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The Best Skin Care Routine for Acne: A How-to Guide

Geraldine Orentas

While acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, it sometimes feels very isolating,  affecting over 50 million Americans. Roughly 22% of women in the country struggle with acne, a much higher prevalence than for men (5%). While the right acne treatment will depend on various factors, your first line of defense is creating a skincare routine for acne that supports your skin in this tough battle. 

A quick Google search for “skincare routine for acne” gives you over 48 million search results -- we know that trying to find the best products to help your acne can feel somewhat overwhelming. 

But caring for your skin doesn’t need to be that confusing or complex. A simple skincare routine can work wonders and help keep your acne under control. So, if you’re ready to start building your acne-fighting skincare kit, keep reading. 

What’s Acne?

First things first, acne is a skin condition that causes inflammation and bumps on the skin. It can be the result of clogged pores and acne-causing bacteria disrupting the skin’s microbiome. The most common types of acne are whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and cysts. Each causes different pain points and responds differently to treatment, but all can be tamed. 

Causes and Prevention

Acne is often caused by propionic acnes, a bacteria that triggers inflammation and causes breakouts. But there can be many things that contribute to the onset of acne, including stress. At the source, clogged pores, excessive oil production, and harmful bacteria are the main suspects. Hormonal changes, genetics and reactions to ingredients can also contribute to acne formation. 

Figure Out Your Skin Type & Acne Type

Before you create your skincare routine for acne, you need to understand your skin type. People believe that only oily skin can struggle with acne, but dry skin can have acne too. To help you figure out your skin type, wash your face using a gentle face wash, wait about an hour and observe. 

  • Skin feels good and even: your skin type is normal.
  • Skin looks shiny and feels greasy: your skin type is oily.
  • Skin feels tight and has some flaky patches: your skin type is dry.
  • Skin looks red, itchy, or irritated: your skin type is sensitive. 
  • Skin looks dry in some areas and oily in others: your skin type is combination. 

Besides identifying your skin type, you want to learn the types of acne you could be suffering from. Keep in mind you can have one or more types of acne at the same time:

  • Inflammatory: this type of acne tends to cause inflammation as a result of harmful bacteria present in the pore. Papules, pustules, nodules and cysts are all types of inflammatory acne. 
  • Non-inflammatory: this type of acne doesn’t cause inflammation but instead causes open or closed comedones (clogged pores). Blackheads and whiteheads are your most common types of non-inflammatory acne. Hormonal acne is also non-inflammatory. 

How to Create a Skin Care Routine for Acne

Now that you’re more familiar with your skin type and the type of acne you need to fight, it’s easier to build a skincare routine that can keep your skin calm and hydrated while tackling problem areas. 

Morning Routine

Overnight, your skin is exposed to many elements that can lead to inflammation. Saliva, dead skin cells on your pillow, and synthetic fragrances from your laundry detergent are all rubbing on your skin while you sleep. A morning skincare routine helps you start the day with a fresh and clean face. 

1. Cleanse

Start your skincare for acne with a gentle cleanser. Regardless of your skin type, you want to use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils or disrupt its barrier. Opt for a facial cleanser with nourishing ingredients to gently lift dirt and excess oil from the skin and keep acne-causing bacteria under control.

2. Moisturize and treat

Regardless of your complexion, a moisturizer is vital to maintain moisture balance and keep the skin hydrated. Lipids or fats in the top layer of your skin help retain moisture and protect the skin’s microbiome. Look for non-comedogenic, lightweight treatment lotions to trap in moisture and protect your skin. 

3. Mist

We recommend using a facial mist next, specifically our AO+ Restorative Mist with live and active probiotics, to balance your microbiome. Our mist will protect and maintain your skin's health.

Evening Routine


We recommend repeating your morning routine in the evening, ensuring that all of your makeup, if you were wearing any, was removed as you cleansed. 


From time to time, you want to supplement your skincare routine for acne with boosters that can help you target specific troubled areas in your skin. Maybe once a week or every other week, you can try exfoliation or a face mask to treat your skin. 


Because your acne treatments are likely to speed up cell turnover, dead skin tends to accumulate on the surface. Gentle exfoliation can help remove the dead skin cells to leave room on the top layer of your skin for younger cells. Remember to be gentle when you exfoliate sensitive skin or acne-prone skin, too much rubbing or using harsh ingredients can make your breakouts worse. 

Face Masks

A well-formulated face mask with the right ingredients can be an excellent acne treatment. Many face masks contain clays and sulfurs to control oiliness while lifting impurities from the skin’s surface and reducing redness. Using a face mask once a week can help boost your other skincare efforts to promote healthier skin. 

Skin Care Tips for Acne

Acne skincare routines don’t end in the bathroom. The way you care for your skin throughout the day can make a difference in treating acne. To help prevent and minimize breakouts, keep these tips in mind: 

  • No picking. Bursting your pimples can spread harmful bacteria around your face and only worsen your acne. Try finding effective spot treatments to help. You can use Mother Dirt's Prebiotic Acne Lotion as a spot treatment.
  • Get non-comedogenic makeup. Certain cosmetics can worsen your acne by clogging your pores and helping acne-causing bacteria grow. Oil-free skincare products can help prevent excess oil.
  • Get some sleep. Lack of sleep can worsen acne by creating hormonal imbalances and triggering cortisol (stress hormones). 
  • Hydrate. Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to support your skin's health

The Takeaway

At first, creating your personalized skincare routine for acne can be intimidating. If you’re not sure how to start, consider getting a skincare kit first. 

Try The Difference Our Active Probiotic System Acne Treatment Kit, for example. It’s clinically tested and works as a system to clarify skin and help restore the microbiome. The active ingredient in our Prebiotic Acne Lotion can help treat acne while improving the clarity and texture of the skin. In a clinical study, 90% of participants agreed that the lotion improved their acne.

While acne can be an uphill battle to win, don’t let it define who you are. With the right skincare routine and the proper products by your side, acne will become a thing of the past sooner than you think. 

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The Difference Probiotic Acne Kit

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Prebiotic Balancing Mask

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