Tips for treating acne-prone sensitive skin (2023)

Tips for treating acne-prone sensitive skin (1)

When you're dealing with acne-prone skin, clearing breakouts and preventing future blemishes are probably the main goals when it comes to crafting a skincare routine. But when you also have sensitive skin, things can get even more challenging.

You need ingredients strong enough to fight the bacteria and oil deep within your pores, but these ingredients can often leave the skin - especially sensitive skin - very irritated. So, while your pimple may have cleared up, you now have a whole other host of skin issues to deal with, such as peeling, flakey skin, redness, or even worsening breakouts! Needless to say, finding the right treatment can be overwhelming and quite confusing.

So how can you find out which skincare options will be best for you? Well, it typically involves a bit of trial and error (and often a conversation with a dermatologist) to get things just right.

How do I know if I have sensitive skin?

Sensitive skin can refer to a range of different conditions, from allergies to genetic ailments. While we've all experienced some skin reaction at one point or another, those with persistent issues are typically deemed as having sensitive skin. The following common symptoms indicate your skin may need some extra care.

You notice redness

Regular redness of this skin, whether in the form of a rash, bumps, blushing, or flushing, is typically a sign of sensitivity.

Your skin is itchy

Individuals with sensitive skin often report feelings of itchiness and tightness, especially after cleansing with too harsh products. Hot water often exacerbates the itchiness along with cold and dry air.

(Video) Complete Skincare Routines for Acne | Dermatologist Dr. Maren Locke | The Budget Dermatologist

You breakout easily

Sensitive, dry skin will produce extra oils to try and compensate for the lack of moisture. As a result, pores can easily clog, leading to acne flare-ups. These types of breakouts are often red bumps and pustules that are difficult to clear up.

You burn easily in the sun.

Sensitive skin is more susceptible to the sun's harmful rays and tends to burn easily. If you find that spending time outside on a sunny day (even if you are wearing sunscreen) causes irritation or peeling, check the ingredients in your sunscreen - it may be causing an allergic reaction.

What causes acne?

Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by "dirty" skin; it's caused by overproduction and the build-up of oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. When sebum - oil produced by the body to lubricate the skin and hair - and dead skin cells clog up skin pores, pimples develop. The situation can get worse when bacteria are introduced to the clogged pore. Bacteria that live on our skin, P. acnes, can trigger inflammation in the infected area, causing even more severe breakouts to occur.

Acne appears on the face, chest, and upper back—the body's areas with the highest oil glands. And while acne is most common in those going through hormonal changes during puberty, many individuals experience breakouts well into their adult years.

There's no sure way to prevent acne, but several things are shown to help combat it. These include establishing a thorough skincare routine, eating a nutritious diet, consuming adequate water, and getting enough sleep each night.

Tips for treating acne-prone sensitive skin

Depending on your condition's severity, controlling acne breakouts can be difficult, but it's not impossible. There are a few tips, tricks, and ingredients that dermatologists swear by, even for sensitive skin! And while everyone's body reacts differently, there are a few things that are worth trying on your journey to acne-free skin.

Find customized acne treatment.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again - when it comes to skincare, there is no "one size fits all." Certain acne treatments may work great for your best friend but end up making your breakouts even more inflamed and aggravated. That's why finding a skincare routine that is tailored specifically to your skin type and condition is so important!

(Video) Acne Skincare Routine for Beginners | The Budget Dermatologist

Choosing the right Cleanser and moisturizer is essential for people with acen and sensitive skin. Look for a hydrating cleanser that includes, in addition to the active ingredients, anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients.

Finding a moisturizer that is good for both acne and sensitive skin is a challenge. Most regular off-the-shelf sensitive skin moisturizer contains ingredients that can clog pores and cause more acne breakouts. For the best of two worlds, look for a moisturizer specially formulated for acne-prone skin and contain niacinamide or other soothing ingredients, i.e., aloe vera.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of believing products that promise to be a "magical all-in-one cure" to a wide-range of blemishes. The reality is, finding a treatment regimen that is customized for your skin type and acne severity is your best course of action if you want real results.

MDacne is an FDA-approved, clinically proven, medical-grade treatment kit personalized for you and your unique skin. Using AI-powered assessments, MDacne can give instant predictions of conditions and provide real-time feedback to our customer's specific skin situation. Click here to start your FREE trial!

Incorporate niacinamide into your routine

Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is a water-soluble vitamin with powerful benefits. Unlike alpha-hydroxy acid or beta-hydroxy acid, niacinamide is a neutral acid that tends to be gentler on the skin and doesn't cause irritation. Niacinamide moisturizers are suitable for all skin types and are often recommended by Dermatologists as an alternative to traditional prescription acne medications. One of the most important benefits of niacinamide is that it supports the production of ceramides. Ceramides are natural fats that help protect the skin barrier by building up proteins and locking in moisture.

Niacinamide also helps

● Improve skin tone
● Fade dark spots
● Balance oil production
● Fight free radicals
● Lessen overall skin irritation

Various studies have found that niacinamide has potent anti-inflammatory effects on skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. It's known that niacinamide has an advantage over other antimicrobials because it doesn't risk increasing bacterial resistance. This is important. When shopping for a product that contains niacinamide, look for a 2 - 10% concentration. For sensitive skin, it's best to start with a lower concentration.

(Video) How I Got Rid of My Acne *3 products that changed my life* | NataliesOutlet

Tips for treating acne-prone sensitive skin (2)

Stay away from harsh scrubs.

It may be tempting, but don't try and scrub away your skin woes. Harsh scrubs and exfoliants can further irritate sensitive skin, causing more problems than you started with. Treat your skin gently and avoid products that contain fragrance, alcohol, and parabens - these can be harmful to sensitive skin.

Instead, try salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliator that is gentle enough for most skin types. It can effectively penetrate the pores to remove sebum and prevent further clogs. It will not kill bacteria like benzoyl peroxide, but it also won't suck out all the moisture from your skin or cause exfoliation and flakiness.

The anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid can even help with cystic breakouts when blockages are deep within the skin. While spot treatments containing salicylic acid are available, facial cleansers are the best option for acne. To achieve the best results, cleansers with salicylic acid should be massaged gently into the entire face for around 20 = 30 seconds before being rinsed off with lukewarm water.

People with moderate acne or rosacea can also befit from using benzoyl peroxide at 2.5%. Benzoyl peroxide can cause skin and redness and dryness. Choosing the right product can significantly decrease benzoyl peroxide (BPO) irritation without a decrease in efficacy.

MDacne's proprietary benzoyl peroxide 2.5% formulation contains a less irritating micronized molecule of BPO combined with plant complexes specially formulated to decrease skin darkness and irritation.

Slowly introduce new products.

(Video) Derm Tips + Advice for Acne-Prone Skin! | Dr. Shereene Idriss

If you have sensitive skin, you know how nerve-wracking it can be to try new treatment options. Until you know how your skin will react, it's best to introduce any new product slowly and carefully.

It can be tempting to try and later on as many acne medications as possible to combat those pesky blemishes, but too much at once can cause severe redness and dryness. Initially, use your new products every other day. If you find that your skin is tolerating it, you may use it more every day.

You don't want to use too many new products at once. Give any new topical acne products at least four weeks to start working. Using a new product every few days can irritate the skin and cause new breakouts. If a treatment works for your skin, you should begin noticing improvements in about 4 - 6 weeks. If you see your complexion is clearing up, you want to stick to this treatment to prevent new breakouts.

What are the best retinoids for sensitive skin?

Applying regular prescription retinoids can be too harsh and irritating for most st people. That said, using the right kind of retinoids in the correct percentage can be safe and beneficial for people with acne and sensitive skin.

To reduce retinoid irritation, one should look for over-the-counter products that contain retinol up to 0.25% or retinyl palmitate, the weakest retinoid derivative. Higher concentration or the other more potent retinoids derivatives can be over-drying. People who play with sensitive skin should specifically avoid adapalene (Differin Epiduo) and Tazorac that are significantly more irritating than specially formulated, less irritating retinoids.

To further reduce the risk of skin irritation, people with sensitive skin need to start using their retinol cream twice a week. After the first two weeks week, if the skin does not feel too dry, you can begin to gradually work your way up to applying the night treatment cream every night.

If you have sensitive skin, combine a small quantity of your retinol cream ("pea-sized") with an equal amount of your moisturizer in your palm before applying it. This will result in a diluted, milder treatment cream.

What are the best toners for sensitive skin?

Using alcohol-based toners is not the best idea for people with acne as they tend to over-dry the skin and cause irritation. That said, there are some alcohol-free toners (such as this one or this one) that are generally considered "safe" for people with acne-prone skin that you can consider adding to your skincare routine. The best order would be the MDacne Cleanser, toner, and then the MDacne morning or night cream.

If your main concern is removing all of your makeup at the end of the day, another good option is to use oil-free face wipes designed for sensitive skin, which you can find at most drugstores.

(Video) How To Take Care Of Sensitive Acne Prone Skin - 10 Tips for sensitive acne prone skin

Deep clean your makeup brushes.

Makeup tools gather more dirt and bacteria than you could imagine. Brushes and puffs should be deep cleaned every two weeks, while sponges should be cleaned every week. To wash your tools, you can make a homemade solution of facial Cleanser and warm water. Swirl your brushes in the solution and agitate them to help loosen up any dried product. Then, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and let fully dry on a clean towel to air dry. You can moisten them for sponges, add some cleanser, and gently massage under warm water until it runs clear. Allow to air dry thoroughly before using.

Summary: 12 best tips that can help you treat your acne-prone sensitive skin:

  1. Always use a mild, hydrating acne cleanser.
  2. Never use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser. These cleansers will overdry skin and are not as effective as benzoyl peroxide topical creams.
  3. Avoid alcohol-based toners.
  4. Avoid alcohol-based moisturizers.
  5. If you use a benzoyl peroxide topical cream, look for a milder 2.5% cream (not gel).
  6. Wait 10 minutes after washing your face before applying your anti-acne cream. Applying your anti-acne cream or gel on humid skin will cause your skin to absorb the cream faster. This will increase the risk of irritation.
  7. Avoid exfoliating gels and scrubs! They’ll only irritate your skin.
  8. Avoid long, hot showers or baths. Short showers with warm (not hot) water are better for your skin.
  9. Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day (even in the winter, when you are not sweating!).
  10. If your skin is very dry and red, apply your anti-acne night cream every other day until your skin has adjusted.
  11. Apply a bit of moisturizer before your anti-acne cream. This will dilute your cream and decrease skin irritation.
  12. Men with sensitive skin should avoid using shaving gels and look for sensitive skin shaving cream instead.

Oil-free soothing moisturizer for people with acne and sensitive skin
Niacinamide based acne-prone skin moisturizer
Sensitive skin shaving cream for acne-prone skinCerave foaming facial cleanser vs. MDacne hydrating SA cleanser

To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.


What helps acne sensitive skin naturally? ›

Home remedies for acne
  1. Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which means that it might kill P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. ...
  2. Jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is a natural, waxy substance extracted from the seeds of the jojoba shrub. ...
  3. Aloe vera. ...
  4. Honey. ...
  5. Zinc. ...
  6. Green tea. ...
  7. Echinacea. ...
  8. Rosemary.

Which ingredient is best for sensitive acne-prone skin? ›

8 Best Ingredients for Acne-Prone Skin
  • Benzoyl peroxide.
  • Salicylic acid.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids.
  • Sulfur.
  • Adapalene.
  • Azelaic acid.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Tea tree oil.
Aug 11, 2021

How can I clear my sensitive skin? ›

People may wish to try these general tips for getting clear skin fast.
  1. Avoid popping pimples. A pimple indicates trapped oil, sebum, and bacteria. ...
  2. Wash twice daily, and again after sweating. ...
  3. Avoid touching the face. ...
  4. Moisturize. ...
  5. Always wear sunscreen. ...
  6. Focus on gentle products. ...
  7. Avoid hot water. ...
  8. Use gentle cleansing devices.

How do you clear up sensitive skin? ›

General tips for sensitive skin
  1. take short 5 to 10 minute showers with warm — not hot — water.
  2. avoid harsh astringents and exfoliants.
  3. use a gentle, fragrance-free soap.
  4. use essential oils instead of perfumes.
  5. use a gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergent.
  6. try using organic cleaning supplies.
Jan 17, 2018

What are 6 ways to treat acne? ›

Lifestyle and home remedies
  1. Wash problem areas with a gentle cleanser. ...
  2. Try over-the-counter acne products to dry excess oil and promote peeling. ...
  3. Avoid irritants. ...
  4. Protect your skin from the sun. ...
  5. Avoid friction or pressure on your skin. ...
  6. Avoid touching or picking acne-prone areas. ...
  7. Shower after strenuous activities.
Oct 8, 2022

Does drinking water help acne? ›

Prevents Pimples and Acne. Certain kinds of toxins will clog your small pores on your epidermis and can cause issues like acne and pimples. By drinking more water, you ensure that you won't suffer from severe pimples and acne. The more hydrated your skin, the less your pores will clog.

Why is my acne so sensitive? ›

The redness, swelling, and inflammation cause the pain. The body knows that the dead skin, oil, and bacteria are supposed to be in the hair follicle (which is outside the skin). So, as your body tries to push it out, you end up with more sensitivity in the area.

What calms inflamed acne? ›

Doctors may treat inflamed acne with one or more of the following: antibiotic pills, creams, gels, or lotions, which can help kill acne bacteria and calm inflammation. birth control pills, in females, to help balance hormones that cause acne flares. isotretinoin (Accutane) for severe acne.

What do dermatologists recommend for acne on sensitive skin? ›

Lactic Acid

So for those with dry or sensitive skin, exfoliants with lactic acid would work well without being too irritating. These products can work for a chemical peel at home. (You can also try a derm-approved moisturizer for acne-prone skin!)

What should sensitive skin avoid? ›

Other ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin include preservatives, parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate (the stuff that makes your cleanser or shampoo foam) and mineral oils. Because your skin is unique, what works for someone else may not work for you.

What products to avoid if you have acne? ›

If you have acne-prone skin, these are the 5 skincare ingredients...
  • Coconut oil. ...
  • Lanolin. ...
  • Algae extract. ...
  • Isopropyl myristate/Isopropyl palmitate. ...
  • Parabens. ...
  • Also read:
Jun 24, 2021

What triggers sensitive skin? ›

Exposure to heat and hot water. Soaps, beauty products, hand sanitizers, solvents, laundry detergents or anything that can damage the outer layer of the skin.

What is a good skin care routine for sensitive skin? ›

A skin care routine for sensitive skin
  • Step 1: Cleanse with a face wash for sensitive skin. ...
  • Step 2: Tone to soothe after cleansing. ...
  • Step 3: Apply a serum for sensitive skin. ...
  • Step 4: Apply an eye cream for sensitive skin. ...
  • Step 5: Moisturize.
Nov 16, 2021

What food causes acne? ›

Examples include white bread, corn flakes, puffed rice, potato chips, white potatoes or fries, doughnuts or other pastries, sugary drinks such as milkshakes, and white rice. Findings from small studies suggest that following a low-glycemic diet may reduce the amount of acne you have.

What completely clears acne? ›

Isotretinoin: This is a potent medicine that attacks all four causes of acne—bacteria, clogged pores, excess oil, and inflammation (redness and swelling). About 85% of patients see permanent clearing after one course of isotretinoin.

What is the strongest treatment for acne? ›

Isotretinoin is a powerful drug that's used to treat the most severe cases of acne. Your doctor may recommend this drug if you have severe acne that doesn't get better with other medications, including antibiotics.

What immediately gets rid of acne? ›

While there is no way to get rid of a pimple in as fast as five minutes (aside from hiding it under makeup!), Dr. Zeichner recommends immediately treating it with either benzoyl peroxide or over the counter 1% hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation.

Does ice help acne? ›

When used on inflammatory acne, ice also has the potential to decrease redness, thereby making your pimples less noticeable. It can also treat pain that occurs with cystic and nodular acne. This is due to the short-term numbing effect ice creates.

Can the sun help clear acne? ›

Experts tend to agree that sun exposure may initially improve the appearance of acne by drying out sebum. Plus, when your skin is tanned, pimples and acne marks may look less noticeable. But these effects are short lived. In fact, the drying effect of sun exposure can ultimately make acne worse.

Does lemon water help with acne? ›

Citric acid inside lemon water can help treat mild acne and brown spots. "Lemon juice contains citric acid which is helpful in treating mild acne and photoaging such as over tanned skin, wrinkles, and brown spots," said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky.

How much water should I drink to clear acne? ›

Drinking at least 4 litres of water a day is one of the best ways to flush toxins from the body that cause acne. It also helps to keep the skin hydrated. Well hydrated skin allows the skin to maintain healthy skin cell rejuvenation and collagen production.

What fruits fight acne? ›

Kiwis, cherries, and stone fruits (like peaches, nectarines, and plums) may be good for acne because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Kiwis are a high fiber fruit packed with vitamin C and vitamin E. Peaches have b-complex vitamins, which may help improve skin tone and texture.

What causes acne on cheeks? ›

Cheek acne may be due to one or more of the following: makeup, your phone spreading bacteria, dirty pillowcases, touching your face, or hormonal changes. The good news is there are several steps you can take to prevent it or reduce the severity of your cheek acne. See a doctor to get your acne treated.

How do I accept myself with acne? ›

Let's get real and talk about some ways we can embrace our natural skin and build up our self-esteem.
  1. Take Skin Care Advice With A Grain of Salt. ...
  2. Take Off The Filter. ...
  3. Write Your Positive Affirmations. ...
  4. Don't Accept The Myth That Acne Is “Dirty” ...
  5. Unfollow Social Media Accounts That Make You Feel Bad About Your Skin.
Oct 16, 2020

What triggers inflammatory acne? ›

Inflammatory acne occurs when those clogged pores become infected with bacteria. The immune system reacts to fight the bacteria, causing inflammation.

How do you get rid of acne overnight guaranteed? ›

Try a spot treatment or pimple patch

You've probably seen these emergency pimple treatments at the drugstore — usually an extra-strong solution of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. And yep, they can actually get rid of pimples overnight.

Is heat or ice better for cystic acne? ›

It is possible to help shrink a cystic pimple at home by following some basic self-care tips. Ice can reduce swelling, while warm compresses may help the pimple heal more quickly and alleviate pain.

What habits make acne worse? ›

10 habits to stop
  • Try a new acne treatment every week or so. ...
  • Apply acne medication only to your blemishes. ...
  • Use makeup, skin care products, and hair care products that can cause acne. ...
  • Share makeup, makeup brushes, or makeup applicators. ...
  • Sleep in your makeup. ...
  • Wash your face throughout the day. ...
  • Dry out your skin.

What are the 3 causes of acne? ›

Acne has three main causes: too much oil production, not shedding dead skin cells, and too much of a specific bacteria on the skin. All three of these factors have to be present for acne to develop. People can also be more prone to acne because of their genetics.

Which cosmetics are best for sensitive skin? ›

12 Best Hypoallergenic Makeup Brands to Upgrade Your Sensitive Skincare Routine
  • Sunforgettable Lip Shine SPF 35. ...
  • BeachPlease Luminous Tinted Blam. ...
  • Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder SPF 20. ...
  • Lock and Last Water-Resistant Setting Spray. ...
  • Original Liquid Mineral Foundation Broad Spectrum Spf 20. ...
  • Shape Tape Contour Concealer.
Dec 31, 2021

Why is my skin sensitive and acne prone? ›

Stress, lack of exercise, poor diet and habits like smoking and drinking alcohol, can also affect skin health and cause breakouts, as can the hormonal fluctuations which occur around puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. Allergies to products and foods is another reason why sensitive skin might break out.

Does sensitive skin mean acne prone? ›

You're prone to breakouts

If you have sensitive skin, you may develop breakouts that look like acne with red bumps and pustules. You may find that an acne wash or cream to treat the breakouts only worsens your symptoms.

What causes sensitive skin to break out? ›

Sensitive skin, on the other hand, occurs in some people due to genetic differences in the normal protective skin barrier or skin irritation so severe it becomes inflamed. "With skin inflammation, the immune system is essentially overreacting to an irritant or allergen that the skin is exposed to," says Dr. Jih.

What should not be applied for acne prone skin? ›

Avoid oily or greasy cosmetics, moisturizers, sunscreens and acne cover-ups. Prefer products that are water based and not likely to block pores (noncomedogenic).


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