How to Clear up Your Complexion—and Keep It That Way

Body Wash
Claire Benoist

Acne and signs of aging are equally pesky and unpredictable.

Just as your complexion starts to clear, another wrinkle or pimple takes residence, and revives the all-too-familiar anguish from middle school. Sure, you expect to get a few wrinkles, but why does acne seem to persist into adulthood? And why do the dark spots and crow’s feet seem more and more prominent with each passing month?

Luckily, you can take control of your complexion, and can significantly minimize breakouts and aging alike. Better yet, you only need to instill a few habits into your daily routine in order to prevent them altogether, and to neutralize any existing indicators.

Here are five key methods to finally get clear skin, and how to keep it that way.

1. Stick to the baseline skincare regimen

Clear skin starts with the products you apply to the skin. This doesn’t have to be some crazy routine, but there are three products every guy should absolutely invest in: cleanser, exfoliant, and moisturizer.

A gentle cleanser, used at least twice daily—morning and night—will help remove the excess sebum in your skin. (We like this one from Anthony cosmetics.) Sebum is the oil that hydrates the skin, but it can also be overproduced and, in turn, block pores. Cleanser will also wash away dirt, grime, sweat, and toxins that have accumulated on the skin, minimizing the threat of clogged pores and breakouts.

Twice a week, you should follow a cleanser with a gentle exfoliant, like this one from Port Products, which will lift dead surface cells away from the skin. These cells will all too often block pores and prevent healthier, lively skin cells from showcasing themselves. When you hear the phrase “bright complexion,” it’s often because the person’s best skin is on full display. That sounds strange, but it’s true.

After you cleanse (and exfoliate, when applicable), immediately soothe and rehydrate your skin with a moisturizer. (Cleanser can often dry the skin, and exfoliants can stress it.) By day, use a moisturizer with sunscreen (like this moisturizer from Clinique) to protect against dark spots and prevent signs of aging while nourishing the skin. At night, use a denser, skin-rejuvenating cream (like this one from Baxter) before bed, which will accelerate and fortify the overnight regeneration of your skin cells.

2. Visit a dermatologist

Let’s say you follow a daily skincare regimen, but still have trouble with things like acne. It’s not a bad idea to call up a dermatologist, who can help pinpoint some topical or oral prescriptions that might help clear up your skin—and keep it clear.

Many dermatologists will suggest periodic oral antibiotics, like doxycycline, which help eliminate bacteria in the skin, which thus prevents breakouts. Similarly, your doctor may prescribe a topical retinol cream to be applied nightly before bed—just use it instead of your usual evening moisturizer. Retinol is a vitamin-A-packed topical cream that is proven to reverse and prevent signs of aging, as well as eliminate and prevent acne. Seriously: Retinol is most dermatologists’ preferred solution to long-term acne prevention and lasting skin health.

Either one of these prescriptions, or both, might not be for you. That’s why you should speak with your dermatologist to see which approach to clear skin is the best in your case, and get clear instructions on how to offset any side effects. Retinol, for instance, makes the skin sensitive to sunlight, and should be offset with a morning cleanse and SPF protection. And any antibiotics like doxycycline can kill good bacteria in addition to the bad, so you’ll likely want to follow any prescription regimen with a probiotic one; this will regenerate the digestion-stimulating, immunity-strengthening bacteria in your gut.

3. Eat and drink smart

If your skin routinely breaks out after eating certain kinds of food, like dairy or grains or sweets, then you may want to practice eliminating these foods systematically, to see if eschewing them leads to clearer skin. Don’t go diagnosing yourself as lactose intolerant—maybe just lay off the pizza and see if that changes things. (Consider eating these anti-aging superfoods that make you feel younger.)

There are a few universal rules to dieting, though, when it comes to clear complexion:

  • Caffeine and alcohol can both dry out the skin (and dehydrate the whole body). If you drink a lot of coffee or alcohol, you increase your chance of breakouts.
  • This sounds obvious, but hydrating your entire body is the best way to maintain hydrated, clear skin. We will say with certainty that this will help keep your complexion.
  • Sugary foods are the biggest offenders. Sugar spikes the hormones that produce sebum in the skin, which increases the odds of blocked pores. You probably know this, but avoid soda and try not to eat anything packed densely with sugar, like many cereals, candies, fruit juices, and processed foods.

4. Keep hygiene top-of-mind

Be certain to wash your skin and rehydrate it whenever you get too sweaty or oily. This is imperative following a workout, since the dried sweat can clog pores and prevent sebum from being excreted. It’s not bad to cleanse and moisturize more than twice a day, but it’s really only imperative when the skin is too oily and requires cleaning. You should also consider keeping a skin toner on hand to help regulate the oil production in the skin; this may prevent you from getting too oily in the first place. Use it after cleansing (and exfoliating, when applicable), but before moisturizing.

It’s also important to frequently wash pillowcases, given how much time your face spends pressed against them each night. Wash them once weekly, at least, and cleanse your face first thing in the morning to flush away any grime that may have accumulated overnight.

5. Try to reduce your stress

Changes in your testosterone levels will often increase sebum production in the skin, which, as you know by now, will also increase the odds of clogged pores. (This is why many guys on steroids get breakouts all over their face and backs.)

In the same way, you might notice that you are more acne-prone when you’ve experienced significant levels of stress. Try a few scientifically backed ways to reduce stress, or pay closer attention to your cleansing regimen during these periods. 

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