101 Things to Try for Clearer Skin

Rachel Krause

The pursuit of clear, healthy skin never really ends. Our skin’s condition is cyclical, which means that what looks like perfect skin one week can be a total wreck the next. That’s exactly why we’ll never surrender in the fight against blemishes… nor will we have to, with these 101 (yes, 101) tried-and-true ways to get clearer skin. We bet you’ll find something amazing in here.

The Commandments

1. Give your skin a break. If you can bear to go without foundation or concealer for a few days, whether it’s the weekend or you’re on vacation, do it! It isn’t a myth that you need to give your skin a chance to detox and “breathe.”

2. Never go to bed with your makeup on. Like, ever. If that means keeping a pack of face wipes on your bedside table in the event of late nights, then by all means, go for it. Face wipes won’t get the job done quite as well as a real cleansing routine, but it’s a vast improvement from sleeping in your makeup.

3. Change your pillowcases. Think about it: When you toss and turn at night, your pillow picks up all kinds of oil and debris from your hair and skin, which you’re then exposing to your skin again. Changing your pillowcases or washing them regularly is the only way to keep them clean, and therefore from leaving bacteria on your skin.

4. Wipe down your phone. Don’t lie, we’ve all pulled our phone away from our face after a long call only to find a smear of foundation (and god knows what else) left behind. Using an antibacterial wipe with alcohol will help to keep your skin clear of breakouts on the side of your face which, let’s face it, are often directly caused by our phones.

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-55. Clean your makeup brushes. Seriously, at least once every two weeks. As with anything else that touches your face, makeup brushes pick up acne-causing bacteria over time, so give them a good wash with a gentle soap at least biweekly.

6. Exercise regularly. It’s not only important for your overall health (no surprise there), but all of the side benefits, from sweating regularly to increasing blood flow, will help to achieve clearer skin overall.

7. Drink water like it’s your job. Hydration is so crucial, especially when it comes to digestion and how well your skin functions. Drinking tons of water isn’t a miracle cure for your skin, but honestly, we think it may very well be the next best thing.

8. Get enough sleep. Beauty sleep is very real, and your skin needs time to rest, regenerate and heal overnight, which means three or four hours just won’t cut it. There are plenty of ways to improve the quality of your sleep as well, even if you’re already getting your standard eight hours.

9. Don’t pick, pop, or squeeze. Seriously. Don’t. Sit on your hands if you’re feeling tempted. Messing with pimples and pores results in skin damage, inflammation, and irritation, not better skin. If you have a whitehead that’s ready to go, use two Q-tips to gently squeeze around the area—your fingers will only leave bacteria behind and increase the chance of infection.

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-1010. Stop touching your face. Avoid leaning on your hands at your desk or touching a zit that you can feel coming to the surface. Again, the oils on your hands are full of blemish-causing bacteria, and nothing good can come from putting that all over your face.

11. Wash your hair before you wash your face. It’s one super-simple change to your showering routine that can make a world of difference by reducing your skin’s exposure to potentially pore-clogging ingredients found in conditioners.

12. Wear sunscreen. Seriously. Don’t just wait until summertime—wearing SPF every day will keep your skin looking younger longer, and will prevent sun spots and scars from developing.

13. Wash your face before and after exercising. Don’t underestimate the importance of the before wash! Makeup and debris that’s gathered on your face over the day, commingled with sweat, is a one-way ticket to more blemishes than you bargained for. Wash the day (or the night) off before you hit the gym, then give a quick, less intensive rinse after.

14. Quit smoking. If there’s one thing on this list that you take to heart, ditch the cigarettes (Diane Kruger says so). Even if you’re laissez-faire about your health (which you shouldn’t be!), consider the vanity concerns. Smoking guarantees wrinkles, dryness, and premature aging, not to mention the clogged pores from, you know, the toxins in your body and on your skin.

15. Clean your glasses and sunglasses. Anything that comes in contact with your face should be cleaned regularly. Be sure to wipe down the bridge and frames of glasses and sunglasses after wear so that you don’t transfer the lingering bacteria to your skin once you put them on again.

16. Toss out your makeup and skin care after the expiration date. It’s tempting to keep unfinished products long past their expiry when they’re nowhere near empty, but the heartbreaking truth is that, most of the time, it’s best just to trash them to ensure your products haven’t been exposed to bacteria.

17. Mind your ingredients, and do your research! There are countless ingredients that can be damaging to skin and cause breakouts that fly under the radar—and, alarmingly, can even be found in products that are touted as “anti-acne.” Know what works for your skin and what doesn’t, and avoid known comedogenic ingredients.

18. Relax and destress. Stress is one of the primary causes of health concerns overall, acne very much included. Destressing is far easier said than done, but it’s important to find a solid source of relaxation, whether it’s a long bath or a long treadmill session.

19. Don’t wait until bedtime to wash your face. Washing your face once in the morning and once before you hit the sack at night may seem like the right thing to do, and it isn’t necessarily the wrong thing, but it’s better to wash your face as soon as you get home so that the day’s grime doesn’t linger any longer than necessary.

20. Wash your bangs every day. Or literally as soon as they start to get greasy. An eyebrow-grazing fringe is one of the biggest culprits of forehead breakouts, so be sure to give them a good shampooing as often as needed to keep dirt and oil away from your skin.

21. Use lukewarm water. Too hot and you’ll risk dryness and irritation, too cold and you’ll risk broken blood vessels (and you won’t be able to lather anything, ever). Find the right middle ground, then use a slightly cooler temperature for a final rinse to close pores.

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-2222. Exfoliate regularly, but don’t overdo it. Exfoliating really is important, but because skin feels so smooth after, it can be easy to get hooked on the feeling and get a little crazy with the scrub. If you have sensitive skin, limit your exfoliation to once a week; if not, you can probably get away with two or three times a week. (And be sure to find the right scrub for your skin!)

23. Be proactive. Just because you don’t have a breakout doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be applying your topical treatments and taking care of your skin with regularity. The best way to fight breakouts is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, and the only way to do that is by staying on top of things.

24. See your gynecologist. Hormones play a huge role in certain types of acne, and if you’re breaking out like you’ve never broken out before, it’s time to call your doctor. It’s normal to get more zits before and during your period, but if you tend to get your worst breakouts around your chin and cheek area, a visit to your gynecologist should be your first stop.

25. If nothing helps, go to a dermatologist. It may sound obvious, but if you’ve tried a ton of over-the-counter products and treatments, seeing a derm could give you the answers—and prescriptions—you really need.

Diet and Health

26. Eat plenty of leafy greens. They’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals that help to keep your skin glowing and your entire body in check. Also? Salads are delicious!

27. Steer clear of sugar. Cutting back on sweets, particularly foods and candies full of added sugar, reduces the inflammation caused when your blood sugar spikes. Glucose also weakens the skin’s collagen, resulting in drier, less supple-looking skin. Are M&Ms really worth it?

28. Avoid dairy. Milk is yet another inflammatory ingredient, and the hormones in cow’s milk are absorbed into the blood stream and can affect your androgens, worsening your acne. If you’re a cheese or ice cream lover, it may be a tough pill to swallow, but with so many delicious alternatives like coconut and almond milk on the market, limiting your dairy consumption should be a little bit easier.

29. Reduce your alcohol intake. Again, the sugars in alcoholic beverages wreak havoc on your skin, and if you’ve ever found yourself desperately parched the morning after, then you can only imagine how dehydrated your skin is, too.

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-3030. Load up on omega-3s. Plenty of “good fats” are the perfect foundation for any diet, and they work absolute wonders on skin by helping to maintain hydration and minimize the body’s inflammatory response.

31. Take a probiotic supplement. Gut bacteria and pH balance are key for maintaining good skin health, because the more good bacteria you have, the less “bad” bacteria has a chance to grow. Acne often occurs as a result of the “bad” bacteria in our intestinal tracts outnumbering the good, so probiotics do a great job of curbing breakouts caused by digestive imbalances.

32. Try prebiotics, too. Cover all the bases by adding probiotics to your diet, too. They’re a special form of dietary fiber, sourced from plants, that act as a sort of “fertilizer” to encourage the growth of good bacteria already contained in your digestive system.

33. Sweat. A lot. You’ll sure feel dirty, but when you sweat, your pores actually open to release bacteria and grime. Just be sure to wash your face afterward to keep all that stuff from lingering on the surface.

34. Eat avocados. If we must. They’re rich in fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, and they’re super versatile when it comes to incorporating them into meals and recipes. They even make a great snack eaten plain with a bit of salt or red pepper, and we shouldn’t even have to mention the fact that they’re responsible for guacamole.

35. Eat tomatoes, too. The high water content makes them naturally hydrating, and their lycopene content helps to fight sun damage on a cellular level while encouraging the skin’s absorption of oxygen.

36. Include spices in your recipes. Many of them contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties—you may be surprised by just how good that Indian food actually is for you.

37. Try turmeric. If you’re going to add any one spice to your cabinet, make it this one. Its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiseptic qualities make it the “wonder spice” to try for clearer, glowier skin. You can even use it as a topical treatment in DIY recipes.

38. Fill up on berries. Antioxidants are the word, and all berries from standard blueberries to fancy acai and goji are incredibly beneficial—you don’t have to shell out big bucks at a health food store to reap the benefits of super-fruits.

39. Eat whole grains. Skip the processed white bread and opt instead for seven-grain varieties, which are packed with fiber to promote a healthy body overall. They’re also rich in B vitamins, which help to speed along the growth of new skin cells—exactly what you want for your skin!

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-4040. Drink tea. Green tea, rooibos tea, chamomile tea—they’re all fair game, and they’re especially good if you tend to get bored of water throughout the day, as they’re flavorful and nutritious.

41. Try lemon water. Hydration is an obvious priority, but paired with vitamin C-rich lemon, water will help to fight bad bacteria in a whole new way. You’d think that citrus fruits would increase the body’s acidity, but it’s actually the opposite—lemon works to balance pH levels and reduce acidity. They’re also a natural diuretic, so they promote faster processing and removal of toxins.

42. Eat dark chocolate. Once rumored to be a factor behind acne, chocolate is actually antioxidant-rich and totally skin-safe, provided you’re consuming the real stuff and not the sugar-laden milky version.

43. Chow down on nuts. They’re a major source of fatty acids, so feel free to snack on walnuts and almonds throughout the day with zero guilt.

44. Drink red wine. It’s full of polyphenols, which help to prevent the sort of accelerated cell damage that ages the skin. Pairing your favorite red with a topical benzoyl peroxide treatment can even help to make irritation and sensitivity from topical acne-fighting creams less likely to occur.

45. Avoid high glycemic foods. They’ve been shown to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin spikes, both of which result in serious skin inflammation.

46. Work pumpkin into your diet—particularly the seeds. They’re high in fatty acids and vitamin E, as well as zinc, which helps to control hormone levels and oil production.

47. Make fish your main source of animal protein. Chicken and steak come with their own host of issues, like the question of hormone changes, but it’s harder to go wrong with fish, which is an amazing source of essential fatty acids.

48. Eat more eggs. They’re full of amino acids, which work to generate protein within your skin cells and strengthen the skin’s tissue.

49. Check your medicine cabinet. If you’re on any kind of prescription medication, do some research to see if it could be a hidden cause of breakouts. Many medications have acne and chapped lips as listed side-effects, while it may be rare but known in others. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re in doubt.

101-Things-For-Clearer-Skin-5050. Keep it clean. Try to eat as many “real” foods as possible, rather than opting for fast-food, processed food and ready-made meals; fill your diet with fruits, veggies, and whole grains instead. Delicious and beneficial!

Ingredients to Try

51. A retinoid. These vitamin A derivatives unclog pores and speed up the process of cell turnover. Prescription strength is best, but there are excellent department store versions, too.

52. Oatmeal. Applied topically, it soothes and helps to gently scrub away dead skin cells without the irritation.

53. Citric acids. They promote skin peeling and regrowth, which helps to reveal newer, brighter skin cells. Radiant skin, here we come!

54. Alpha hydroxy acids. They break down dead, damaged skin cells and help to clear the skin with gentle exfoliation.

55. Honey. Winnie the Pooh was onto something! It’s one of the most underrated DIY skin care ingredients—hydrating, antiseptic, and all-natural, just slather it on your face for the all-encompassing homemade treatment of your dreams.

56. Aspirin. It makes sense—aspirin reduces inflammation in your body, so applied topically, it does the same for your skin. Its active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid, a compound almost exactly like the one found in OTC acne treatments. Crush several tablets and mix in with water or a tablespoon of honey for a cheap, effective at-home treatment.

57. Yogurt. The bacterial fermentation results in lactic acid, which helps to kill bacteria and cleanse the skin from deep within the pores. Slather it on your face as a mask (mix with honey for best results!) and reap the gently exfoliating benefits.

58. Tea tree oil. Often used as an antiseptic, tea tree oil can be drying, so be sure to only use it as a targeted spot treatment on blemishes. Still, it’s less harsh than benzoyl peroxide, and results in less itching and irritation.

59. Sulfur. It may smell a bit unpleasant, but it works like a charm to draw oil out of the pores and inhibit growth of the bacteria that causes acne.

60. Apple cider vinegar. Applied topically, the malic acid that naturally occurs in ACV during the fermentation process works as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral treatment that balances the skin’s pH balance and production of sebum.

61. African black soap. Don’t underestimate this affordable, easily accessible, unsuspecting bar of soap. The all-natural ingredients used as the traditional base for the treatment have been used for centuries to treat a multitude of skin ailments as a sort of “miracle cure”—and it may, indeed, seem like a miracle.

62. Egg whites. The same source of protein that composes your omelette can be slathered on the face to cleanse the skin by lifting dirt and debris and absorbing excess oil. Who knew?

63. Azelaic acid. Found in numerous over-the-counter treatments, as well as prescription lotions and creams, azelaic acid is the wonder drug for nipping blemishes in the bud before they even start. It slays bacteria that infects pores and decreases production of keratin, which can lead to acne development.

64. Benzoyl peroxide. The classic favorite can be found in plenty of products all over the spectrum, from the affordable to the luxurious, and though it can be quite drying, it is a supremely effective way to rid skin of most breakouts.

65. Kojic acid. Relatively little-known on the skin care scene, kojic acid is key in reducing the likelihood of developing dark spots and scarring post-acne. We’ll take it!

66. Salicylic acid. Another beloved, easy-to-find acne treatment, salicylic acid works by encouraging the shedding of the top layers of the skin, taking the blemish with it. Because it’s also an anti-irritant, it’s less likely to aggravate sensitive skin than most other over-the-counter treatments.

67. Jojoba and other oils. Somewhat counterintuitively, skin-friendly oils mimic the skin’s natural oils, thereby regulating the skin’s oil production. You made need to work to find the right oil combination for you, though, so don’t stress if you don’t get it right immediately!

68. Kaolin. This clay works like a magnet to draw impurities from pores, even on super sensitive skin.

69. Aloe. If aloe isn’t a cure-all, then we don’t know what is. The plant helps to facilitate healing (perfect if you’ve picked at your skin) and reduce inflammation while decreasing the potential for scarring.

70. Garlic. With its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, garlic kills the very type of bacteria that causes acne, but isn’t recommended for very sensitive skin as it can result in a burning sensation.

Product Suggestions

71. Go gentle. Try switching from a foaming cleanser to something more gentle (yet effective), like Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser. It’ll help your skin maintain balance rather than drying it out, especially if you’re using potent acne-fighting topical treatments.

72. Avoid alcohol. Products containing alcohol, particularly toners, might actually be making your skin worse. That “tight,” squeaky-clean sensation you feel after using an astringent is actually super drying and can result in excess oil production. Try a natural witch hazel and rosewater toner instead, like the classic Thayers Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera in Rose Petal.

73. Don’t neglect the rest of your body! Use a body wash containing salicylic acid, like Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub, to fight acne elsewhere on the body. Hey, it happens to everyone—stop it when it does!

74. Think overnight. For particularly large or irritated bumps, use an overnight drying treatment like the cult favorite Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. It’ll reduce inflammation and minimize redness by morning.

75. Be clever with cover-up. Use a blemish-fighting concealer like Almay Clear Complexion Concealer to treat zits while you’re hiding them. It’s a win-win.

76. Visit the drugstore. For an affordable over-the-counter option that really works, you can’t go wrong with Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 Maximum Strength. It’ll target blemishes and stop them in their tracks before they even get a chance to show.

77. Get a great mask. If clogged pores and blackheads are an issue for you, invest in a pore-clearing clay mask that’ll really suck the debris out—we love Origins Clear Improvement, which we can personally attest actually works to draw out impurities.

78. Look at the ingredients. Avoid products containing pore-clogging ingredients like mineral oil, which creates the “feeling” of smooth, moisturized skin but works by trapping the moisture into your skin… and everything else along with it. Opt instead for more natural ingredients, like those in Korres Greek Yoghurt Moisturizing Face Cream

79. Rethink your foundation. Literally. Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream is perfect for those who suffer from moderate to severe acne—it won’t irritate or clog pores, so it’s a super safe way to completely conceal and even out your skin tone without having to worry about potential problems.

80. Fight with pads. If blemish-fighting pads make you think of the super astringent, stinging versions of yore, it’s time to reconsider. Try a gentler, higher-end version, like Dr. Dennis Gross One Step Acne Eliminating Pads, which target every kind of acne (hormonal, stress-related, genetic).

81. Prepare the canvas. Wearing an anti-acne gel under your moisturizer can help you keep things clear throughout the day—this way you won’t remove your regular makeup only to find a lunar landscape that wasn’t there before. We can’t recommend Kate Somerville HydraClear Hydrating Acne Gel enough—it provides a light moisturizer and fights breakouts, so it’s basically perfect in every way.

82. Invest in your tools. A gentle cleansing tool can be just the thing you need to really deep clean your skin to make your topical products more effective. We’re partial to the Foreo LUNA for Sensitive/Normal Skin, a low-frequency pulsating brush that delivers the gentlest yet most efficient exfoliation we’ve ever experienced.

83. Invest in a serious multi-tasker. With salicylic acid, retinyl linoleate, and micro-exfoliating LHA, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Daily Renovating Acne Treatment leaves no acne-fighting stone unturned. Furthermore, the lightweight, creamy texture even feels good going on.

84. Cover your bases with a major mask. If you want a treatment mask that does it all, Suki Transformative Purifying Masque has the answer to all your problems. Whether it’s simply clogged pores or cystic blemishes that are plaguing you, this mask uses salicylic acid and kaolin clay (which you remember from earlier!) to extract impurities and reduce the appearance of breakouts while balancing pH, sebum, and bacteria.

85. Get steamy. A hot cloth followed by rich cleanser not only feels great on the skin, but the combination of warm steam and a creamy deep cleansing formula is super-effective for ridding the skin of grime and removing makeup in one swipe. Our favorite is Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish—the cleanser’s texture is perfect, and the eucalyptus scent is beyond soothing.

86. Up your serum game. Moisturizing is incredibly important, but if you have oily skin, then it’s easy to feel like many standard moisturizers are slick on your face. Ew. A lightweight hydrating serum like Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum can take the place of moisturizer in your twice-daily routine to help your skin maintain moisture without heaviness.

Celebrity Anti-Acne Secrets

87. Blake Lively swears by Patricia Wexler Dual Action Foaming Cleanser, which she says “completely cleared up [her] skin.”

88. Emma Stone, on the other hand, prefers Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser for keeping her extremely sensitive skin clear.

89. Jennifer Aniston has been using the Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Bar Original Formula since high school. She says, “I’ve been using this orange bar since high school. My philosophy is ‘the simpler, the better.'”

90. Scarlett Johansson uses apple cider vinegar to wash her face. “If your skin is problematic or you’re having a lot of breakouts. It’s really healing,” she says.

91. Kristen Stewart confessed that she loves Proactiv for her oily, acne-prone skin.

92. Sienna Miller and Rachel Weisz both trust New York City dermatologist David Colbert, M.D., with their skin, while the rest of us can invest in his eponymous line of skin care products.

93. Gisele Bündchen‘s go-to for conquering a terrible zit is Nelsons Homeopathic Organic Acne Gel.

94. AnnaLynne McCord, who is open about her struggles with chronic acne, follows up her Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser with prescription BenzaClin to keep her skin clear.

95. Lauren Conrad is also a fan of Proactiv, saying, “I’ve been using it off and on for the past few years, but when I get lazy and stop, I totally break out.”

96. Gwyneth Paltrow is a follower of Dr. Nicholas Perricone, whose products you can purchase both online and in stores.

97. Miranda Kerr loves oxygen facials, like those offered by Joanna Vargas.

98. Anna Paquin sees L.A.-based facials Kate Somerville for regular treatments, but you can purchase Somerville’s products to get her life-changing results at home.

99. Cameron Diaz uses a lancer to knick her pimples, then applies Neosporin and Visine to reduce the redness and swelling.

100. Microdermabrasion is the key to Naomi Campbell‘s secret ageless skin, according to her facialist, Christine Chin.

101. Brace yourselves: Kate Hudson dunks her face in an ice bath to tighten pores and revive her glow when she’s feeling lackluster.

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