A Brown Girl’s Guide to Treating Acne

Treating acne can be a frustrating process, especially when you’re left with discoloration and scarring after the pimple is gone. “I’m a woman of color, so I understand when we get pimples, the zit will fade but that mark that’s left behind is the gift that keeps on giving,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, Mona Gohara, MD. So it’s important to lay out a series of ground rules when it comes to properly treat those unwanted acne breakouts that are oh-so-tempting to touch.

This leads Dr. Gohara to rule number one: Do not pop or pick the pimple. “That just adds fuel to the fire and leads to a much higher chance of discoloration,” she explains. Dr. Gohara recommends using Neutrogena Stubborn Acne AM Treatment, which is formulated with 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, as a pimple-popping alternative, to settle the inflammation and irritation. Her pro tip: Add a little cortisone cream to your spot treatment, like SLMD Skincare Super Cortisone+, which features 1 percent hydrocortisone, as well as a nourishing cocktail of vitamin E, shea butter, and aloe vera.

When it comes to treating acne in the morning for melanin-rich skin, Dr. Gohara recommends using a mild, non-soap cleanser so you don’t irritate the skin, followed by a glycolic acid pad. “Use a glycolic pad that you can use on the face to both exfoliate and minimize marking,” she advises, adding that it’s one of her favorite tips.

Now onto sun protection: “Never forget to leave the house without a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher so you can minimize post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation the fancy word for brown marks on the skin from old acne marks,” Dr. Gohara indicates. Some of her go-to facial sunscreens are Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, and La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50.

For your nighttime skincare routine, Dr. Gohara suggests using a gentle non-soap cleanser, followed by a “pea-sized” amount of retinol, divided among the four quadrants of the face. To be more specific: a quarter of a pea-sized amount of retinol goes on both your cheeks and chin and forehead, before rubbing the product in and applying facial moisturizer over everything.