My Inexpensive Daily Skincare Routine for Adult Acne-Prone Skin

I want to preface this by saying the combination of products I am about to share is what has worked for the last two years to keep my skin clear. However, over the last year, it has become more and more important to me to replace my everyday products with ones made from cleaner ingredients. I started by swapping out my household cleaning essentials and doing away with my beloved Bath & Body Works candles and Wallflowers and adopting an essential oils lifestyle. I then made the switch to an aluminum-free deodorant (you can read about that here), and I am now in the process of identifying products in my skincare and beauty routine that need to be overhauled. Some of the products I currently use are not the cleanest formulas, but the combination of them dramatically improved my adult acne-prone skin. Over the next several months I will be working to identify organic, cruelty-free, paraben-free products to replace my current skincare with (specifically my daily moisturizer). If you have skincare products you love that are considered “clean,” let me know so I can add them to my list!

“Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

I have struggled with acne since I was a teenager. I’m talking about deep, painful cystic bumps that do not go away or get better with any ol’ over-the-counter acne wash and topical ointment.

My older brother also suffered from severe acne in his teen years — the reason he and I both only use white bath towels and washcloths and only sleep on white pillowcases. We are convinced that the dye from color linens penetrates our pores and causes breakouts. I’m not entirely sure there is any evidence to support that theory, but that’s my story and I am sticking to it. Plus, you can bleach white towels, and bleach equals clean (something our mom taught us and I have had a heck of a time unlearning).

While my big bro was able to find some relief when his dermatologist prescribed Accutane, I was never given that option (likely because it is a powerful retinoid and women in their child-bearing years are strongly encouraged not to take it because of the risk of birth defects linked to the drug).

This post contains affiliate links, and I receive a commission when you shop using my links.

As I entered my early 20s, though, my skin began to clear up on its own and the amount of cystic acne breakouts I experienced lessened.

However, I was still breaking out — especially around my time of the month — and none of the products I used seemed to completely clear up my skin. At that point, I had already lived with “bad skin” for more than 10 years and was well on my way to accepting the fact that my face would never be clear.

I washed it morning and night, kept is moisturized, and spot treated my acne when it flared up. Still, those little bumps persisted. Plus, I also battled facial redness — something I was very self-conscious of.

Then, when my husband and I started planning our wedding two years ago, it became critical to me to find skincare products that would actually work to clear up my face.

How could I possibly show up to my wedding with pimples?

To top it off, I had very little money to spend on skincare products or expensive visits to the dermatologist (something that wouldn’t be covered by my medical insurance).

I finally reached a breaking point when the stress of planning our big day began wreaking havoc with my already sensitive skin, and I started Googling causes of adult acne. There was obviously a reason for my breakouts (other than stress), I just needed to figure out what it was so I could treat the cause. You treat the cause, you alleviate the symptoms … right?

I determined the two causes that most closely aligned with my adult acne were hormonal and dietary.

My diet was something I could easily change — stop consuming so much sugar. Bam, problem solved.

The hormonal factor was a little trickier, though. I knew my physician would want to put me on birth control if I mentioned my acne woes to her. It is my personal preference, however, not to take hormonal BC of any kind.

So, that left me Googling “How to treat hormonal acne.”

My search returned a plethora of products and treatments to try, but as I mentioned above, money was tight as we were paying for our wedding.

There were a few products that kept popping up in various articles and were within my price range, so I decided to give them a try.

I eventually landed on this trio of skincare products that are now essential to my everyday routine for managing my adult acne: Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bar for a nighttime wash, Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater for redness reduction and moisture, and Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Face Moisturizer.

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Acne-Prone Face & Body Bar
{two 3.5 oz bars $8.99}

This face wash bar was an instant game changer. I saw improvements in my skin after the first wash, and it has become the one product I must have on hand at all times. Seriously, I cannot run out of it because my skin goes haywire if I skip more than two days of use.

Not only does it cleanse really well, but it calms the redness and irritation I experience. Also, it is cruelty free and is formulated without parabens, phthalates, and other bad-for-you ingredients — something that has become more and more important to me lately.

Since this is a bar of soap and those sudsy little buggers typically dry out your skin (even though the shea butter is moisturizing), I try to limit my use of it to the nighttime hours when my face needs the most cleansing after a long day.

I will say, this bar of soap is extremely messy and leaves black suds and residue wherever you lay down the bar. I recommend storing it on a soap dish (I have a bamboo soap dish similar to this one, and I love it).

For my morning face wash, I have been trying different products that are super gentle and won’t strip my face of its natural oils that early in the day (basically, washes that don’t foam). Right now I am using Avalon Organics Intense Defense with Vitamin C Cleansing Milk. I appreciate how moisturizing it is, and the bright citrus scent is amazing to wake up to. I will report back once I have spent a little more time with it.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater
{8 oz. $12 (4 oz. option for $7)}

I call this my magic elixir for my face.

I use it immediately after I wash my face (morning and night) before I apply my moisturizer. I also spritz it on before I apply my foundation (on the days I wear a full face of makeup) and as a setting spray after my makeup is done.

It is such a refreshing product and combined with the Shea Moisture African Black Soap, it has greatly reduced the facial redness I was experiencing.

10/10, highly recommend. Plus, it is inexpensive. I opt for the 8 oz. bottle because it is a better value, but the 4 oz. option is only $7.

Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Face Moisturizer for Dry Skin
{1.7 oz. $6.62}

The final staple in my daily skincare regimen is this gel cream moisturizer.

I use it morning and night — I’m probably at the age I should invest in a good nighttime moisturizer, but this is still working for me for now.

What I love about this product is that it is oil-free, it is incredibly soothing, and the gel formula doesn’t clog my pores.

Additional tips for clearing adult acne-prone skin:

  • Before washing your face, open up your pores by rinsing your skin with warm water. Opening your pores with warm water, steam, or a hot towel will allow for a better cleanse.
  • When you’re done washing your face, make sure to rinse all soap/cleanser residue completely. Leaving any cleanser on your skin can cause breakouts.
  • Pat (don’t rub) your face dry with a clean white towel. Never use a dirty towel to dry your face.
  • Sleep on a clean pillowcase. I turn my pillow each night so that I am always sleeping on the clean side of my pillow, and I change my pillowcase every third night.

It took me a long time to find this combination of products that actually works to clear my adult acne and reduce my redness. I do realize that at 29, it is also time for me to incorporate anti-aging products (among other things) into my daily routine and am working to make that happen.

If you have skincare you love, let me know in the comments below!


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