By Erin Manoles, PA-C

When managing sensitive, acne prone skin, it can feel like you’re stuck between a rock and hard place. No one wants to pick between having acne or feeling (and looking) raw and irritated! While it can take some time to find what works, it’s important to remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for everybody’s acne. What may work well for your friends or family members may not work well for you! Everyone’s skin is different and has different levels of sensitivity. That’s why it’s so important to customize your acne treatment and skin care routine according to how your skin responds. 

Here are some helpful tips for managing sensitive, acne prone skin:

  • Cleansing: If removing makeup, use an oil-free face wipe. In general, avoid using drying/irritating products like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, exfoliants, or scrubs. Instead, stick with a hydrating gentle cleanser. Use lukewarm (not hot!) water, and avoid scrubbing, which can aggravate and worsen acne. Gently pat skin dry. If using a toner, stick with alcohol-free options. 
  • Leave-on treatments: Wait 15-20 minutes after cleansing before applying leave-on products. Use a pea-sized amount of product for the entire face- you don’t need more than that. Consider applying new products on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule at first, then step  up after 1-2 weeks to every other day, and then eventually daily if  your skin tolerates the regimen. If you are still having issues, try mixing in a little bit of your moisturizer in a 1:1 ratio to dilute the strength of the leave-on product.
  • Moisturizing: For acne-prone skin, it’s very important to stick with a scent-free moisturizing lotion or cream that is labeled as “non-comedogenic”- meaning that it’s not going to clog up your pores. Moisturizing twice daily helps fortify your skin barrier and can help  prevent dryness and irritation.
  • Sunscreen: Sunburns can aggravate acne AND skin sensitivity, so sunscreen is a must! Pick a sunscreen that is SPF 30+ and has a mineral base for its active ingredient (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide 5% or higher). If your skin has had a bad reaction with sunscreen in the past, pick a pure mineral based sunscreen- the less ingredients, the less likely you will react.

When it comes to sensitive skin, simple is better. Avoid starting multiple new products at once. Instead, add to  your skin care routine slowly -one product at a time over the course of weeks. If you are struggling with irritation, then back off that new product. It takes 4-6 weeks to accurately assess how acne-prone skin is responding to a change in regimen, so this will require some patience on your part. But once you’ve found a routine that works for you, it’s totally worth it! 

I hope these recommendations help you out as you build your own customized skin care routine. If you have more questions or want to talk more about tailoring your skin care, we are always happy to address any concerns during your visits with us

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