How To Treat Acne-Prone Skin, According To A Dermatologist

Dermatologists prescribe products to their patients all day long, but have you ever wondered which ones they personally use? Welcome to Derm Diaries, a series where dermatologists share their skin woes—and solutions—so you can steal secrets from their skincare routines.

I first came across Adeline Kikam, DO, a dermatologist based in Texas, when I stumbled across her Instagram page, @brownskinderm. She says she started it to ensure that skin of color was included in the conversation about beauty, skincare and dermatologic health from the perspective of a dermatologist.

“Growing up as a young black woman, I struggled so much with acne and the post inflammatory hyperpigmentation that came with persistent breakouts,” shares Dr. Kikam. “It was difficult to find skincare information that spoke to the unique characteristics of black skin, especially in major lifestyle magazines, which were the go to sources for most things beauty and skincare back in the day.”

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While she acknowledges that “a lot has changed in terms of improving access to skincare information for people of color,” she also shares that a lot of this information can also be misleading and not from a credible source, which is why she felt it was crucial for her to lend her voice and expertise. This content is imported from Instagram. 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.

Like so many dermatologists, it was Dr. Kikam’s own skincare struggles—particularly with acne—that inspired her to pursue dermatology. “For years, acne gradually eroded my self esteem, forcing me into a shell of myself growing up. I did not have access to dermatologic care so I mostly struggled with it on my own.” That’s why her mission today is simple: “I want to make people not only be the best representation of their self but, most importantly, I want them to genuinely feel confident, comfortable and un-apologetically beautiful in their skin and not defined by their skin diseases.”

The good news: Dr. Kikam’s acne has greatly improved since her teen years and luckily all of her training and knowledge has allowed her to create the best acne-fighting regimen “so I am always one step ahead of a break out,” she says. Her go-to method no matter your skin type: Cleanse, exfoliate, nourish, moisturize and protect. Keep scrolling for all of her favorite products.

brownskinderm products

Adeline Kikam

She uses a salicylic acid cleanser.

CeraVe’s SA Renewing SA Cleanser contains salicylic acid and is formulated to very gently lift dirt without stripping away moisture from the skin. It also has notable ingredients like ceramides to boost skin’s moisture barrier and niacinamide to calm skin and improve hyperpigmentation. The salicylic acid penetrates deep into pores to dissolve sebum (skin’s natural oil), and remove build up of dead skin cells. It’s great for oily, acne-prone skin.”

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser $4.40 SHOP NOW

She uses a very gentle cleanser when her skin gets sensitive.

“When my skin feels sensitive, I use Avène’s Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion a no rinse cleanser with minimal ingredients to calm and sooth skin.”

Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion $24.00 SHOP NOW

She uses micellar water to remove makeup.

“I love the no makeup look so I limit what I put on my face but on days I do wear makeup, I Iove taking it off with micellar water from La Roche Posay or Bioderma. I find micellar water to be a very gentle, non-abrasive way to remove makeup. You can use it for eye makeup removal as well.”

La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra for Sensitive Skin $15.99 SHOP NOW

Bioderma Sensibio H2O $14.90 SHOP NOW

She uses a hyaluronic acid serum for a moisture boost.

“I follow my cleansing step with serums to allow for better absorption into my bare skin. The weather is getting colder and dryer so hyaluronic acid, which holds over 1000 times its weight in water and draws moisture into skin, serums for much needed hydration is a must for me. I love Vichy’s Mineral 89 hyaluronic acid serum with trace minerals. It’s oil free, fast absorbing and lightweight. I tend to use interchangeably with La Roche Posay’s Hyalu B5, another one of my favorite hydrating serums. Hyalu B5 is available over the counter, very effective and extremely affordable.”

Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer $29.50 SHOP NOW

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum $29.99 SHOP NOW

She still uses cream moisturizers even though she’s acne-prone.

“When it comes to moisturizers and hydrating creams, Goodscience Beauty Hydrating cream is my go to brand. It contains fatty acids to improve skin barrier function. It locks in and prolongs the activity of hyaluronic acid in the cream.”

Good Science Beauty Hydrating Face Cream $68.00 SHOP NOW

“My other go to moisturizer is Bioderma’s Sensibio AR Cream. If you have sensitive skin or conditions such as rosacea, this cream is most definitely for you. It contains glycerin, a humectant that improves hydration to skin’s barrier, and calming ingredients like allantoin and canola.”

Bioderma Sensibio AR Cream $24.90 SHOP NOW

She relies on mineral sunscreens to not break her out.

“No skin care routine is complete without sun protection. I prefer physical sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide that provide broad spectrum coverage against sun’s harmful ultraviolet UVA/UVB rays. This is an absolute must when you have hyperpigmentation. However, as a brown skin person, physical sunscreens can be cosmetically unappealing, leaving the face with a dreaded white cast. But, there are some good options for brown skin people like me. I love Venus Williams’ broad spectrum 100 percent mineral On the Defense Sunscreen with SPF 30. Upon rubbing, it does not leave a whitish cast on darker skin types like some others do. It’s lightweight and fragrance free, which is great for all skin types especially those with sensitive skin types like rosacea, acne, eczema.”

EleVen by Venus Williams On-The-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 $42.00 SHOP NOW

“I also use Pipette’s 100% Broad Spectrum SPF 50. It’s a lightweight, moisturizing, non-sticky, and fast-absorbing sunscreen that is aesthetically pleasing on all skin including darker skin types. No whitish cast, just amazing UV protection. If you have dry and sensitive skin, I definitely recommend this brand. It has other wonderful ingredients like squalane to replenish moisture and antioxidants as well.”

Pipette Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 $16.50 SHOP NOW

“Another one in my collection is, Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Sunscreen SPF50. It’s also a non-greasy, lightweight sunscreen with iron oxide which protects against visible light, a major culprit in causing and worsening hyperpigmentation especially on darker skin types.”

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ $55.00 SHOP NOW

She exfoliates twice a week but only at night.

“My night time routine is where I use more concentrated exfoliating acid cleansers. I exfoliate one to two times a week with Biopelle’s 10% glycolic acid cleanser. The main ingredient is glycolic acid, a water-soluble alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which sloughs away dead skin cells for more radiant, even-toned skin. It also unclogs pores which is great for my acne-prone skin. For those who are not used to acids in their skin care, you will get stinging the first couple of times you use the product but it eventually stops as your skin adjusts to it. I’ll recommend it for those with acne and oily skin but not those with sensitive skin as they might find it too hash.”

Biopelle Exfoliate Gel Cleanser $29.70 SHOP NOW

She uses an antioxidant serum to brighten and protect.

“I am a big fan of topical vitamin C, a potent antioxidant in skincare which combats oxidative damage caused by free radicals induced by sun, environmental pollution, and aging. It is also effective at improving hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin types, by decreasing the overstimulation of melanin production. To Improve the appearance of dark spots, I use ISDIN Melaclear Brightening Serum. This powerful serum contains vitamin C and phytic acid.”

ISDIN Melaclear Dark Spot Correcting Serum with Vitamin C $82.00 SHOP NOW

“I also rotate this with Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Ampoule Anti-Aging Concentrate with 10% Pure Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, Phyto Peptides. It’s very accessible over the counter and affordable compared to most vitamin c serums for my patients.”

Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Ampoule Anti-Aging Concentrate $29.50 SHOP NOW

She relies on retinoids as a do-it-all must-have.

“To prevent recurrent acne breakouts and slow aging, retinoids are a vital part of my skin care routine. Retinoids are structural and functional derivatives of vitamin A. They promote cell turnover to keep pores unclogged and help stimulate collage production to fight fine lines and wrinkles. Of particular significance to those with darker skin like myself is the ability of retinoids to treat both acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. By increasing skin cell turnover, they facilitate melanin dispersion and improve hyperpigmentation.”

“I use a prescription retin A but some of my favorite over the counter ones are Obagi Retinol 1.0 and SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex. I use retinoids on alternate days I don’t use vitamin c to avoid over irritation.”

Obagi Retinol 1.0 $67.00 SHOP NOW

SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex 1.0 $78.00 SHOP NOW

She considers sleep a part of her skincare routine, too.

“The last step of a night time routine is definitely SLEEP: It’s important to give yourself enough time for this part because it’s when your skin’s cells regenerate the most with help from the wonderful ingredients you’ve nourished it with. Yes, beauty sleep is scientifically real so sleep away when you can!”

Source: Women’s Health