Please help with my acne prone skin!

Dear Charlotte,

I’m a guy in my mid 20’s and I struggle with my skin. I have mild acne and some scarring. I don’t really know what to use and what I’m using doesn’t seem to be working very well. What can I do? Where do I start? I do use make-up but sometimes it doesn’t sit right on my skin and it can look cakey in places. What would you suggest I do.

Skin type: dry with an oily T-zone, mild breakouts and some scarring from previous breakouts.

Makeup usage: I use Maybeline concealer, L’Oreal foundation and some powder bronzer.


Skincare confused


Dear Skincare Confused,

Firstly, I think we all have a slightly warped perception of ourselves. Whereas you might think your acne and scarring needs coverage, you are always scrutinising your face from close up. Take a step back. Think about how you describe your friends. Would you describe them as you describe yourself?

Be kind to yourself.

Let’s start from the beginning. Be kind to your skin. If you’re wearing make-up and not cleansing your skin properly you are only going to worsen the situation. To have a good clean make-up look, that looks like skin, you have to start on a good canvas. So let’s concentrate on having great skin first.

Prepare: look at your makeup and skincare products and throw away anything that looks old and unhygienic. Throw away old sponges and beauty blenders. If it’s too expensive for you to replace your blenders or makeup sponges regularly (I wash my Real Technique’s blenders after each use and replace them frequently, or I use a disposable wedge non-latex sponge) then don’t use them. Use your fingers instead. The same goes for brushes. For myself, I use fingers for cream product application and I use brushes for powder products. And… PUT THE PHONE DOWN! Whilst you’re doing your wet product make-up application, be wary of bacteria. Wash your hands really well (think like a surgeon) and use clean hands to apply your skincare and foundation. If you go in and start touching your phone, you’re going to be introducing a lot of bacteria to your clean face…

Decant, don’t dip! Again because of hygiene I dislike creams and primers that you have to scoop product out of a pot. For this reason I prefer products that are in pump dispensers or droppers.

TIP: remove the sponge tipped applicators! If you’re using a concealer like Maybelline Instant Conceal Erase Concealer - take the sponge tip off. You can still dispense the product only now, it’s more hygienic to use!

Cleanliness is next to godliness! When it comes to skincare, you have to be clean. Remove your make-up properly and cleanse your skin again. So first remove all signs of makeup with makeup remover of choice, a bi-phase remover like NIVEA Eye Make-Up Remover Double Effect is good for waterproof eye makeup, so is the Lancôme Bi Facil Makeup Remover; for general makeup remover I’ve heard good things about The Body Shop Cammomile remover too. I’m enjoying using Clinique’s Take the Day Off.

After cleansing rinse your face or if you need just to refresh the face, you can use micellar water like BioDerma Sensibo or the light MUJI toning water. See what suits you best.

Then for acne prone skin I’d look for a product called salicylic acid. This you can dot on blemishes or use a small amount on oily areas of your face (avoiding eye area) after cleansing and before applying serum and moisturiser. When you start using this, or any other product with active ingredients, you should test for sensitivity for a few days first.

You also might want to use at night, instead of the Salicylic Acid, a serum with Tazarotene and/or Tretinoin. These are both “Retinoids”. Retinoids are a class of ingredients chemically related to vitamin A. Both these ingredients are effective and potent for treating acne. BUT you must research them and use them with caution. They will cause itchy, red, dry and flaky skin if you have a sensitivity and if you use too much too quickly! So if you want to try these please look them up. You can start by reading this article about The Difference Between Retin-A, Retinol, & Retinoid and watching this youtube video by Wayne Goss:

And read the information on the Dermatica website that makes and sells their monthly subscription to retionoid skincare for acne and acne scaring.

You can buy more easily a non prescription strength product called retinol. This might be a gentler way to start. In this case I recommend either Paula’s Choice or The Ordinary’s Retinol products.

If you’d rather use a serum instead of the Retinoid, you can try a serum with Vitamin C.

It’s a lot to remember but we are nearly there….

Now for moisturiser. In the daytime a moisturiser with minimum SPF 15. I use a SPF 50 for combination skin from Paula’s Choice because it doesn’t leave a white caste or sting my eyes. If you are on a tight budget I’ve heard good things about The Ordinary’s SPF 15 moisturiser (you have to work it into the skin to get rid of the white caste).

At night instead of the SPF moisturiser you could use a skin oil. Something healing like Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, or The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil could be good. Also adding a touch of either of these oils to your foundation might help them apply more smoothly to your skin in the daytime.

Now for the make-up… L'Oreal Paris True Match Foundation is a great foundation and if you are getting on well with it then stick to this. As I said you can try adding a drop of oil to it to see how you like this effect. You can use the foundation as it is on the t-Zone and with a touch of oil added on the drier areas of your face. Another foundation popular with people looking for a medium to full coverage foundation that works well for blemish prone skin is Clinique Anti Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup - This contains salicylic acid, so only use this on the T-Zone or if you have all over oily skin. Revlon Color Stay Foundation Combi/Oily has no salysilic acid so is good for all over cover. It lasts and lasts and can be difficult to remove. So make sure you cleanse well after use. If you have an oily t-zone come through after a few hours you may need to blot and touch up. A tissue that you peel apart can be used to blot or blot papers like the ones from MUJI.

You may find that you don’t need an additional concealer if you are using a full coverage foundation. On spots a creamy concealer might work better than a liquid one. Benefit Boi-ing Hydrating Concealer has moisturising properties, so is good for spot coverage and avoids that crusty look.

I hope some of this information helps! If you have any questions or comments, please write in the comments below or message me on Facebook or Instagram.

If I find anymore products or advice I will add it in here or in the comments at a later date.

Thanks for reading!


For the time being these links are not affiliate links or paid for advertising. If that changes I will update this notice. The products are all products I have used or been recommended myself. As with anything, please do you own research and always test new products for sensitivity before use. This is especially important for products with active ingredients!

Photo by VladimirFLoyd/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by VladimirFLoyd/iStock / Getty Images