How to get clear skin: 13 tips, products, and tools

last updated: Oct 13, 2021

5 min read

Many people find it challenging to maintain clear skin. The methods that are right for your skin may be different from someone else’s because of varying skin types, environment, lifestyle, and genetics. 

Still, there are some habits known to be better for your skin and promote clear skin. Keep reading to learn 13 tips to help get clear skin.

Healthier skin

Custom Rx treatment for your skin type and skin goals

1. Use the right face wash for your skin

There are many different types of face cleansers available, and trying to find the right cleanser for your skin can feel overwhelming. Research suggests most people believe their acne is caused by improper cleaning and turn to self-treatments using harsh cleansers (Levin, 2016). 

However, harsh cleansers may contribute to increased skin irritation and aggravate acne. It was previously believed vigorous cleansing helped remove excess oil, but it may actually contribute to excess oil production, dryness, and irritation (Mukhopadhyay, 2011).

It’s recommended to wash with warm water and a mild cleanser designed for acne-prone skin that doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight after washing. Sometimes a dermatologist will recommend a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide to help clear skin because it helps kill bacteria and remove excess skin cells and sebum (oil).

2. Use a cleansing brush

A gentle cleansing device helps wash the skin and gently exfoliate without being too rough on the skin. Washcloths, towels, loofahs, and some sponges may be too coarse for your skin, leading to damage and irritation. 

Instead, consider a silicone face brush which has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment option (Gold, 2019). Additionally, some types of silicone brushes are antibacterial, meaning they are less likely to be colonized by bacteria that can cause breakouts. 

3. Wash your face every night

Washing your face once or twice a day is important for maintaining clean skin. It’s vital to wash your face in the evening after exposure to makeup, dirt, oil, and air pollution (Gold, 2019). 

Research suggests the number of times per day you should be cleansing is somewhat individual (Mukhopadhyay, 2011). So consider testing periods of cleansing once daily and twice daily to see how your results vary.

4. Don’t irritate your skin

While pimple popping videos may be popular, that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing you can do for your skin. You should save extractions and the removal of pimples for professionals who use sterile instruments. Picking at your skin and popping pimples can actually make your skin worse and lead to scars. 

Try to limit the time you spend touching your face, especially if you haven’t washed your hands recently, since this can increase your chances of introducing bacteria to your skin, causing acne.

5. Try retinoids

Retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A and are often recommended to help with acne. Some forms like tretinoin require a prescription from a dermatologist to use because of its strength. There are other types of lower strength retinol available over the counter to add to your skincare routine. 

Retinoids may increase collagen production and skin cell turnover. Benefits include improved acne, reduced acne scarring, and improvements in fine lines and wrinkles (Chien, 2018).

Tretinoin Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

6. Exfoliate your skin

Exfoliating your skin helps to remove dead skin cells, debris, and other buildup that could end up clogging your pores. When these sit on your skin for too long, they may end up blocking pores leading to breakouts. They also can make skin look dull, flaky, and patchy. 

Consider using gentle exfoliants to help remove dead skin cells, such as:

Start by using a gentle exfoliant and only use it once or twice each week. If it’s too strong, your skin isn’t used to chemical exfoliants, or you’re over-exfoliating, it could cause redness and irritation.

Exfoliants are available in scrubs, toners, serums, and other treatments. 

7. Wear sunscreen

Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen is an essential skincare practice to protect the skin from sun damage. Sun damage can cause the skin to age more rapidly and could also lead to skin cancer. It’s extra important for people undergoing acne treatments to wear sunscreen because many of the products used to treat acne increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun damage. It’s recommended to wear at least an SPF 30 sunblock. 

8. Eat a healthy diet

Research suggests too much sugar is linked with worsening acne symptoms. There may be a mild link between dairy and acne symptoms (Kucharska, 2016). The impact between diet and acne is still not fully clear. Still, a healthy diet supports your overall health and wellness.

9. Try blue light therapy

Light therapy uses different light wave frequencies to help the skin. Blue light has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects to help calm the skin (Pei, 2015). There are some at-home light therapy treatments available, or you can try an in-office treatment.  

10. Clean makeup brushes regularly

Your makeup brushes and sponges can become the home for a lot of bacteria that cause breakouts. Be sure to wash makeup brushes at least once a week or keep multiple brushes to alternate use between washes. 

Using clean makeup brushes prevents the spread of bacteria that could be stopping your acne from clearing up.

11. Get enough sleep

The exact relationship between sleep quality and acne is poorly understood. Still, there is some evidence to suggest poor sleep quality increases the chances of blemishes. 

Prioritizing your sleep helps to promote better skin and your overall well-being.

12. Stay hydrated

Carrying a water bottle with you may help your skin appear clearer. Research suggests drinking water helps hydrate the skin and reduces the signs of dry skin (Akdeniz, 2018). Drinking water throughout the day may help keep skin cells healthier and improve their appearance.

13. Use a moisturizer

Regardless of your skin type, you can benefit from using the right type of moisturizer on your face after cleansing. There’s a common misconception that people with oily skin should avoid adding moisture to their skin. But keeping your skin hydrated helps to control excess oil (sebum) and protects the skin. 

The right moisturizer will vary based on your skin’s needs. Dryer skin may benefit from a thicker cream, while oily skin may benefit from a lightweight, oil-free moisturizing gel.

When choosing the right moisturizer for your skin, look for:

  • Non-comedogenic products, meaning they are less likely to clog pores causing blemishes and blackheads

  • Oil-free products if you have oily skin

  • Fragrance-free products, since fragrances can cause irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin

See a dermatologist or esthetician

Sometimes it helps to get an expert opinion on your skin’s needs. A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in skin, hair, and nail conditions. An esthetician is a professional who specializes in skincare treatments. 

If you’re struggling with your skin, it can be a good idea to make an appointment with one or both types of professionals. A dermatologist can diagnose skin conditions and treat medical conditions. An esthetician can help support your acne treatment through facials, extractions, and treatments to help maintain clear skin. You don’t have to struggle alone with your skin concerns. Getting a professional opinion on your skin and skincare routine helps you determine the best care for your skin.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

  • Akdeniz, M., Tomova-Simitchieva, T., Dobos, G., Blume-Peytavi, U., & Kottner, J. (2018). Does dietary fluid intake affect skin hydration in healthy humans? a systematic literature review. Skin Research And Technology: Official Journal Of International Society for Bioengineering and the Skin , 24 (3), 459–465. doi: 10.1111/srt.12454. Retrieved from

  • Chien, A. (2018). Retinoids in acne management: review of current understanding, future considerations, and focus on topical treatments. Journal Of Drugs In Dermatology , 17 (12), s51–s55. Retrieved from

  • Gold, M., Ablon, G., Andriessen, A., Goldberg, D., Hooper, D., & Mandy, S. (2019). Facial cleansing with a sonic brush-A review of the literature and current recommendations. Journal Of Cosmetic Dermatology , 18 (3), 686–691. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12906. Retrieved from

  • Kucharska, A., Szmurło, A., & Sińska, B. (2016). Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology , 33 (2), 81–86. doi: 10.5114/ada.2016.59146. Retrieved from

  • Levin J. (2016). The relationship of proper skin cleansing to pathophysiology, clinical benefits, and the concomitant use of prescription topical therapies in patients with acne vulgaris. Dermatologic Clinics , 34 (2), 133–145. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2015.11.001. Retrieved from

  • Mukhopadhyay, P. (2011). Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian Journal Of Dermatology , 56 (1), 2–6. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.77542. Retrieved from

  • Pei, S., Inamadar, A. C., Adya, K. A., & Tsoukas, M. M. (2015). Light-based therapies in acne treatment. Indian Dermatology Online Journal , 6 (3), 145–157. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.156379. Retrieved from

How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

October 13, 2021

Written by

Ashley Braun, RD, MPH

Fact checked by

Steve Silvestro, MD

About the medical reviewer

Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Associate Director, Clinical Content & Education at Ro.