Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skin Treatments

How you can prevent acne with an effective (and simple) skincare routine

And it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3—cleanse, moisturize, and protect.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Even though it may sometimes seem like it pops up out of nowhere, acne doesn't happen overnight. Blemishes develop with time (although exactly how much time can vary). Following a good skincare routine is an important factor when it comes to preventing acne from happening in the first place. 

But if you've ever browsed the skincare products online or at the store, you know how overwhelming all the choices can be. Figuring out which ones will work best for your unique skin may seem impossible, but trust us, it’s not! It all starts with understanding how acne forms, what your skin type is, and what you need to complete your acne prevention skincare routine. Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know. (Spoiler alert: It’s much simpler than you might think!)

Acne in a nutshell

In short, acne happens when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil (sebum). Bacteria that normally live on the skin (C. acnes) thrive in this environment, which triggers an inflammatory response that leads to acne.¹ And it’s not just for teenagers—it happens to adults, too. Acne can occur for many reasons, including hormonal fluctuations (puberty, birth control, pregnancy, and hormone therapy), poor skincare, genetics, or the environment. If you think it only affects people with oily skin, think again. Acne can happen regardless of your skin type, and people with dry and combination skin can also experience breakouts. 

The good news is that whatever your skin type may be, lifestyle changes can help prevent acne from occurring (more on those in a bit). Knowing your skin type lets you select skincare products that may work better for your unique skin and can be the ticket for developing a skincare routine (for oily, acne-prone skin or any skin type) that works. 

Here’s the 411 on the different types of acne:

Noninflammatory acne 

  • Whiteheads (closed comedones): These are small clogged pores that appear as a white bump due to trapped dead skin cells and oil. A thin layer of skin covers the clogged pore. The combination of dead skin cells and sebum have a white appearance (hence the name).

  • Blackheads (open comedones): These are clogged pores in which the oil and dead skin cells are open to the air and become oxidized, which causes them to appear black.  

Inflammatory acne

  • Papules: These inflamed pimples that form near the skin's surface appear red and may be sensitive to the touch. They are usually less than five millimeters in size.

  • Pustules: Unlike papules, they’re filled with pus. They often have a yellow or white-colored center. 

  • Nodules: These are hard and often painful pimples that extend deeper in the skin and can lead to acne scars.

  • Cysts: Similar to nodules, these are under-the-skin bumps that may feel tender and can also lead to scarring. They are filled with pus. 

How to help prevent acne

There are many ways you can treat breakouts when they appear. Plus, there are steps you can take (easy ones, too!) to help prevent breakouts in the first place. Step one is figuring out an acne skincare routine and products that work for your skin type:

  • Cleanse daily. Cleansing is more than just splashing warm water on your face. Use a gentle acne-fighting cleanser to help keep your pores clear. Wash your face twice daily using ingredients that complement your topical acne treatment. 

  • Use a non-greasy or oil-free moisturizer. Even if you have oily skin, you should still moisturize most of the time. Choose a moisturizer free of fragrances and comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day. We recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen designed for acne-prone skin that’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. One study suggests that choosing a non-comedogenic sunscreen may increase the likelihood of regular sunscreen use in those with a history of acne.²

  • Apply a topical acne treatment at night. Most acne medications are applied at night (like the Custom Formula from Curology) because some can leave your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. Of course, follow the instructions of your licensed dermatologist or dermatology provider. 

  • Don’t squeeze, pop, pinch, or pick. Picking at your acne may seem tempting, but you risk unintentionally pushing more gunk and bacteria deeper into your skin, potentially leading to more pimples. It can also increase your skin’s chance of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or scarring. Instead, for particularly problematic spots, try a hydrocolloid bandage like Curology’s emergency spot patch, which is thin enough to disguise under makeup. 

Woman applying Curology Emergency Spot Patch To Pimple

Benefits of a good skincare routine

One potential benefit of following a good, consistent skincare regimen is having brighter, clearer skin. Regular cleansing helps remove excess oil and dead skin cells. That, in turn, helps prevent breakouts. A good routine also includes daily use of sunscreen, which helps protect you from signs of aging. But the perks don't stop there. A good skincare routine can also help:

  • Reduce the appearance of visible pores, wrinkles, and under-eye circles.

  • Protect your skin from developing hyperpigmentation (dark spots) due to sun damage.

  • Stimulate collagen production for a smoother-looking, even-textured appearance. 

  • Hydrate the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines. 

Again, your acne skincare routine doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be. And a skincare routine for acne-prone sensitive skin isn’t any different, although the products you use may vary depending on how sensitive your skin is. Three steps are all you need—with a slight variation between morning and night and the products you use:

Basic skincare routine for morning and night infographic

Here’s how to do it, step by step:

  1. Cleanse: Morning and night, gently wash your face using a cleanser designed for your skin type (avoid harsh scrubs!). Pat dry with a soft cloth. Look for cleansers labeled “hydrating” and “gentle,” and avoid pore-clogging ingredients like these.

  2. Moisturize: Morning and night, use a nourishing moisturizer formulated for your skin type. In the morning, apply your moisturizer after washing your face but before applying your SPF. At night, it's usually the last thing you apply. (If you're using a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher, you can save yourself a step in the AM!)

  3. Protect: In the morning, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. It’s best to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before leaving the house and reapply every two hours. Use the two-finger rule to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need. 

  4. Treat: Your nighttime routine may include a topical gel, lotion, or cream with active ingredients to help target your skin needs. Apply a thin layer of your treatment cream over your face and neck or as directed. Keep it simple because more is not necessarily better. Things like toners, serums, and masks are optional, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for your dermatology provider’s recommendations, or if you’re a Curology member, your personalized prescription formula. 

Remember, everyone’s skin reacts differently, so what works well for one person may not work for you. And a good skin routine doesn’t necessarily guarantee flawless skin. Skincare is a journey, so be consistent and don’t throw in the towel!

Curology skincare routine

Keeping things simple with Curology

Curology is all about making skincare as uncomplicated—but effective!—as possible. That’s why your personalized skincare routine comes with three simple steps and products with proven ingredients. We’re here to help take the guesswork out of skincare. Our licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

You can try Curology free for a month.* Just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling. You’ll be paired with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers, who will personalize a prescription formula for your unique skin and skincare concerns. They’ll also be there to answer any questions you may have throughout your skincare journey. 


How to help prevent acne?
  • Cleanse daily

  • Use a non-greasy or oil-free moisturizer

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day

  • Apply a topical acne treatment at night

  • Don’t squeeze, pop, pinch, or pick

What are the benefits of a good skincare routine?
  • Reduce the appearance of visible pores, wrinkles, and under-eye circles.

  • Protect your skin from developing hyperpigmentation (dark spots) due to sun damage.

  • Stimulate collagen production for a smoother-looking, even-textured appearance. 

  • Hydrate the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines. 

What are the types of acne?

Noninflammatory acne 

Inflammatory acne

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Zaenglein, A.L., et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2016 May 1). 

  2. Lazaro, C, et al. An advance in comprehensive “real world” assessment of both the comedogenicity and antigenicity of sunscreens in acne-prone consumers.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2013 April 1).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. Trial is 30 days.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

Related Articles

Skincare 101: What are blackheads?Skincare 101: What are whiteheads, and how do you treat them?Snail mucin for skin: What to know about this buzzy ingredientHow to choose the best moisturizer for acne-prone skinAsk an expert: What happens if you stop using tretinoin?

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyHow It WorksOur StoryCommunity
SupportBlogReviewsCareersContact Us
Follow @curology
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
All Rights Reserved © 2024 Curology