Sensitive Skin and Acne

Sensitive skin and acne-prone skin are often synonymous, making it especially hard to find a tolerable acne treatment. With inflammatory acne, the skin barrier is compromised and inflamed, making it difficult to use an acne treatment. Thankfully, though, it is possible to use an acne treatment and get results if you have sensitive skin. It might take a little more time to research products, do some trial and error, and ease into a routine, but it’s worth the work! Read on to learn how to approach treating acne when you have sensitive skin.

Choose a gentle cleanser

A gentle cleanser is essential for sensitive, acne-prone skin. Face washes remove dirt, excess oil, and environmental debris that buildup on the skin throughout the day. This buildup will clog pores if left unattended. A harsh cleanser, however, can do more harm than good. Your skin naturally produces oil to protect the skin barrier. Removing your skin’s natural moisturizing factors will over dry and irritate your skin. This can cause an increase in sensitivity, flakiness, redness, and irritation.

Look for a cleanser with a pH value close to that of the skin (~5.5) and is formulated with humectants like glycerin, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, or amino acids. Also, cleansers that contain prebiotics, probiotics, or postbiotics will support the health of your skin microbiome. A robust microbiome supports the health of your skin barrier and prevents disease-causing pathogens from growing.

Do a patch test

If you know or even think that you have sensitive skin, it’s essential to perform a patch test before using a new acne treatment. To perform a patch test, choose a discreet area behind your ear or along your jawline. Apply a small amount of product as directed, and monitor the area for 24 hours to see if any redness or irritation occurs. If a painful rash quickly occurs, then the product is not a product for you, but if some redness happens over time, then you’ll likely be able to ease into using the product as described below. 

Start slow

When dealing with sensitive skin, it’s essential to slowly introduce a new acne treatment, especially if a patch test results in some irritation. One way to ease into a new acne treatment is to apply the product as directed, leave it on for a minute, then wash it off. Follow that with a gentle, hydrating moisturizer to soothe the skin. You can also try to apply your moisturizer before the treatment to minimize irritation. Start using the product once a day every other day and slowly build-up to the recommended usage as your skin adapts to the treatment.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Moisturizing is always an essential step in any skincare routine, but it’s especially important for sensitive skin. Moisturizers are formulated with humectants and occlusive agents, strengthening your skin’s protective moisture barrier. Look for moisturizers that contain ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and colloidal oatmeal to repair, soothe, and protect your skin. Always apply a moisturizer after cleansing your face and using an acne treatment. This will help your skin tolerate the treatment better and calm irritation.

If you’re not sure about your skin type and what acne treatment is right for you, take the Dermala Skin Quiz for a custom formulation.


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