Starting A Basic Acne Routine:
How to incorporate new products

Reading time: 5 minutes

...Okay, but how do can you do that?

Skincare is a very personal subject matter if we think about it. 

What may work for someone you know doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, too.

That’s because our skin differs so much. 

So, what’s best for someone else won’t exactly be the best for you.

This brings us to a very important thing you need to know before you go choosing your three products:

Your skin type.

Know Your Skin Type

You might be wondering, “Can’t I just use products labeled as ‘for all skin types’?”

And yes, it would be great if it was that simple.

But the reality is that every skin type has its unique needs.

But don’t worry, it’s not that complicated to figure out your skin type.

There’s a super easy method you can use to find out what your skin type is. You can figure it out by asking yourself two questions: 

  1. Do my forehead and nose get shiny a few hours after washing? 
  2. Are my cheeks dry and tight? 

If you answer yes to both, you have combination skin

No to both means you have normal skin.

Yes to the first and no to the second means you have oily skin.

And finally, no to the first and yes to the second means you have dry skin.

These skin types may look so oversimplified, and in a sense they are.

But it’s a good reliable first step.

So, keep that in mind as we go over what to look for in choosing your basic products.

What to look for in choosing your basic products

Just a quick search on the net for the best cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen will definitely give you a wide selection to choose from.

So much so that it can get pretty hard to narrow down what to actually try.

To help you pick out the best products to begin with, here are what you need to look for in your basic products.


A cleanser’s job is to clean your face of all the grime you’ve accumulated throughout the day.

A good cleanser will do just that without damaging your skin.

So, what you want is a mild cleanser, which you can find by looking for the following:

1. Mild surfactants

Surfactants are the cleansing agents in cleansers. They’re the ingredients responsible for removing all the gunk off our skin. And as you can tell from the bullet, there are mild surfactants—which is what we want—and harsh surfactants.

Harsh surfactants for the skin include:

❌ sodium laurate
❌ sodium cocoate
❌ sodium tallowate
❌ and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)...

Which can be found in many soaps, usually intended for the body and not the face.

Mild surfactants we should be on the look-out for are:

✅  sodium laureth sulfate (SLES—often mistaken as harsh with its resemblance to SLS)
✅  cocoamidopropyl betaine (CAPB)
✅  sodium cocoyl isethionate
✅  alkyl sulfosuccinates
✅  and alkyl sarcosinates.

2. Low pH (less than 6)

Healthy skin is slightly acidic, varying between 4.5 and 6.5 pH.

This acid forms a protective oil barrier, keeping the skin moisturized and healthy.

With that said, we want to keep our skin in that slightly acidic state. That’s why we should look for a cleanser with a low pH—less than 6, to be specific.

Using anything higher can strip your skin of your natural oils, removing that protective oil barrier that keeps skin healthy.

3. Moisturizing ingredients

Mild cleansers often have moisturizing ingredients to replace some of the natural oils that inevitably get stripped off the skin. 

There are a lot of moisturizing Ingredients you can look for, but some of the more common ones include glycerin, squalene, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides.


We all know by now what the job of a moisturizer is. It’s—well, to moisturize! 

So, a good moisturizer should keep your skin nourished and prevent dryness. But how can you tell a moisturizer will be good at its job?

Well, a good moisturizer will have all of the following:

1. Occlusives

Occlusives are ingredients that serve to seal in water.

They’re in a moisturizer to make sure all the moisture you have stay put instead of evaporating off your skin.

Because they need to form a protective, sealing layer on your skin, occlusives tend to make moisturizers thicker and heavier. 

Examples of the most common occlusives include mineral oil, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), and silicones.

2. Emollients

The main job of emollients is to soften and smooth skin, which helps a lot in improving skin’s overall appearance. Emollients do this by filling in the cracks between skin cells.  

It may sound like emollients are doing a pretty simple job.

But along with that, they are soothing to the skin, too.

They do it by assisting the skin’s inflammatory response—reducing the redness and swelling you would have gotten otherwise.

Examples of emollients include oils, butters, waxes, ceramides, fatty acids, squalene.

💡 Many emollients can be occlusive to and vice versa. So, if you find that your skin can’t handle the thicker occlusives like mineral oil, going with emollients will work, too. 

3. Humectants

If occlusives seal in moisture, humectants attract moisture.

They do this by attracting water from the air into the skin.

You’ll find it hard to find a moisturizer that doesn’t have humectants. But what’s the use of locking in moisture if there’s little to no moisture to lock in first, right?

Examples of humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea.

Let’s recap a bit: occlusives seal in moisture, emollients make skin soft and smooth, and humectants attract water to the skin.

And yes, a good moisturizer will have all three.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

If you have dry skin, you’ll want a moisturizer with a lot more occlusives and emollients.

That’s to boost the oil in your skin and prevent moisture from evaporating. These types of moisturizer will be thicker and more solid-feeling. 

If you have oily skin, you can get away with a moisturizer that has little occlusives and emollients. Usually, a light, water-based moisturizer with humectants and some emollients can do the trick. 


Even if you diligently cleanse and moisturize, neglecting sunscreen, especially if you’ll be out and about, will put all your efforts to waste.

That’s because sun damage can really do a number on your skin. 

Not only does sun damage dry out and irritate your skin badly. It also causes visible photodamage (like fine lines) and skin cancer.

So, using sunscreen as part of your sun safety is very important. And with that said, let’s look at what makes a good sunscreen. 

1. Adequate UV protection

The other two things in this list are pretty subjective but not UV protection. When it comes to sunscreen, the protection you’ll get is top priority information. 

A good sunscreen should protect you from both UVB and UVA.  

For UVB, the protection level indicator is SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor. 

For UVA, it varies from country to country, but the most common indicators are the PPD rating (Persistent Pigment Darkening) and Protection Grade of UVA (PA)

You’ll know you’re getting adequate protection if the sunscreen is at least SPF 30+ (though it’s pretty easy to find SPF 50+ now) and PPD 8+ or PA+++.

2. Comfortable Finish

What “comfortable” is will definitely vary from person to person. 

But yes, you certainly need to be on the look-out for what finish a sunscreen has. So, you can be sure it’s something you’ll actually like to use every day. 

Matte finish sunscreens may be more appealing if you have oily skin.

Dewy finish sunscreens will fit dry skin better as it gives a little more moisture compared to the matte finish.

For a nice in between, skin-like finish sunscreens are becoming easier to find nowadays. It’s not too dewy and not too matte. It’s just like skin!

3. Sheer or White Cast

For so long, sunscreen and looking whiter and ashy are always thought to go hand in hand. But now, we actually have a choice if we want sunscreen that’s sheer or with white cast.

I think for most, a sheer sunscreen is undoubtedly preferable over one with a white cast. But of course, it’s completely up to you. Some prefer the tone-up effect white cast sunscreens give.

4. Safe for Sensitive Skin

If you don’t have any allergies or typically have resilient skin, you can skin this part altogether.

But for those that have sensitive skin or allergy-prone skin, you will want to stay away from some sunscreens that have these ingredients: avobenzone, octocrylene, oxybenzone, PABA, Padimate O, and enzacamene.

Ingredients you should avoid

Along with the things we should be looking for, some ingredients are better off avoided whenever possible.

These ingredients are potentially sensitizing. And trust me, for products you’ll be using daily, you wouldn’t want them to cause sensitization.

Sensitization is when you become permanently sensitive to certain ingredients because of constant contact with sensitizing ingredients.

When your skin comes into contact with sensitizing ingredients, it’s going to be very irritated—burning, redness, itching, and peeling.

So, be on the look-out for these ingredients when choosing your basic products:

  • Alcohol Denatured
  • Ammonia
  • Arnica
  • Artificial Colors
  • Balm mint
  • Balsam
  • Bergamot
  • Camphor
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus juices and oils
  • Clove
  • Clover blossom
  • Coriander
  • Essential oils
  • Eucalyptus
  • Eugenol
  • Fennel oil
  • Fir needle
  • Fragrance (natural or synthetic)
  • Geranium
  • Grapefruit
  • Horsetail
  • Hydroquinone
  • Isoeugenol
  • Lanolin
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Linalool
  • Melissa (lemon balm)
  • Menthol
  • Menthoxypropanediol
  • Menthyl lactate
  • Mineral Oil
  • Mint
  • Oak bark
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Parfum
  • Peppermint
  • Rose oil
  • Sandalwood oil
  • Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Witch hazel
  • Ylang-ylang

Next class: 

How to incorporate new products into your routine