or using your goodies morning and night. It’s about figuring out what your skin needs, finding products that deliver it and use them in moderation. If you do too much, you risk irritating or drying out your skin.

Jamie February 11, 2018 - 1:29 pm

In your post “living the low PH life” you state that most foaming cleansers are worse for acne prone skin “Foaming cleansers are usually the worst culprits because they use surfactants (ingredients that help water with mix oil and dirt so they can be rinsed away) that raise the skin’s ph”….in this post you recommend a gentle “foaming” cleanser…are all these you recommend low PH? Basically would you still recommend “Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00): pH 5.5.” for this post (for acne and aging) as well?

Gio February 17, 2018 - 9:03 am

Jamie, sorry for the confusion! Yes, I still believe foaming cleansers are better than cream and milk cleansers for acne prone skin as those tend to be too moisturising for those skin type. But the foaming cleanser must have a low, gentle ph (unfortunately, too many don’t). All Paula’s Choice cleansers are formulated around a 5.5 ph, low enough to do the job without upsetting skin. So yes, I’d still recommend it.

Tina February 14, 2018 - 6:28 pm

I am excited to have found this site. It’s about time I start getting serious about a skin care regime. Just to clarify, we would apply in the order you have it above? I have never used so many products at once! Do wait any period between application of products? I also noticed the first moisturizer you mention is a “PM,” but you still recommend for both morning and night? Thank you!

Gio February 17, 2018 - 8:23 am

Tina, yes, apply them in the order above. You can skip the hyaluronic acid serum in the morning if you find your skin is well hydrated without it. I usually recommend it for dry skin but I know some people can do without or prefer to use antioxidant serums/moisturizers that also have hyaluronic acid to make their routine a little shorter.

Just wait until a product has absorbed before applying the next. And yes, PM moisturisers can be used in the morning too. No need to pay for two moisturisers when just the one will do.

Emily Roberts February 21, 2018 - 7:45 pm

This is amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to help!! I’ve struggled with breakouts since I was 12 years old (30 now) and am having a worse time as ever. I am breastfeeding and SO dry but still experiencing hormonal acne on chin, jawline, upper neck and constant oil and white heads around my routine is terrible (10% benzoyl peroxide all over face and fresh Umbrian clay lotion) as I am very confused on where to start. I plan to purchase the cerave lotion and clean and clear foaming cleanser that you recommended, and also the drunk elephant serum, but was hoping you could tell me if I am on the right track? I just read that some things are a no-go while breastfeeding so that will affect what I can use..also, I use bare minerals makeup everyday and it does have SPF 15 in it, is this adequate for sun protection?

Thank you again!!

Gio February 24, 2018 - 11:14 am

Hi Emily, please, stop using benzoyl peroxide all over your face! That’s what’s drying out your skin and landing you in a vicious circles of dryness and breakouts.

Yes, the clean and clear foaming cleanser and cerave lotions should help. But, for now, I’d avoid the drunk elephant serum. From what I understand your ski is very dry now so the focus should be on fixing that. Once your skin’s back to normal (it may still have pimples but is not so dry anymore) you can think of adding the serum.

Instead, now add a salicylic acid exfoliant. That’s the most important product in any routine for oily skin. If you don’t exfoliate your skin regularly, you’ll never be free of acne. For now, I’d say only use salicylic acid but if you have bad breakouts, you can go in with benzoyl peroxide. But use it on the pimples only!

No, that’s an adequate for sun protection. A separate SPF 30 sunscreen would work best.

Hope this helps

Kim L March 10, 2018 - 1:35 pm

I’m in the same situation as the poster above. I really need some help. I’m a breastfeeding mom who is 33. I have th breakouts around my chin and the yuck at my nose. I tend to pick it too. I am having trouble trying to figure out what type of skin I have. It is always very dry but then it gets oily too. I have hashimotos thyroid disease which makes my skin thin and dry. I have fine lines around my eyes too. I have used Rodan Fields Unblemish in the past but it was super dry. I also used Rodan Fields Soothe and didn’t care for it. My staple has always been Philosophy Purity Made Simple but somehow I tend to get oily and flaky on it. I don’t feel I receive a lot of help from a moisturizer unless it’s an oil. Currently I have Willa beautify face serum for night time. I’m out of a cleanser and I need to purchase some ASAP. I can’t spend a fortune. I would rather buy a system. I have red hair and very light freckles skin (that has gotten more freckles over the years). My cheeks are rosy. Otherwise my skin looks dull and pimply. Ugh. Any suggestions?

One more request, my mom has very dry skin and bad roseacia (spelling??). Anything you can recommend for her? She’s using IT comestics line right now but so far no help.

Gio March 16, 2018 - 7:47 pm

Kim, if oils work for you, then use that. Jojoba oil should work well for your skin type. Marula oil is another good one. You can use a hyaluronic acid serum underneath to give your skin even more moisture as it sounds like you could be dehydrated. I recommend Niod Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Complex. Opt for a cream cleanser. Paula’s Choice makes some good ones.

I recommend the Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief line for your mum. It’s formulated especially for sensitive and problematic skin types and is full of ingredients that can soothe flareups.

Tina February 25, 2018 - 1:46 pm

I’m 40 and started getting acne again mostly around my jaw. I also have some old acne scars and open pores. I’ve started using Tretinoin 0.05% at night since a week.. first 2-3 days my skin was really pink and I felt it burning. So I started putting really a thin coat of Tretinoin and it’s not so bad.Skin is flaky after I wash my face in the morning,after which I apply a forest essentials moisturiser with spf30.
Pls suggest what should I apply in the day time to minimise my pores and get a firm/smoother skin texture. Also the hair follicles on my nose are really prominent. Any advice ?

Gio March 9, 2018 - 7:12 pm

Tina, tretinoin should help with pores but you need to give it some time to work. Tretinoin makes skin worse before it makes it better. I’m a bit hesitant to suggest anything else until your skin has gotten used to it as it’s very sensitive now so a basic routine (cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen in the morning and cleanser, treinoin and moisturiser in the evening) would be best for you.

Glenda March 12, 2018 - 4:21 pm

Thank you so much for this article! I’m so impressed by how clear it’s written and straight to the point. Love that you provide us with a few products to try out as well. I am 38 years old; suffer from hormonal acne–more whiteheads and blackheads and my dermatologist has prescribed Epiduo. Can I use glycolic, hyaluronic acid serum, and vitamin C also?

Gio March 18, 2018 - 9:15 am

Glenda, thanks so much! So glad you found it useful. 🙂

Yes, you can but re glycolic acid and vitamin C, I would start with smaller doses a couple of times a week (on different days!). Adapalene can be pretty harsh so wait until your skin has gotten used to it and then introduce the other actives slowly. Hyaluronic acid, instead, can be used straight way.

Kristine Burris March 23, 2018 - 4:33 am

I just switched to the suggestions you made above. I bought the Paula’s Choice products. I’m 53, and I am sick and tired of dealing with acne at my age. I’ve only been using these products for about 10 days now, but my acne is getting worse. I know this happens when you switch products…. But I’m afraid it’s getting worse and worse every day. Shouldn’t it be getting better as the days pass? UGH!

Gio March 30, 2018 - 6:16 pm

Kristine, I’m sorry it’s getting worse. But it’s hard to tell what it’s causing the problem as I don’t know your previous and current skincare routine. if you’ve just started exfoliating for example, this may be a purge that will go away within a month and then you’ll get clear skin.Or it may be that one of the products you’re using doesn’t agree with you.

rebecca March 30, 2018 - 10:27 pm

Thank you for this post. I’m in my late 40s and have had acne since adolescence. Terrible cysts in my late teens and 20s that left scars. The skin is quite sensitive and flushes red very easily. In the past year or so it has changed a lot, and is not as oily and actual pimples are rare. That said the texture remains bumpy, pores enlarged, forehead shiny, and now wrinkles and some age/brown spots as well as those old scars. For me the scars and the shine are the worst.

I mostly have access to drugstore products, but will be visiting the US soon and ready to improve my routine … although I have bought so many products over the years that just inflame or cause breakouts or do nothing at all.
The Drunk Elephant products sound great but I’m wondering if you have suggestions re which I should try first or other things to change up.

Currently I use:
Am – Bioderma micellar water (sometimes followed by Biore baking soda cleansing scrub)
Eucerin/DermoPurifier active concentrate (every other day)
Bioderma Sabium moisturizing mattifying fluid or Eucerin Aquaporin active

Pm – Bioderma micellar water
Eucerin/DermoPurifier Active night care
coconut oil for eyes and neck, sometimes whole face

1x week – The Body Shop Iconic clay mask

I have a big bottle of Eau Thermale spring water that I often spray but even this makes my skin get red!

Gio March 31, 2018 - 3:29 pm

Rebecca, first of all get rid of the Biore scrub as that’s too harsh for your skin. Replace Eucerin Dermo purifying concentrate with an exfoliant with salicylic acid (also called BHA). The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice make the best ones. This should help keep the pores clean and regulate oil production.

I’d also add a retinol serum to reduce the appearance of pores and wrinkles. You can also switch to a Cerave or Olay moisturiser with niacinamide as that helps with pores and dark spots too.

Rebecca April 5, 2018 - 8:05 am

Thank you. I bought the Olay Regenerist with niacinamide and tested it out on decolletage and neck for a few days without problem. However when I put it on my face I broke out really badly all over–red and inflamed plus half a dozen pimples on forehead, cheeks, jaw, and chin.
Last night I reverted to the Eucerin Dermo and a little coconut oil. Some of the smaller blemishes reduced over night, but the worst ones look like they’re just getting started.
It’s been a long time since I broke out this badly, and don’t have something to deal with the active spots. Best to stick with the old routine until things clear up and then try a different product?

Gio April 8, 2018 - 5:16 pm

Rebecca, oh no! So sorry it broke you out. Does the product has any Palmitate or Myristate ingredients? That’s usually the culprit. Definitely try again with something without these ingredients.

Ayesh April 2, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Hey Gio, thanks for this post — it’s an amazing place to start for an overwhelmed person like me! I’m 29, gave birth a year ago, and am just getting started with this whole skincare thing. Right now, my routine is super minimal, but that needs to change as I keep breaking out all of a sudden (didn’t break out for two years with pregnancy hormones, etc.), my skin is dull and uneven … and I’m nearing 30! The routine right now is aloe vera foaming face wash by The Body Shop, aloe toner, and Cetaphil moisturizer. I am thinking of ordering the Salicylic acid and niacinamide by The Ordinary to begin with, but what would you recommend for moisturization from preferably the same brand (as I want a change from my basic Cetaphil). Also, should I not introduce Retinol right away, as I am breastfeeding?

Gio April 8, 2018 - 4:24 pm

Ayesh, so glad my blog is helping you. Adding salicylic acid and niacinamide to your skincare routine is a great idea. As a moisturiser, I’d recommend The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors. It’s fairly lightweight and very moisturising.

Mili April 3, 2018 - 8:57 pm

Hello Gio, thank you for your post. I am in need of your advice. My skin is complicated: my forehead and chin are oily, so much that by the end of the day I need to wipe it. My cheeks however are getting dry if I try to apply drying products. I have large pores. And occasional breakouts. I can never find the right moisturizer because everything cause pimples. I am in my 40’s and started having dark spots on my chin and bags under my eyes. As well as some dark spots on my cheeks and under my eyes. Please, advise if this routine will suite my needs. Thank you very much in advance! Your help is very much appreciated!
1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum Antioxidant ($80.00) (use if skin dry)
3. Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex Hyaluronic Acid Booster($38.00)
4. Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($15.49)
5. Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($22.00) Sunscreen
1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum EXFOLIANT($90.00) every opposite day of The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid – Salicylic acid
3. Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($15.49)
1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% Retinol Booster(£8.00) every opposite day of Drunk Elephant
3. Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($15.49)

Gio April 8, 2018 - 4:30 pm

Mili, do you really need a moisturiser? I know the classic mantra is cleanse/tone/moisturize but if your skin is very oily, all the serums and sunscreen you’re using should be more than enough. I suggest you try to go moisturiser-free for the day and see what happens. If your skin doesn’t get tight/dry, stop using it. If you want to use one, something oil-free like Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Gel would be a better option. The Cerave moisturiser is good but often too rich for oily skin.

Your routine is good. The only thing I’d change is that I’d skip glycolic acid and use salicylic acid every day. I know that glycolic acid is a wonderful anti aging ingredient but you need at least 10% to boost collagen. The Drunk Elephant serum has less so you’re only getting exfoliation from it. And for your skin type, exfoliation is a job better left to salicylic acid, which can get inside the pores and help regulate oil production.

Hope this helps.

Mili April 9, 2018 - 4:39 pm

Hello Gio,
Thank you for your reply. I can go without moisturizer. Please, see if this routine will be good enough:

1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum Antioxidant ($80.00) (use if skin dry)
3. Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex Hyaluronic Acid Booster($38.00)

1. Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin
2. The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid – Salicylic acid

Thank you very much!

Mili April 9, 2018 - 5:52 pm

I’m sorry. I got a little confused. So salicylic acid is The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid ? And if this is should I use it day and night? Instead any serum? Use Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser and The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid and that’s all?
Please advise, Mili

Gio April 14, 2018 - 8:57 am

Mili, no The Ordinary Salicylic Acid and The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid are two different products. You definitely need salicylic acid the most but can use the Advanced retinoid a couple of times a week as well.

The new routine is good. Just a couple of adjustments. In the morning, finish off with sunscreen. At night, cleanser, salicylic acid and a couple of times a week, Advanced retinoid. If you find your skin gets a little dry at night, especially on retinoid nights, you can finish off with NIOD Hyaluronic acid serum.

Adina April 4, 2018 - 7:49 am

Hey Gio!

Thank you for this post! It has definitely helped in finding better skincare for me. But I think my confusion is even harder to break through than most others out there… I usually get overwhelmed even with such great posts as above and end up needing someone to just TELL me what my skin needs…
If I may ask.. what order would I do everything in?
I have 30 yr old acne-prone skin that is dry but scaly, especially around the creases in my nose (tiny bits of psoriasis).
I’m using an anti-ageing collection at the moment, but it’s too expensive to keep up and it does not consistently keep anything at bay.
I just hate the texture of my skin and how hard to handle it has become =[
I used to model and it was once SO low-maintenance..
I’m unfortunately unable to afford to see a dermatologist at the moment to investigate further into my skin needs.

Thank you.. and sorry for the long post! haha!

Adina April 4, 2018 - 7:50 am

To add….I was looking into whether Thursday Plantation or the Bioderma brands would be good for acne and anti-ageing issues such as mine?

Gio April 14, 2018 - 11:54 am

Adina, are there any products from these brands you’re eyeing up? I couldn’t find the ingredients for Thursday’s Plantation products so can’t really say if they would help or not. 🙁

Gio April 8, 2018 - 4:36 pm

Hi Adina, follow the exact order I’ve used in this post. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what products to use because it really depends on your skin and your personal preferences. For example, a cream that does wonders for someone else may contain one ingredient that irritates your skin or a serum that’s right for someone may be too rich for you.

The best advice I can give you is to start small. Try one of the salicylic acid serums and one of the moisturisers. Once you’ve found the right ones that work for you, move onto another step of your skincare routine. Do not introduce more than one skincare product at a time or if something doesn’t work for you (makes you breakout for example), you won’t know who the culprit is.

Hope this helps.

Adina May 1, 2018 - 2:34 pm

Hi Gio!!

I’m so sorry that I had not checked your reply sooner.
I honestly was preferring anything that was on the less expensive end of those recommended in this article haha.
But I REALLY appreciate the advice of starting small. I think that is spot-on and will definitely try only one thing at a time. =]

Thank you again!

Gio May 4, 2018 - 7:50 pm

Adina, my pleasure. Glad to help.

Adina May 9, 2018 - 7:23 am

Hi Gio!

Sorry to bug you again! What is your stance on Bio Oil as a moisturiser for face and/or body?
I used to use it when i was early 20’s, on the skin-specific contraceptive pill and had SUCH low-maintenance skin, and it loved it..
But not sure if its good to use for anti-ageing AND blemish-prone skin..
Other products that I’m currently using is the Artistry Youth Extend range from Amway.. which some products have been good.. but im still getting breakouts, even when im being good and keeping my hands away from my skin!

Jenna April 11, 2018 - 5:40 pm

Hi – first of all thank you for this post. I have it bookmarked for when I go shopping 🙂 I have always had problems with acne and now that I’m 30 I wanted to get a head start on wrinkles and anti-aging and this post has really helpful info for both! Just wondering if you have any advice on substitutes for salicylic acid during pregnancy? I have had problems with hormonal acne along my jawline and chin for many years now and I hoped it would clear up when I got pregnant but I am over 10 weeks and continue to get breakouts! I am wondering what is safe to use for spot treatments? Before I found out I was expecting I was using Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial twice a week which made my skin feel so fresh and clean… is there anything comparable I can use to exfoliate that is safe during pregnancy? Thank you!!

Gio April 14, 2018 - 11:53 am

Jenna, so glad this post is helping you! According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, topical salicylic acid is safe during pregnancy. Oral salicylic acid and peels with salicylic acid are problematic during pregnancy and could cause birth defects but using a toner or exfoliant with 1/2% salicylic acid every few days is fine. That’s because your skin absorbs very little salicylic acid this way. If you’re still not comfortable using it, small concentrations of mandelic acid work well at keeping the pores clean.

If that doesn’t work for you, sulphur, azelaic acid and tea tree oil (diluted!) are also safe during pregnancy. Just pick one and see how it works for you.

Namde April 24, 2018 - 12:14 pm

Hi Gio,
Wow this is a wonderful post. I am writing all the way from Kenya(Africa) and I need help with my skin care. I used to have problem free skin till one day the cream I was using went out of stock and things have never been the same again(6 years ago, I’m 31 now). I have occasional pimples usually on my right cheek(this part is just never clear), and along my hairline on the sides. These are usually painful and hard. My skin care routine currently consists of the following:

cleansing- Lately it has been Garnier botanical cleanser with eucalyptus extract
Toning- with a homemade mixture of ACV and water, I recently added tea tree oil to this
moisturiser- Nivea even tone moisturiser

Same cleansing
Same toning
A serum made of vitamin c, vitamin E and Tea tree oil
No moisturiser as i find the serum above quite oily.

I also have a clay mask and aloe vera gel that I use on occassion.

Kindly help with a routine. My concerns are the pimples and sometimes tiny spots as explained above as well as scars left by previous pimples as well as dullness. My skin is neither dry, oily nor sensitive. Most of the products in your recommendations are not available out here; in fact the only I have seen are the Neutrogena foaming cleanser and the Olay regenerist but i can try to get someone to purchase and ship them here.
Your help will be highly appreciated.

Gio April 27, 2018 - 10:08 am

Namde, if you have pimples you need salicylic acid. I understand it may be hard to come by in your country but it really is a game changer and worth trying to get it online. The cheapest way would be The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution. It’s very cheap so you can buy more than one bottle at a time. Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliants are good too but their shipping prices to your country can be pretty high so I’d try The Ordinary first. Use it morning and night instead of your toner and see if that makes a difference.

Namde May 1, 2018 - 7:05 pm

Thank you so much for your response Gio, you are amazing. I have someone who can try getting the Paula’s choice products. I think I should prioritize the BHA exfoliant, the antioxidant serum and a moisturizer that has both niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. What do you think?

Gio May 4, 2018 - 8:00 pm

Namde, I agree, especially with the BHA exfoliant. 🙂

Vanessa May 5, 2018 - 5:57 am


First off, I am so glad that I found your blog!! So easy to navigate and so many great information. I seriously just went through 9 pages of posts under the “Acne-Prone” skin type tag. I am currently looking for a new skincare routine and I have been doing some research. I heard great stuff about The Ordinary products and would love to try them. I am 27 years old with oily acne prone skin with acne scars. I am almost in my 30’s and my skin is still suffering! 🙁 Here is what I built so far – please let me know your thoughts.

Cleanse with Mario Badescu enzyme cleansing gel
Toner – Thayer’s Alcohol Free Witch Hazel
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Oils (I’ve been doing some research about oils and would love to use them)

Oil Cleanse
Maybe cleanse again with MB Enzyme Cleansing Gel
Thayer Witch Hazel Toner
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

I think I would like to include The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution in this routine. What do you think? If so, should it be during the AM or PM?

Thank you so much!!

Gio May 19, 2018 - 9:51 am

Vanessa, thanks so much for your kind words and all your support. So glad you’re enjoying my blog and find it useful.

Using salicylic acid is a great idea! You can use it both morning and night after the toner.

If you want to use oils, make sure you pick one with a high dose of linolecic acid otherwise they may aggravate your acne. You can learn more about this here:

I’ve also written about my fave sunscreens for oily skin here:

Hope this helps.

Lindsay May 16, 2018 - 11:02 pm

What is the date on this post? I have been researching some of the suggested products to add into my skincare routine, and I am finding recent comments about a formula change for the PC Resist Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator. Which is throwing me for a loop since I was really excited that I had decided on a moisturizer. Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

Gio May 18, 2018 - 3:50 pm

Lindsay, I updated this post on October 23, 2017. Hope this helps.

Christina Boehm May 17, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Hi thanks for your article! I’m 38 and have very oily skin, enlarged pores, and acne prone skin. My acne seems to be getting worse the older I get! I’ve tried many different acne products in the past and have never found anything that I thought worked great. I’ve used Paula’s choice acne system in the past and didn’t think it helped and I’m currently using Dermatologica’s acne system which also isn’t working. I’ve always been told to use both salyscilic acid and benzoyl peroxide but maybe they are too drying and causing more oil production. I also want to combat wrinkles. I’m interested in trying the products in your list and wondering what you think I should start with first besides a gentle foaming cleanser. Also do you think I still need a moisturizer if I have very oily skin? Thank so much!

Gio May 18, 2018 - 3:08 pm

Christina, I really hope this article will help you. I’d start with a salicylic acid exfoliator. If benzoyl peroxide is too drying, you can try an alternative like sulphur or tea tree oil. But I’d say exfoliation is a must for acne-prone skin. A moisturiser instead isn’t. As a rule, if your skin never feels tight/dry, you can skip moisturiser.

Gio May 18, 2018 - 2:46 pm

Adina, I’m replying to your comment here as we’ve run out of space up there! It really depends on your skin type. Bio Oil has some ingredients that could be problematic for acne-prone skin so if you’re in doubt, it’s best not to use it. Also, are you exfoliating with salicylic acid? That can help stop the breakouts.

Susan Fuda July 29, 2018 - 4:47 pm

Hello. What about aveeno calming moisturizer with spf 15. I have sensitive skin and eyes to traditional sun screens. It burns my eyes terribly when I sweat and I get break outs too. The aveeno I’ve been using for a while it feels like nothing is there and every sheer sunscreen I’ve used doesn’t compare. Any advice on a traditional sunscreen that will work for me. Zinc oxide rises to the top and is a white mess on my skin when I sweat. I’m in my late 30s and need good protection. I have no idea moisturizer spfs were useless. Thanks.

Gio August 5, 2018 - 10:32 am

Susan, I hear ya! Finding a good sunscreen is so tricky! Unfortunately SPF 15 isn’t adequate protection, especially in summer. Do you have access to Asian sunscreens? They use new UV filters that are much sheerer than zinc oxide and still safe for sensitive skin.

Jenn August 18, 2018 - 1:32 am

Your skin looks flawless, Gio, what do you personally use? Just found out through your blog about the Ordinary company, planning to order something from them…

Gio September 6, 2018 - 8:35 pm

Jenn, thank you! You can find my skincare routine here:

It slightly changes every month as I try new products but I always return to my old favourites.

Keep in mind, though, that what works for me may not work for you. Everyone is different skin so the trick is to identify your skin type and needs and look for products that have actives that can target them AND are free of any irritants.

Lisa L. September 8, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Thank you for your skin care suggestions. I have been searching for treatments for both acne and aging for years. I am 45 and so appreciate your focus on both!! I have started using the products you suggest about 2 weeks ago and I find they are working well. I do need one more recommendation: an acne spot treatment. I seem to be breaking out more the last month or 2 than normal (well before I began with the new products). I have struggled with adult acne for 10 years now (what fun!) and finding a spot treatment that doesn’t cause other problems has been difficult! Thank you!!!

Gio September 15, 2018 - 9:24 am

Lisa, so glad this routine is working so well for you.

Have you tried ZO skin Health Sulfur masque? It can be used as a spot treatment and gets rid of pimples faster than anything I’ve ever tried. Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is another good one.

fakhira November 10, 2018 - 7:26 am

Hi Gio, lot of love from malaysia. I’m 26 and dont have any complicated skin care routine, clear skin but very dull and tired looking skin. I’m interested on buying timeless vit C to brighten up my skin even I never used vit c before, but I’ve been undergo some chemical peel during breakout long time ago but only a little bit peeling, so I assume my skin not that sensitive. LOL.. Can you help suggested what should I use to get alive looking skin. normal skin type. Thanks.

Gio November 10, 2018 - 6:25 pm

Fakhira, I definitely recommend vitamin C serum in the morning. If you find Timeless too harsh you can always use it every other day until your skin gets used to it. Then, a couple of nights a week, exfoliate with glycolic acid. Hope this helps.

Damaris November 22, 2018 - 12:29 pm

Hi. I love your site, thank you for giving us good information. What toner do you recommend for daily use? Could son & Park, Pixi glow tonic or The ordinary 7% glycolic toner work. As well would i need a further exfoliation twice a week with a BHA toner?

Gio November 23, 2018 - 1:20 pm

Damaris, if you have acne prone skin, I recommend salicylic acid. Glycolic is antiaging only at 10% and higher concentrations so just stick to salicylic instead.

Amanda November 26, 2018 - 9:27 pm

Hi Gio,

Your article is so informative, and filled with so much great information. I always turn back to it whenever I’m considering new healthcare products. So first and foremost, thank you!

I have somewhat oily (mostly T-zone) and acne prone skin. The acne was always persistent, but never too severe, and I have thankfully kept it mostly at bay for the past few years. Dealing with the acne was easier in my 20s. But now that I’m in my early 30s, aging of course becomes a concern, and keeping my skin hydrated is also a priority. These are the products currently on my routine:

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser with 2% Salycilic Acid OR Avène Cleanence soap-free cleansing gel
Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Night Serum (with 12% AHA and 1% BHA)
Vitamin C:
Cosmetic Skin Solutions Vitamin C + E Serum
Vitamin A:
Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra with Vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid OR Tatcha The Water Cream

I don’t use all of those products together, and normally alternate between the DE Framboos and Skinceuticals’ Retinol (as I know using both at the same time could be too much and cause skin irritation), and normally use one in the morning and the other at night. But I still get a little unsure on what’s the best way to combine these products. In your original post, you recommend using an exfoliant (like salicylic acid) and an antioxidant (like Vitamin C) in the mornings. However, I’ve read a few different articles that mention that given how Glycolic and Salicylic Acid, alter the skin’s PH, they normally don’t pair well with Vitamin C (which needs a very specific PH range for maximum effectiveness). Do you have any thoughts on that?

I recently started using a stronger concentration of Retinol (now at 1.0), and with the dry winter months fast approaching, I feel like my skin will need more moisture than what I’m currently getting with the DE B-Hydra or Tatcha Water Cream. So I’m considering following your advice and looking for products with niacinamide. I’m considering Skinceutical’s Metacell Renewal B3 or Skin Inc’s Vitamin B3+ Niacinamide Serum. Do you have any thoughts on either of those? Would you recommend I add them on top of B-Hydra/Water Cream, or simply replace them? One other option I’ve considered is looking for a peptide cream. I’ve heard really good things about DE’s Protini Polypeptide Cream, but I worry that might be too heavy for my skin-type, and wonder if it’s even necessary at this stage of life.

Once again, thanks for all your wonderful work!

Gio December 9, 2018 - 4:09 pm

Amanda, thank you so much for your support. Glad you enjoy the article and the blog. Really appreciate it. 🙂

You can totally use vitamin C after AHAs/BHA, although if you’re really worried about the pH, use vitamin C first. Having said that, as you’ve chosen a BHA exfoliant that also has a high dose of AHAs, it’d be best to use that at night, alternating with retinol.

With 10%+ AHA and 1% retinol, the potential for dryness during winter is definitely there. You could do a few things here. Switch to a lower dose of retinol for the winter months. You’re still young so you don’t really need such a high dose of retinol just yet. An alternative would be to cut down on exfoliation and retinol to a couple of times a week each.

But you can totally switch to a more moisturising cream or add niacinamide first to see if that helps with the dryness, before cutting back on anything. I’ve written a review about Metacell you can read here: Skin Inc is more hydrating and cheaper so you can try that first. Whether they can replace your moisturizer it depends on you. Does your skin needs the extra hydration or is fine with only Skin Inc? Try both and see what works best for you.

Protini is a wonderful moisturizer but research on peptides is still scant. You can use it if you need the extra moisture but if the Anti-Aging benefits you’re after, you’re better off with vitamin C and retinol.

Stephanie Rayos January 1, 2019 - 4:54 am

Hi Gio,

I am new to your blag and just now reading this wonderful post about a skincare routine for wrinkles and acne (so unfair to have both!). I’ve been struggling with acne for most of my life. I’m now 40 and seem to be experiencing even worse than normal flair-ups that never entirely go away. I have added all of your suggestions to my shopping cart at Paula’s but want to ask you a couple of questions before I purchase. I am currently using a dermatologist prescribed retinol at night. It’s very strong but seems to be helping. My questions:
1) For my morning routine, would you still suggest I use an antioxidant serum even though I’m using retinol at night?
2) For the evening routine, for Step 2 you suggest Vitamin A. Do I use my retinol instead?
3) Do you think the blue light anti-acne light is also useful? Have you heard of these?
Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your insight and knowledge!

Gio January 19, 2019 - 6:49 pm

Stephanie, I know! Why can’t you just deal with one thing at a time?! But you can fix it. 🙂 To answer your questions:

1. Yes, but I’d choose something with a lower concentration of vitamin C and no retinol.
2. Yes, use your retinol.
3. There are studies that show it helps so definitely talk to your doctor about it. 🙂

Ashley January 3, 2019 - 11:28 pm

Hi! thank you so much for your blog! I am 38 with combo-skin and am using just Obagi facial cleanser for combo skin & skin ceuticals C+E Ferulic and then the skin ceuticals sunscreen you listed. It is working good although maybe I feel a little dry sometimes and I deal with cysts that don’t ever go away but just stay as bumps on my temples… but I am scared to try anything else because I don’t want the breakouts. However, I also would love to find a cheaper alternative to this stuff and maybe adding one other thing that you think I could really benefit from. While I would love to follow your whole regimen, I am just not the person who can deal with more than 3 or 4 products I at once. Would love your advice. Thank you in advance.

Gio January 19, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Ashley, I hear ya! You can find alternatives to your cleanser, vitamin C serum and sunscreen in this post:

You don’t have to follow the entire routine in that post if it’s too much for you. But I do think you need at least a salicylic acid serum and night time moisturizer (at least on days when your skin feels dry).

You can use cleanser, vitamin C and sunscreen in the AM and cleanser, salicylic acid and moisturizer in the PM. Short and effective.

Andreana Todorova January 26, 2019 - 6:27 pm

Hi, thank you very much for the informative article. I bought many of the products you recommend so now wondering how these products can be combined? And how many products per application, I thought a maximum of 2 (excluding eye creme) except for the retinol which I use on its own.

Gio February 8, 2019 - 12:19 pm

Andreana, you can follow the order in this routine. Just be careful to introduce only ONE new product every 3 things. That way, if something doesn’t agree with you, you’ll know who the culprit is.

Never use retinol alone. At the very least, apply a moisturizer on top to prevent dryness.

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