How to Get Clear, Smooth Skin

Your skin has a tough job to do—it protects everything inside your body from the germs, dirt, and harsh weather conditions that you encounter on a daily basis. No wonder it can get a little rough or irritated from time to time! To keep your skin as clear and smooth as you can, maintain a regular skincare routine and take basic steps to prevent skin damage. If your skin is especially prone to breakouts, your doctor or dermatologist may be able to help.


[Edit]Creating Facial Skincare Routine

  1. Pick a gentle cleanser made for your skin type. Skin can range from dry to oily and anywhere in between. When picking out a cleanser, choose one that matches your skin type so you can give your skin the right kind of TLC. It will say on the bottle whether it's for oily skin, dry skin, combination skin, or all skin types.[1]
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    • For example, if you have dry, sensitive skin, choose a moisturizing cleanser that’s free of dyes and perfumes. Avoid cleansers that contain harsh or drying ingredients, like alcohol or astringents.
    • If your skin is oily, look for a gentle soap-based cleanser that’s designed to remove dirt and oils from your skin.
    • If you’re prone to breakouts, choose a cleanser that contains acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.[2]
  2. Wash your face twice per day. During a regular day, all kinds of gross stuff can build up on your skin, clogging your pores and leading to irritation. To keep your skin happy and healthy, wash your face in the morning and at night. It's especially important to wash it at night, as you're removing bacteria, dirt, makeup or skincare products, and other contaminants that may have built up on your skin throughout the day.[3]
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    • It’s also important to wash your face any time you sweat, since sweating can irritate your skin and clog your pores.
    • Unless you’ve been sweating or your face is especially dirty, try to stick to washing your face no more than twice a day. Excessive washing can irritate your skin.
    • To avoid drying out and irritating your skin, wash with cool or lukewarm water and use your fingers to apply your cleanser. Always pat your face dry instead of rubbing it.
  3. Moisturize your skin after you wash it. Washing can dry out your face. Always apply a gentle moisturizer after you’ve cleaned your skin, while it’s still slightly damp. This will help you maintain a fresh and dewy glow, minimize fine lines, and prevent inflammation and breakouts. It's also a good idea to apply moisturizer before you put on makeup. Pick a moisturizer that’s free of dyes, perfumes, alcohol, and other harsh ingredients.[4]
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    • Look for “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores” on the label.
    • The sun can damage and prematurely age your skin, so put on a moisturizer with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 before going outside during the day.
  4. Exfoliate a few times a week to smooth and even your skin. Occasional exfoliation can even out your skin and reduce roughness and blemishes. However, exfoliating too often can be hard on your skin, so don’t get too carried away. Try using a gentle exfoliating treatment 2-3 times a week, and reduce the frequency if you experience breakouts, dryness, or irritation.[5]
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    • If you’re using any treatments for acne, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before trying exfoliation. It’s important to be gentle with your skin to avoid making any breakouts worse.
    • Many dermatologists recommend chemical exfoliants, since these are gentler on your skin than scrubs or other mechanical exfoliants. If you have dry skin, try a lactic acid peel. For oily or acne-prone skin, a salicylic acid exfoliant may be helpful.[6]
    • You can also gently exfoliate by lightly rubbing your face with a soft washcloth and lukewarm water. Use light, circular motions and avoid the sensitive areas around your eyes. Never scrub or press down hard, since this can irritate your skin!

[Edit]Treating Acne at Home

  1. Reduce pressure on your skin to minimize irritation and outbreaks. Any kind of pressure on your skin, especially on your face, can lead to an outbreak of pimples. Headphones and cell phones can cause outbreaks, as can hats. If your shirt is too tight at the neck, you may develop acne there. Similarly, a backpack can put pressure on your back, causing an acne outbreak. As much as possible, avoid wearing clothes or using items that might rub or irritate your skin in acne-prone areas.[7]
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    • For example, try putting your phone on speaker instead of holding it up to your head. You can also reduce pressure and irritation around your face and ears by using earbuds instead of large headphones.
    • If you tend to get breakouts on your neck, try wearing shirts with loose, breathable collars that don’t rub against your neck.
    • Wearing a backpack can contribute to acne breakouts on your back, so try using a handheld bag or carrying items in your arms sometimes instead.
  2. Keep your hands off your face to avoid introducing germs and dirt. It can be really hard to avoid touching your face. Unfortunately, though, playing with your face can introduce bacteria, which can get into your pores and lead to inflammation and breakouts.[8] If you tend to touch your face a lot, try to be mindful of it. Look for something else to do with your hands when the urge comes on, like playing with a stress ball or sticking your hands in your pockets.[9]
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    • Since avoiding face touches completely is nearly impossible for most people, the next best thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If your hands are clean, you’re less likely to get germs on your face next time you touch it!
  3. Wash acne-covered areas with a gentle cleanser twice a day. It’s already a good idea to wash your face twice a day, but it can also help to wash any area that has acne while you’re at it. Just use your hands, water, and a gentle cleanser. Wash your hair every day if you get acne on your scalp or along the hairline.[10]
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    • Avoid using scrubs or cleansers that contain harsh or drying ingredients, like alcohol or perfumes.
    • You may be tempted to scrub your face or try to dry out the acne with astringents (cleansers that break down oils), but irritating or drying your skin can make your acne worse.[11]
  4. Use oil-free skincare products to avoid clogging your pores. Pimples develop from clogged pores, so watch out for greasy or oily lotions and creams that can gunk up your face. When choosing products, look for ones that say “noncomedogenic,” “won’t clog pores,” “oil-free,” or “water-based,” as these products are less likely to clog your pores. If you wear makeup, make sure that’s noncomedogenic and oil-free too.[12]
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    • Even makeup that’s formulated not to clog your pores can cause breakouts if you leave it on too long. If you wear makeup, always wash it off before you go to bed.
  5. Minimize clogged pores with salicylic acid products. Salicylic acid is an over-the-counter acne medicine that you can get as a wash or a leave-on treatment. Look for a concentration of 0.5% to begin with, then work your way up to higher concentrations if that doesn’t work. If you're using a leave-on treatment, apply it to the areas where you have acne once a day and gently rub it in. If you're using a rinse or soap, create a lather and gently smooth it over the affected area with your fingers. Rinse it off thoroughly when you’re done.[13]
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    • Salicylic acid can irritate sensitive areas like your eyes, your mouth, and the inside of your nose. Be careful to avoid those areas when you’re applying the treatment.
  6. Kill bacteria and remove dead skin cells with benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide helps fight acne by killing bacteria on your skin’s surface and in your pores. It also removes dead skin cells and oil that can clog up your pores. Start with a concentration of 2.5%. Like salicylic acid, treatments come in rinses and leave-on creams.[14]
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    • Benzoyl peroxide can sometimes cause irritation, so test it out in 1 or 2 small areas of your skin for 3 days to see how you react to it. If it doesn’t cause any serious problems, try applying it over a larger area.[15]
  7. Use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for inflammation. AHAs remove dead skin that can clog up your pores and lead to breakouts. They also decrease inflammation and promote new skin growth. The combination can help give you smoother skin. Some common AHAs to look for are lactic acid and glycolic acid.[16]
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    • Lactic acid is a great option if you want to stick to natural treatments. It’s a gentle acid that’s derived from fermented milk.
    • Some people experience side effects such as swelling, burning, and itching while using AHAs, especially at higher concentrations. It may also increase your sensitivity to sunlight or cause hyperpigmentation (darkening or discoloration of the skin). Be careful and stick to lower concentrations until you know how these products will affect you.[17]
  8. Avoid popping or squeezing pimples to prevent scarring. It's definitely tempting to pop pimples. You may have even heard someone say you should. However, it's best to just leave your pimples alone. If you pop them, you could end up with scars instead. Also, if you pop a pimple, you are introducing bacteria to your face, which can cause more pimples and skin inflammation.[18]
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    • If you have a huge pimple that you need to get rid of in a hurry, talk to your doctor. They may be able to gently drain the pimple in their office or give you a steroid injection, which can quickly shrink a pimple.[19]
  9. Try natural treatments if chemical treatments are too harsh. Some natural treatments may be as effective as more conventional medications for treating mild acne. It's still a good idea to ask your doctor before trying one of these treatments, though, as they can interfere with other medications you're on. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about trying remedies such as:[20]
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    • A gel containing 5% tea tree oil. This essential oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help fight acne. It can cause irritation in some people, so test it in an inconspicuous area, like the back of your knee, before applying it to your face.
    • A cream with 5% bovine cartilage.
    • Lotions with 2% green tea extract.
    • Products containing 20% azelaic acid, which is an acid that naturally occurs in whole grains and some animal products.
    • Creams and lotions containing zinc.
    • Brewer’s yeast, which you can take as an oral supplement to decrease acne.

[Edit]Getting Medical Treatment for Acne

  1. Discuss prescription topical drugs with your doctor. If home remedies and over-the-counter medicines aren’t giving you the results you want, don’t worry! Your doctor or dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications that may help. Talk to your doctor about trying a prescription topical treatment, such as a cream, lotion, or gel that you can apply directly to your acne.[21]
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    • Your doctor may prescribe a retinoid cream, such as Retin-A. Retinoids are a form of vitamin A that fight acne by preventing clogged pores and hair follicles. You may need to start by using the product 3 times a week, then work your way up to once a day.
    • Other prescription topical treatments include antibiotic creams with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, prescription-strength azelaic acid, or dapsone 5% gel (an antibiotic that also has anti-inflammatory properties).
  2. Inquire about prescription oral drugs if your acne is severe. Oral drugs are medications that you take by mouth, so they work systematically (throughout your entire body) rather than directly on your skin. Before trying one of these medications, give your doctor a full list of any medications you are currently taking and tell them about any medical conditions you might have. This will help them choose a safe medication for you.[22]
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    • Some common options include oral antibiotics (usually combined with topical medications, like benzoyl peroxide creams or retinoids) and medications that regulate your hormones, such as birth control pills or spironolactone.
    • One of the most effective oral medications for acne is isotretinoin. However, while it’s very good at fighting acne, it can also cause serious side effects, such as ulcerative colitis and severe depression. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits. Never take isotretinoin if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, since it can cause birth defects.
  3. Look into chemical peels to help even out your skin. Dermatologists and estheticians use chemical peels to help remove certain types of acne. Blackheads and papules are the main forms that benefit from this treatment, and it may result in smoother skin for you. Chemical peels can also help reduce the appearance of acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, and discolored areas on your skin. Ask your skin care specialist if this option is a good one for you.[23]
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    • Ask your doctor or skin care specialist how to care for your skin before and after the peel. Your skin may be red, sensitive, or inflamed for a while after the treatment.
    • Let your doctor know before the procedure if you’re using any other treatments, such as retinoids, which could cause serious irritation if you combine them with a chemical peel.[24]
  4. Ask about laser and light treatments to minimize scars. If you have scars from acne, laser treatments can help soften them and reduce their appearance.[25] Ask your doctor or dermatologist if this is a good option for you.
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    • Since some people experience breakouts after a laser treatment, your doctor may recommend combining the laser treatment with a course of antibiotics.
    • Other options for minimizing scars include using injected skin fillers, getting a professional exfoliation procedure (such as microdermabrasion or a chemical peel), or having surgery to repair severe scars.[26]

[Edit]Keeping Your Skin Healthy

  1. Skip long, hot showers and baths to avoid drying your skin. Lingering in a hot shower or bath can feel nice, but the hot water will eventually strip your skin of its natural oils. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and even breakouts. Stick to warm water only, and limit the amount of time you're in the shower.[27]
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    • Shorter showers are also more environmentally friendly than long ones!
  2. Protect your skin from the sun to prevent damage and slow aging. The sun can damage your skin over time, making it age faster. To protect your skin, use a daily sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Avoid the sun, particularly during the hottest part of the day, which is usually around 10am-4pm. If you have to go outdoors during the middle of the day, wear clothing that covers your skin, including a hat, sunglasses, pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.[28]
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    • If you’re swimming or sweating a lot, reapply your sunscreen frequently. Even water-resistant sunscreens will wash or rub off after a while!
  3. Stay hydrated to keep your skin moisturized. Drinking water is essential for your body to function well, and that includes your skin. If you're dehydrated, your skin will also dry out. Drink enough water so that you don't feel thirsty, which is usually enough to keep your body and skin hydrated.[29]
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    • Aim to drink at least of water each day if you’re a man, and if you’re a woman. You may need to drink more if it’s really hot out or you’ve been exercising.
    • You can also hydrate by drinking other fluids, like broths, juices, smoothies, or caffeine-free teas. Eating juicy fruits and vegetables also counts!
  4. Nurture your skin by eating omega-3 fatty acids. Your skin needs good fats to stay healthy and keep that natural glow.[30] Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are particularly good for nourishment. Add foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, soybean oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and tofu to your diet to improve your skin.
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    • You can also get omega-3 fatty acids in the form of a supplement, such as fish oil capsules.
  5. Do stress-relieving activities to minimize breakouts. Stress can cause you to break out more often. To decrease your stress levels, try yoga, exercise, or meditation. You can also try cutting back on things that cause you stress. For instance, if you get stressed out by the news, try limiting your intake to 30 minutes a day.[31]
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    • One quick trick is taking a moment each day for deep breathing. Close your eyes and focus solely on your breathing. Breathe in to the count of 4, and hold it for 4 counts. Breathe out to the count of 4. Keep focusing on your breathing for a few minutes to help let go of your stress.
    • Exercising, working on hobbies you enjoy, listening to relaxing music, and spending time with friends and family are also great ways to relieve stress!



  • Change your sheets and pillowcases regularly, as these things can harbor dirt, oil, and bacteria.


  • You may be allergic to some of the chemicals in skincare products, so be sure to test new products on the inside of your wrist before putting them on your face.


[Edit]Quick Summary


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