The Products My Derm Recommends for my Acne

I have struggled with acne on and off for the better part of my life.

As a teenager, my skin was at its worst. I dealt with sporadic breakouts on my cheeks and forehead for years, and because I had yet to establish a proper skin-care routine, it was like there was no end in sight. To treat my skin, I would either use rough exfoliants in combination with strong topical acne products, which would further irritate my skin, or I reached for drying formulas—thinking they would somehow work to shrink my pimples—which resulted in redness, flaking, and triggered eczema flareups.

But fast forward to 2023, and my skin is mostly under control—well, until it’s not.

Of course, there will be the occasional pimple and blackhead that pop from time-to-time, but thanks to years of working in the beauty industry, I know exactly what to do to keep my skin balanced, at least for the most part. But like with anything else in life, I’ll never be able to control my skin 100-percent of the time. So let’s say I do a lot of traveling in a small period of time—my KN95 mask plus the plane’s dry and cold air is enough to trigger a breakout. Or, maybe I test out a new product that just doesn’t agree with my skin—then bam, there’s a brand new set of pimples I have to treat.

Luckily for me, while I may not be able to have a smooth skin all day every day, whenever I do experience any acne flare-ups, I know I can depend on my two go-to CeraVe products to get my skin back under control: The Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with 4% benzoyl peroxide and AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen.

Both of these products were recommended to me by New York dermatologist Nkem Ugonabo, MD. The skin-care expert swears by these products, and shares that not only are they both gentle, but they’re suitable and efficacious for a variety of skin types.

“Benzoyl peroxide is a highly effective ingredient for treating acne, because it targets acne-causing bacteria directly,” she says of the main ingredient found in the facial cleanser. “Traditionally, [it] can sometimes be irritating or drying on the skin, but my favorite aspect of the 4% Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser is that it is effective yet gentle. This is in part because it is formulated with other ingredients such as niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides, which make it less harsh and better tolerated on the skin.”

As for the moisturizer, which is formulated with SPF, Dr. Ugonabo wants to make one thing clear: Drying out your skin won’t help you curb an acne breakout, so it’s important not to skip this step.

“One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter daily is that acne-prone skin should not be moisturized and it’s better to ‘dry out’ your acne. This is completely untrue,” Dr. Ugonabo confirms. “When our skin is dry, we actually produce more oil, which can lead to clogged pores and more breakouts. The key is to look for moisturizers that are oil-free and non-comedogenic—meaning they won’t clog your pores—because this way it will be able to hydrate your skin without contributing to your breakouts.”

When it comes to SPF, while some may think a layer of sunscreen may end up clogging pores and thus create more blemishes—aside from the well-known benefits of sun protection—there’s a specific reason why Dr. Ugonabo recommends that her patients with acne-prone skin never forgo sunscreen.

“Acne-prone skin is particularly vulnerable to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and erythema—otherwise known as ‘acne marks’—which are worsened by the sun,” she explains.

That said, whenever I’m dealing with a breakout, or feel one brewing, this duo is what I’m reaching for. To use, I start off by wetting my face, then squeezing out a quarter-size amount of the Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser into my hands and applying to my face in a circular motion, slowly working it into a lather. After about a minute or two, I simply rinse, then pat my skin dry with a clean towel.

What’s great about this particular face wash is that while benzoyl peroxide is traditionally drying, my skin is never tight when I use this specific product. Thanks to hydrating and nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, which Dr. Ugonabo mentioned, as well as CeraVe’s three essential ceramides, my skin is left feeling soft and supple—with no flakiness in sight.

I follow-up with the AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen. The oil-free formula also features skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides that give me a dewy finish, while the brand’s InVisibleZinc Technology uses both chemical and mineral to create an SPF 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. And while many SPF moisturizers can be thick and heavy, this lightweight formula gives me the coverage I need, while still allowing my skin to breathe.

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