How To Get Clear Skin: Step by Step

How To Get Clear Skin: Step by Step

Whether you struggle with breakouts or have dark spots due to sun damage or acne scars, getting a totally clear complexion can feel like an impossible task. There are so many different skin concerns that can leave you with an uneven skin tone or texture. The only thing that might seem more overwhelming is figuring out which skincare products will help.

“Here’s the secret about skincare… it’s not about using the most products, it’s about using the right products.”

  • Shani Darden, esthetician

If a bright, clear, and even complexion is your goal, there’s no need to stress — not least because that can sometimes lead to breakouts (I’ll talk more about that later). Let’s walk through some common causes of an uneven skin tone so that you can skip ahead to skin that is clear and radiant.

What Can Prevent Clear Skin?

It’s important to know what’s behind your uneven complexion before you can make a game plan to address it. Sometimes, the reason you’re experiencing breakouts or dark spots may be related to a medication, lifestyle factor, or underlying condition. 

If this is the case, treating your symptoms won’t solve the problem. It’ll only mask it temporarily — if it has any effect at all.

Let’s break down some of the most common reasons behind uneven skin.


Breakouts are incredibly common and are experienced by almost everybody at one point or another. This skin condition is most common in teenagers because the underlying cause is often hormones. 

Your teenage years are rife with hormonal changes that can have all kinds of intense effects on your body, and one of the main symptoms is frustrating pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.

But puberty isn’t the only thing that can throw your hormones out of whack. If you’re experiencing breakouts later in life, it could be related to a medication such as birth control or corticosteroids that may be affecting your hormones. 

Breakouts can also be the result of an inappropriate skincare routine. If you have oily skin and your cleanser isn’t cutting it, you may need to adjust your products in order to avoid clogged pores and buildup. Likewise, if you have dry skin and aren’t giving it the hydration it needs to thrive, it can stand in the way of glowing skin.

Breakout Scars

If you find yourself squinting in the mirror at tiny pockmarks and dark spots after your breakout goes away, you’re already familiar with pimple scars. They’re especially common in people with breakout-prone skin. 

Blemish scars are sometimes unavoidable and are often due to genetics — which isn’t to say there aren’t things you can do to improve their appearance. But other times, they’re due to an imbalance in melanin production triggered by breakouts. This type of scarring can affect any skin type, but is most common in people with darker skin tones.

Dark Spots

Dark spots are often a result of breakouts, which I touched on above. But the damage that causes this type of blemish doesn’t necessarily have to be from acne. It can happen after an injury or even from prolonged irritation.

These types of dark spots are more common in areas like your knees or elbows — areas that are experiencing constant friction that your skin needs to recover from — but they can affect your face, too.

Dark spots on your face may also be the result of sun damage. These dark spots, also known as sun spots, tend to show up as you get older. As UV rays affect your skin by damaging free radicals over time, dark spots may form. 

It’s important to speak with a doctor or dermatologist if you notice a new spot that’s irregular in shape or texture. But mostly, they’re nothing to worry about.

Uneven Texture

An uneven skin texture can be the result of various skin conditions or flaking as a result of dry skin. Most often, however, it’s connected to a buildup of dead skin cells over time.

Your skin naturally sheds its cells, but if you’re not exfoliating regularly or have fallen behind on your cleansing routine, these dead cells can remain on your skin. Not only are they at risk of clogging your pores, but they can negatively impact your skin’s texture, too.

How Can You Support Clear Skin With Skincare?

Once you’ve figured out why your skin isn’t as clear as you’d like, it’s time to think about what you can do about it. If you’re building a clear skincare regimen from scratch, it’s always best to introduce products gradually and one by one. 

That way, if you have sensitive skin or your skin simply doesn’t get along with one particular product, you’ll be able to pinpoint what you need to change.


No matter what your skin type is, your cleanser is the foundation of your routine

It needs to be intense enough to remove any excess oil, makeup, sunscreen, or other impurities that may be hurting your skin health, but you don’t want it to be so intense that it strips your skin of its natural oils. That tight, squeaky-clean feeling may seem satisfying, but if your skin feels like that, you need to find a new cleanser.

My Cleansing Serum is the perfect gentle daily cleanser to strike this balance. It has a luxurious lather that seamlessly melts away makeup and other pore-cloggers with ease while delivering intense hydration with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, restorative oat bran, and calming olive extract. 

If you use a toner, make sure to apply it before moving on to the next step.


After your face wash, exfoliating is the next step. If you struggle with breakouts — or virtually any other concern that is leaving your complexion less-than-clear — you’ll want to work an exfoliant into your routine. 

Chemical exfoliants are wonderful ingredients to help give the appearance of clearer skin. They work by loosening the bonds between your skin cells, allowing old, damaged skin to be easily sloughed away to reveal a brighter, clearer complexion.

Popular over-the-counterchemical exfoliants include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and acid peels, like our Triple Acid Signature Peel. 

Active Serums

Here’s where you can customize. It is a good idea to alternate nights between a gentle retinol serum, like my Retinol Reform, and active serums, like my iS Clinical Active Serum

It’s a good idea to give your skin a break from retinol every other night, and the iS Clinical Active Serum is the perfect companion. Botanical-derived salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids gently exfoliate, brighten, and clean pores to fight congestion, all while targeting fine lines and wrinkles.


Moisturizing is key to maintaining a healthy skin barrier, which can help promote clear skin. Your skin barrier helps to keep your skin properly hydrated, and it locks out breakout-causing bacteria. 

Particularly if you have normal to dry skin, my Hydration Peptide Cream is the perfect way to optimize your moisture barrier without adding pore-clogging oils to your skin.


Finish off your skincare routine with broad-spectrumsunscreen. Even if you’re not spending much time outside, or if it looks cloudy out, you should be sure to wear sunscreen.

Especially if you are young, you may not think that skipping the sunscreen will harm your skin, but doing so can actually contribute to premature signs of aging (like fine lines and wrinkles). Protecting your skin from UV rays can prevent the dark spots that get in the way of a clear complexion later in life!

The Bottom Line

Here’s the secret when it comes to skincare: once you know the rules about how to layer it on your skin and have zeroed in on what concerns you want to address, it’s all about which products you choose.

Of course, there’s a wide variety of products to choose from, and figuring out which ones work best for your individual skin can be tricky. 


Hormonal Imbalance: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

How to fade dark spots in darker skin tones | AAD



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