When dealing with acne-prone skin, clearing breakouts and preventing future blemishes are probably the main goals when crafting a skincare routine. But things can get even more challenging when you also have sensitive skin.
You need ingredients strong enough to fight the bacteria and oil deep within your pores, but these ingredients can often irritate the skin - especially sensitive skin. So, while your pimple may have cleared up, you now have a whole other host of skin issues, such as peeling, flakey skin, redness, or even worsening breakouts! Finding the proper treatment can be overwhelming and quite confusing.
So how can you determine 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 various conditions, from allergies to genetic ailments. While we've all experienced some skin reactions at one point or another, those with persistent issues are typically deemed 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.
You break out 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 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 quickly. 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 on our skin, P. acnes, can trigger inflammation in the infected area, causing even more severe breakouts.
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 undergoing hormonal changes during puberty, many individuals experience breakouts well into adulthood.
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
Controlling acne breakouts can be difficult, depending on your condition's severity, 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, a few things are worth trying on your journey to acne-free skin.
Find customized acne treatment.
We've said it before, and we'll repeat it - when it comes to skincare, there is no "one size fits all." Specific acne treatments may work great for your best friend but make your breakouts even more inflamed and aggravated. That's why finding a skincare routine tailored to your skin type and condition is so important!
Choosing the right Cleanser and moisturizer is essential for people with acne 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 formulated for acne-prone skin containing niacinamide or other soothing ingredients, i.e., aloe vera.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of believing products that promise a "magical all-in-one cure" to a wide range of blemishes. Finding a treatment regimen 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 essential 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.
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 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 benefit from benzoyl peroxide at 2.5%. Benzoyl peroxide can cause skin 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.
If you have sensitive skin, you know how nerve-wracking it can be to try new treatment options. Until you understand 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 tolerates it, you may use it more daily.
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 your complexion is clearing up, you want to stick to this treatment to prevent new breakouts.
What are the best retinoids for sensitive skin?
Regular prescription retinoids can be too harsh and irritating for most 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 concentrations or the other more potent retinoid derivatives can be over-drying. People who play with sensitive skin should avoid adapalene (Differin Epiduo) and Tazorac, which 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, if the skin does not feel too dry, you can 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 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. Some alcohol-free toners (such as this one or this one) are generally considered "safe" for people with acne-prone skin, so you can consider adding them to your skincare routine. The best order would be the MDacne Cleanser, toner, and then the MDacne morning or night cream.
If your primary 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.
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 weekly. You can make a homemade solution of facial Cleanser and warm water to wash your tools. 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 them under warm water until it clears. Allow to air dry thoroughly before using.
Summary: 12 best tips that can help you treat your acne-prone sensitive skin:
- Always use a mild, hydrating acne cleanser.
- Never use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser. These cleansers will overdry skin and are less effective than benzoyl peroxide topical creams.
- Avoid alcohol-based toners.
- Avoid alcohol-based moisturizers.
- If you use a benzoyl peroxide topical cream, look for a milder 2.5% cream (not gel).
- Wait 10 minutes after washing your face before applying your anti-acne cream. Using your anti-acne cream or gel on damp skin will cause your skin to absorb the cream faster. This will increase the risk of irritation.
- Avoid exfoliating gels and scrubs! They'll only irritate your skin.
- Avoid long, hot showers or baths. Short showers with warm (not hot) water are better for your skin.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water daily (even in the winter, when you are not sweating!).
- If your skin is very dry and red, apply your anti-acne night cream every other day until your skin has adjusted.
- Apply a bit of moisturizer before your anti-acne cream. This will dilute your cream and decrease skin irritation.
- 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 skin
Cerave 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.