How To Get Clear Skin, According to Dermatologists: 33 Tested Tips

While it *feels* like pimples are out to ruin your day, the truth is that acne is natural, and almost everyone experiences breakouts in their life. Acne has many causes; some that you can control, like washing your face and changing your pillowcase, and some that you can't, like genetics and hormonal fluctuations. That's why it's important to understand what causes breakouts so you can treat them.

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

To help wave goodbye to acne for good, we've gathered the best clear skin tips from Dr. Melissa K. Levin, an NYC-based dermatologist and founder of Entiere Dermatology, and Dr. Nazanin Saedi, a Philadelphia-based dermatologist and clinical associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University. From sneaky things that might be causing you to break out to the best acne products that really work, here's everything you need to know about how to get clear skin – fast.

Always wash your face before bed

We don't care how tired you are, you are NOT allowed to sleep in your makeup. Trust us, your future, pimple-free skin will thank you. Wash your face for 30 to 45 seconds every night with a nickel-sized amount of face wash.

More From Seventeen

Oh, and by the way, there's actually a chance that you're washing your face all wrong. Watch this video from dermatologist Liv Kraemer to learn all the ins and outs of proper face-washing:

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

How to wash your face properly to avoid acne- by Dr. Liv Watch on

Don't skip the moisturizer

If your skin is oily, you might be tempted to go without your morning moisturizer, but drying out your skin can actually make acne worse. It's important to pick the right moisturizer, so it doesn't worsen breakouts or cause your skin to become more oily.

Dr. Levin advises picking a daily lotion that will absorb any excess shine–like , the formula contains Micropearl technology to absorb surface oil for a matte finish.

Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with Sunscreen - Broad-Spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with Sunscreen - Broad-Spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 $12 at Walmart

Wash off ALL your cleanser

Leftover cleanser equals leftover dirt and oil. Rinse with tepid water (hot water dries out your skin and cold water closes your pores) until skin feels clean and smooth and no longer slippery or soapy. Here's a helpful guide to cleanser for any and EVERY kind of breakout.

Be gentle on your skin

Scrubbing too hard leaves skin rough and red. Don't fight with your face. Skip harsh scrubs and even washcloths, which can be too rough on your face and can cause irritation, which in turn, can make you more susceptible to breakouts. If you use your hands, be sure they're clean, or you'll transfer acne-causing dirt and oil right back onto your face.

Don't skip your morning wash

Hairstyling products get absorbed by your pillowcase and then transfer to your skin — if these remnants are not cleared away in the am, they'll clog your pores. For your before-school wash, try something brightening that'll help wake up your skin. A cooling face wash can help you feel and look alive. Test out the . It literally cools your skin as it cleans.

Suds up your cleanser in your hands first

Bubbles offer more than a fun face-washing experience. Suds actually helps to activate the pimple-fighting ingredients within the cleanser. A quick suds makes them more effective when applied to your face.

You need to clean your phone, too

If you're seeing pimples on your cheeks or anywhere near the area where you hold your phone, it may be a result of grime on your phone. Since it's always in your hand, your phone picks up lots of bacteria, which can then get transferred to your face when you press the device to your face to make a phone call. Wipe your screen with an antibacterial wipe often to get rid of germs.

Stop touching your face

Resting your chin on your hand when you're sitting in class might be the reason for those blemishes on your cheek or jaw. You're constantly touching things that have germs and bacteria — anything from your phone to your locker — so, putting your hands on your face transfers all of that right onto your skin.

Shower after exercise or heavy sweating

As sweat and natural oils collect on your skin during a workout, getting trapped in your athletic gear, bacteria can form and create skin inflammation and breakouts. To prevent this from happening, you'll want to shower right after you hit the gym or any time you break a serious sweat.

"If you don’t have time to shower, keep a stash of salicylic acid wipes in your bag to wipe off your back, your chest, and your face," Dr. Saedi says.

Exfoliate regularly

The trick is to remove the layers of dead skin cells and dirt that are blocking your pores — and your skin's natural glow. Products with alpha-hydroxy and lactic acids exfoliate gently to make you look radiant.

Don't over-wash

"People think that it is helpful to get their skin clear and you can prevent acne. When you over-wash your face you're actually stripping too much of the natural oil from your skin. Your body starts to overcompensate, and you can get oilier skin and you can irritate your acne!" Dr. Saedi says.

If your skin still feels oily, instead of washing again (which can make your skin produce even more oil), try an after cleansing.

Wash, then exfoliate

When washing, first use a mild face wash to cleanse your skin. Then, lightly massage a chemical exfoliator, like an acid-laced cleanser, onto your face. This may seem redundant, but before you slough, you want a clean canvas, so that the exfoliant can focus on digging out the stubborn dirt and oil that are stuck deeper inside your pores.

For a great double-duty exfoliator, opt for Peter Thomas Roth's Acne Face & Body Scrub. It's an ultra-gentle yet effective acne scrub that cleanses, treats, and exfoliates the face and body with one percent salicylic acid.

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Face & Body Scrub Peter Thomas Roth Acne Face & Body Scrub $40 at

Change your pillowcase

Not changing your bedding enough can also cause your skin to break out. Even if you wash your face every night, your pillowcases carry dirt and sweat from your hair, hands, and build-up from the products you use on your face at night. It's a good idea to change it every few days.

Beware of bangs

All that extra hairspray on your bangs could be the cause of those annoying pimples on your forehead and along your hairline. After applying hair products, swipe a cleansing wipe across your face, and try to keep hair products away from your hairline. In addition to your face, hair products can cause bacne, too. Use a mild body wash (or an acne body wash) after washing and rinsing hair to help keep body acne in check.

Try the 3-step solution

If you have acne, dermatologists recommend fighting it with a three-step regimen: a salicylic acid cleanser, a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, and a daily moisturizer.

Salicylic acid unclogs pores and helps exfoliate to make dead skin cells fall away faster. It's good for mild cases of acne and is available without a prescription. Many drugstore acne creams, washes, and gels contain salicylic acid, but stronger formulas are also available in prescription form. It can dry up your skin and cause redness and peeling.

Benzoyl peroxide works by fighting the bacteria that causes acne. It has an exfoliating effect that might cause some slight peeling and can dry out your skin. It's great for mild cases of acne, and you can get it without a prescription — many drugstore acne washes, creams, and gels contain benzoyl peroxide. Prescription creams that contain higher doses of benzoyl peroxides can also be prescribed by a doctor for more severe cases.

Ask your doctor about cortisone injections

If you wake up the day before prom with a big honking zit, your doc may be able to help. If you can swing it, Dr. Levin says your best bet is to head to the dermatologist for a cortisone injection.

It's quick, with minimal discomfort, and will zap your zit almost immediately. This isn't an easy or cheap option, obviously, but when it's an emergency — like, you have a huge whitehead on the tip of your nose the day before senior portraits — it might be worth it.

Cut down your skincare routine

Too many products can irritate and too many steps may tempt you to skip caring for your skin altogether. When it comes to your skin, more is definitely NOT more. In other words, trying a bunch of different remedies at once won't boost your chances of making the zit disappear — more likely, it'll just wreak havoc on your skin and turn a teeny-tiny pimple into a red, blotchy mess.


Popping can cause infections, making the situation worse. Instead, dab a sulfur treatment on problem areas morning and night. It brings down swelling until your zit disappears.

Related Story The Correct Way to Pop a Pimple

Be careful not to dry out your skin

Benzoyl peroxide products are great at fighting pimples, but can be drying to your skin, so only use them once a day at most. Salicylic acid (in creams, gels, astringents, or masks) is less drying than benzoyl peroxide, so it may be a more gentle option if benzoyl peroxide isn't working for you.

Cover that bad boy up

Yep, we're talking about pimple patches. "If you're unable to get into a dermatologist for a cortisone injection then I recommend specialized hydrocolloid acne patch called which is a 24 freeze-dried micro darts bandage that self dissolves over two hours to deliver acne-fighting ingredients," explained Dr. Levin.

"It contains oligopeptide-76, a new anti-inflammatory ingredient that's like a gentler benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, niacinamide (which helps with anti-redness), and moisturizing hyaluronic acid," Dr. Levin said.

The editor-favorite healing dots are also a great option, with the formula's salicylic acid working to penetrate pores and clear up clogging, retinol exfoliating the skin, and aloe vera gently soothing the pimple's redness.

Peace Out Acne Healing Dots Peace Out Acne Healing Dots $19 at

Try a face wash with Benzoyl Peroxide

If you tend to break out on the reg, avoid flare-ups by using a benzoyl peroxide face wash, or by applying a thin layer of a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to your whole face before bed. Dr. Levin recommends for a cleanse that's soft on skin, but hits acne hard.

Differin Daily Deep Cleanser BPO 5% Differin Daily Deep Cleanser BPO 5% $15 at Ulta Beauty

"I love this gentle yet effective benzoyl peroxide facial cleanser (for the face and body)," she told Seventeen. "Benzoyl peroxide effectively treats inflammatory acne because it reduces the factors that can cause inflammation – the overload of P. Acnes bacteria."

Do NOT use toothpaste as a spot treatment

This "trick" of getting rid of a stubborn pimple ends right here, right now. Toothpaste is formulated for your teeth, not the delicate surface of your face. So, while the ingredients and strength of chemicals in toothpaste are safe to use on your pearly whites, they are most likely way too strong for your skin. Fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, and flavoring agents all found in a toothpaste tube "can cause a lot of irritation" and "potentially make your acne worse," says Dr. Saedi.

Wash your makeup brushes

Make sure to wash your makeup brushes regularly with brush cleanser or baby shampoo. If you use makeup sponges, wash those too. These tools can accumulate bacteria, which can lead to breakouts. Dirty brushes can make the most expensive skincare routines go to waste.

Here's how to properly wash your face brushes.

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.


Be consistent with your treatment

If you want great skin, care for it each day. Sporadic care won't do it. And don't expect any overnight miracles. It takes time for skin-clearing ingredients to kick in. "If you have acne-prone skin or an active breakout, it can take 6-8 weeks to see a noticeable improvement and 3-4 months to clear things up completely," Dr. Saedi says.

Starting a skincare routine now will give you plenty of time for your skin to adjust by the time your prom, graduation, or the start of school comes around.

Ask your doctor about laser treatments

If your over-the-counter acne treatments aren't cutting in, it may be time to ask your doctor about laser treatment. Laser technology can help clear skin by A) reducing sebum (aka naturally produced oils that can clog pores) B) getting rid of inflammation from small blood vessels and C) destroying acne-causing bacteria on the face.

"Aerolase is a device that has been shown to be effective for active acne and to help with acne blemishes. Patients need about four to six treatments in monthly intervals," Dr. Saedi says.

"The newest laser treatment, AviClear, [is] specifically designed to target acne. It uses a new energy wavelength that specifically targets the sebaceous gland — the oil-making gland," she adds, "It is the only FDA-cleared device to treat acne."

Get lots of sleep

Re-watching Stranger Things until 3 am is not healthy for you or your skin. Not sleeping enough can make your hormones get out of whack and raise your body's stress levels, which can make you break out. Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep to look and feel your best.

Wear sunscreen (yes, even indoors)

Sunscreen isn't just for summer — your skin needs protection every day, even in winter (and even indoors). There are now sunscreens for every skin type imaginable — even ones that help make your skin less oily, so your face stays matte and pimple-free.

Look for sunscreen or daily moisturizer with SPF that says it's "lightweight," "oil-free," or "oil-controlling." For the highest level, look for a PA++ rating; it covers both UVA and UVB rays, so you're guarded against everything from burns to future wrinkles.

If you're looking for a foundation that does triple duty (offers great coverage, has SPF protection, and treats your acne), Dr. Levin has found the perfect one. " [is a] great oil-free matte foundation that combines hyaluronic acid and tea tree oil with SPF 40 for sun protection," she says.

Avoid sharing makeup products, applicators, and brushes with your friends

While acne isn't contagious, you can wind up giving yourself pimples if you use a product that has touched someone else's skin. "Acne-causing bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells from other people can wind up [getting into] your makeup," Dr. Saedi says. It can be transferred onto your skin, enter your pores, and cause a breakout.

Look into birth control

Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone have been shown to lower the levels of androgens in your body (a group of hormones that causes your body to produce sebum; excess sebum triggers acne) and therefore, are sometimes prescribed to help treat hormonal acne.

Related Story What Type of Birth Control is Best for Acne?

It can take a few months to see results and initially your acne may get worse. There are risks associated with taking birth control pills, and some types can actually make your acne worse. Talk to your doctor to see if taking birth control pills will help the kind of acne you have.

Carry oil-absorbing sheets in your bag

Use them to blot away any shine that pops up while you're out and about. This will help to keep oil from sitting on your skin and clogging your pores.

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Facial Blotting Sheets Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Facial Blotting Sheets $8 at Amazon

Ask your doc about antibiotics

If over-the-counter treatments aren't cutting it, consult a dermatologist. Oral antibiotics are often used for moderate to severe acne, especially on the back or chest, and kill bacteria in your skin pores. The most commonly used ones are tetracycline and erythromycin.

Like all antibiotics, they can cause yeast infections as well as more severe side effects and can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. They can also cause increased sun sensitivity, so you'll need to be extra careful when going outside and use SPF daily.

For more extreme cases, your doctor may suggest Isotretinoin (Accutane), which is used in moderate to severe cases of acne when nothing else works but can have more extreme side effects.

Always pat your face dry

It seems like such a tiny thing, but skin is very delicate – especially on your face. Gently pat it dry after cleansing, instead of harshly rubbing.

Dermatologists are there to help

At-home treatment not working? See a dermatologist. A few appointments to set up a regimen, plus, check-ins every three to six months may get you in the clear.

Kristin Koch Editor in Chief Kristin Koch is the Editor in Chief of Seventeen, overseeing the content and editorial operations for all of Seventeen's digital and print efforts. Before coming to Seventeen, Koch held editor positions at Glamour, Vanity Fair, and The Knot. In 2016, she founded lifestyle blog, Closetful of Clothes, where she covers everything from style and interiors to travel. A Chicago native, Koch graduated from Colgate University with a degree in History. She loves pizza, rom-coms and HGTV.

How to Maintain Healthy Skin After 50

As we get older, our priorities change—but some stay the same. If you’re anything like us, having glowing, healthy-looking skin will always be at the top of the list. While some celebrities tout the pros of cosmetic procedures (Kelly Ripa says Botox is “like magic”), there are plenty that speak out against plastic surgery. Whichever side of the scalpal your opinions lie, there are ways to get naturally glowing skin over 50 that don’t involve going under the knife.

For starters, some simple additions to your skincare routine can actually make a big difference. To learn how you can achieve your best mature complexion, we consulted several experts including dermatologists Janiene Luke, M.D. and Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., and Haus Labs by Lady Gaga Global Artistry Director, Sarah Tanno to get insider tips.

From preventative measures to the best serums to try, get glowing with our expert recs.

Wear sunscreen every day—not just at the beach.

Chances are you’ve heard this sage piece of advice before, but we can’t stress enough how much consistent sunscreen use can transform your skin. Sun exposure is one of the leading causes of dull skin, and sunscreen is one of the best tools at our disposal to help keep that dullness at bay. “Sunscreen is important to help prevent dullness as it works to prevent the signs of aging that come with cumulative sun exposure, including dullness and discoloration,” Dr. Garshick says.

In addition to wearing sunscreen every day, try to keep your sun exposure to a minimum by remaining indoors during peak sun hours (between 10 and 2 and wearing long sleeves, pants, and hats to block the sun when you do spend time outdoors.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

Dry, flaky skin can make your complexion look dull no matter your age. But as you get older your skin produces less sebum (oil), making a good moisturizer an absolute must in your skincare routine. If your old moisturizer is no longer doing the trick, swap it out for a thicker formula.

Not only will the right moisturizer make your skin look and feel amazing, but it will also prep your face for a flawless makeup application—because the only thing worse than dull skin is lackluster skin covered in cakey makeup.

“I prefer to prep the skin using a heavy cream like or the classic both are ultra-rich and hydrating and preps the skin perfectly for makeup. If you’re looking for something more affordable, I also like ,” Tanno says.

Try retinol.

Retinol is a Holy Grail ingredient for all skin types and ages, but it is particularly amazing for anyone over 50. The powerhouse can be found in over-the-counter and prescription formulas and can help improve the overall appearance of aging skin.

“Retinol is an ingredient that promotes collagen production and enhances cell turnover. Retinol (and more specifically tretinoin, the prescription version that has been extensively studied and proven to have anti-aging benefits) is effective in improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increasing collagen production, and improving skin texture to reveal a more radiant complexion,” Dr. Luke explains.

Brighten with vitamin C.

If you’re looking to brighten your complexion, you need to incorporate a vitamin C product into your routine. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin by neutralizing the free radicals it encounters every day. “Free radicals can cause changes in our DNA and activate certain enzymes that are responsible for breaking down the collagen in our skin,” Dr. Luke explains. “Applying vitamin C to the skin can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, help boost collagen, and has some brightening properties in that it decreases and prevents abnormal pigment production.”

Schedule a professional treatment.

You may not want to go under the knife, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rely on professional treatments to help you achieve glowing skin. There are several in-office treatments you can get at your dermatologist’s office that can help skin look and feel better than ever. Both doctors agreed that chemical peels and lasers are some of the best options for glowing skin.

“Chemical peels are a great way to achieve glowing skin since they can help accelerate the skin cells’ turnover,” Dr. Luke explains. “Resurfacing lasers and microneedling (devices) are additional treatments that can help achieve glowing skin again by stimulating collagen production and removing the epidermis, or top layer of skin, revealing newer, more radiant skin.”

Take care of your body.

The skin is the largest organ on the body, which means if you want your skin to look and feel its best, you need your body to look and feel its best. Luckily the keys to a happy healthy body are almost universal no matter your age. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, if you smoke kick the habit, eat lots of whole foods, and get plenty of rest.

Start early.

When it comes to youthful-looking skin, prevention is really the name of the game. “It is important to start early and not wait for skin changes to occur,” Doctor Garshick says. Whether you’ve already celebrated your 50th birthday or the milestone is right around the corner, it’s never too soon to adopt healthy skincare habits.

In 2022, we’re rethinking how we view middle age. Now 40 to 50, middle age (in theory) is older than ever before—and everyone’s choosing their own path as we live longer lives. Gone are the days of hiding grays, being cagey about your feelings around Botox (one way or another), or believing bikinis are solely reserved for the 20-something crowd (just ask Elizabeth Hurley). In 2022, people are stepping up in middle age, and they’re proud of it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience, either. We asked psychologists, dermatologists, makeup artists, and more to help us paint a picture of middle age (in all its glory)—including how we view middle age, what we still want to learn about middle age, and how to take care of ourselves in middle age, too.

Related Story What Is Middle Age?

The 25 Best Skin Care Tips for Your 50s

Updated September, 2021

There are so many factors, both internal and external, that affect our skin as we age. With the right lifestyle choices and skincare tricks, you can keep your skin looking healthy for years to come.

Check out these tips to learn how to have great skin in your 50s and beyond.

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

Leave a Comment