I’m a 24-year-old who struggles with acne and scarring. A dermatologist told me stop using bar soap and toner on my face.



Fiona Clair skincare routine

Fiona Clair/Insider

Fiona Clair is a Lifestyle and Entertainment Associate Editor at Insider who volunteered to get her skincare routine reviewed by our panel of experts for Insider’s Skin Clinic series.

Her biggest concerns are acne, acne scars, large pores, and aging.

Dr. Julie Russak, an NYC-based dermatologist, told Insider what products Fiona should ditch and which ones she should keep to address her skincare needs.

Fiona should switch her face wash for something that contains AHAs or BHAs

Fiona starts her morning by splashing her face with water, misting her skin with Thayer’s rose witch hazel toner, and topping it it off with Pacifica Sea & C face serum with SPF.

When she gets home, Fiona washes her face with Dove bar soap or a tea tree and charcoal facial bar, and then spot treats scars with diluted tea tree oil or generic drug store benzoyl peroxide cream. After, she exfoliates with a homemade rolled oats scrub and moisturizes with pure argan oil.

If her skin needs a little more moisture, Fiona uses Yay for Earth sensitive skin face lotion.

To start, Russak said Fiona should wash her face in the morning and also swap her Dove soap cleanser for something more gentle.

“Charcoal is good, it collects and absorbs toxins that are accumulated during the day,” Russak said. “Dove bar soap for the face is too much, plus the fragrance in it can be an irritant.”

Washing her face in the morning and at night with a cleanser that contains mild acids like alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy-acids (BHAs) can balance the skin’s oil production and reduce the amount of sebum and dirt getting clogged in Fiona’s pores.

She should cut out the argan oil and toner to help relieve her acne

Russak said Fiona can cut out her toner entirely, as toners often contain drying ingredients.

“I am not a big fan of toners, I think it’s an extra wasted step in a skincare routine,” Russak said. “If you have free time and want to pamper yourself, sure, but there is no real value in it.”

Another product Fiona can get rid of is her argan oil. While it is a hydrating product, it can cause problems for people with acne and lead to more clogged pores.

“Argan oil is a good product as long as it’s pure and does not have any additives, but it might not be the best if you have active acne,” Russak said.

Fiona should add in a retinol, a product with vitamin C, and a stronger SPF

Because one of Fiona’s biggest skincare concerns is aging, Russak strongly recommends adding in a retinol to her daily routine.

“Retinol is FDA approved for fine lines and wrinkles because it helps improve cellular turnover,” Russak said. “This treats many skin concerns, including acne and acne scarring as it helps to smooth out the surface of the skin and promote new healthy skin cells.”

To give the skin an even brighter and ageless appearance, Russak said Fiona can look for a serum that contains vitamin C, an ingredient commonly used for scarring.

Finally, Fiona should use sunscreen independent of her moisturizer, as it is not strong enough to protect her skin from the sun.

“During the less sunny days a moisturizer with SPF is okay, however during the summer it is too weak,” Russak said.

Overall, Fiona’s routine is in the correct order, she just needs to switch out a few products for ones with ingredients that directly address her concerns.

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