Sensitive Acne-Prone Skin? Here’s How to Manage It

Sensitive Acne-Prone Skin? Here's How to Manage It


What’s worse than having acne-prone skin? Having sensitive, acne-prone skin. 

People with acne-prone skin that is also sensitive and easily irritated really don’t have it easy. It’s almost an impossible combination to deal with — acne tends to require strong products that will dry out the excess oils causing the pimple. On the flip side, sensitive skin requires gentle products with few ingredients and as few chemicals as possible to reduce the chances of irritation. How on earth can someone with acne-prone and sensitive skin deal with the two ends of these skin spectrums? 

People with sensitive skin have skin that is more reactive than normal. The skin becomes sensitive because the nerve endings in the skin’s epidermal layer get irritated. This irritation can occur if the skin barrier is weak or broken down because of an internal or external trigger. Sensitive skin is easily irritated by environmental elements like the wind, heat, dryness, or cold, and it can also be irritated by ingredients in skincare products. Other external factors that could trigger irritation are cigarette smoke, pollen, and air pollution. The effects of sensitive skin are burning or stinging sensations, redness, flakiness, peeling, itching, and general discomfort. It is hard to determine the direct triggers of sensitive skin because it differs from person to person. The only way to really tell if you are sensitive to a certain substance is to develop a reaction after coming into contact with it. 

Meanwhile, people with acne-prone skin have a higher chance of developing acne such as comedones and pimples. They are often associated with oily skin due to more active sebaceous glands that produce more sebum. The excess sebum on the skin gets trapped in the pores and clogs it up, creating a comedone. If the comedone gets infected with bacteria, it develops into a more severe form of acne. Acne can either be non-inflammatory such as blackheads and whiteheads where there is no swelling or redness, or inflammatory acne such as pustules and papules, as well as the more severe cysts. Inflammatory acne occurs when there is a bacterial infection that occurs as painful bumps. People with dry skin can also develop acne, it just depends on whether your pores get clogged. 

So people with sensitive, acne-prone skin likely have 1) a weak skin barrier and a low tolerance for certain substances that cause irritation, and 2) an increased likelihood of their pores clogging and getting infected with bacteria. 

Nothing is impossible and there is definitely a way that you can find a balance! In this article, we will give the best and most effective tips for managing sensitive, acne-prone skin. Say goodbye to the days of itchy red patches and pimples!

A gentle cleanser will be your best friend

Cleansing is an extremely essential step especially for people with acne-prone skin. Cleansing helps you to remove the excess oils that might be causing the build-up of sebum in your pores. However, over-cleansing can lead to two things. Firstly, it can strip the skin’s already weak and thin lipid barrier. Secondly, over-cleansing will lead to drying out your skin excessively, which will trigger the sebaceous glands to produce even more oil in response to a perceived lack of oil in the skin. The best way to handle this is to use very gentle cleansers. Don’t get a cleanser that foams as it will likely have sulfates which can be irritants. Micellar water is the best option for a makeup remover and you should try to find a gentle and soothing formula. Use lukewarm water at most when you cleanse, and stick to cleansing once a day at night. This way you won’t overdry your skin and cause extra oil production.

Do not ever scrub your skin

You might be tempted to reach for a physical exfoliator, but that is definitely one of the last products you should use. Exfoliation is great for renewing the skin cells and sloughing off build-up on the face, but it can be way too harsh for sensitive skin. Furthermore, over-exfoliation can also lead to stripping the skin of excess oils, leading to even more oil production. By scrubbing the face, you might also be spreading the bacteria from one area of the face to another, causing more inflammatory acne. Physical scrubs with grains and beads are definitely a big no-no for anyone with sensitive and acne-prone skin.

You’ll want to use SPF every day

Sun protection is particularly important for those with sensitive skin as the sun, UV rays, and heat are all potential triggers for skin reactions. Get a good SPF with a factor of at least 40, and apply it every morning at the end of your skincare routine. Also make sure you choose a non-oily, non-comedogenic formulation to ensure you are not clogging your pores with sunscreen.

Keep your skincare and beauty products lightweight and clean

You should make sure that all products in your lineup have as few ingredients and chemicals as possible. Clean skincare products will be the best, as natural ingredients are likely to irritate the skin less than chemicals. The same goes for your beauty products. There’s no point cultivating a great skincare regimen with natural ingredients that don’t trigger your skin, but your makeup products remain heavy, oily, and full of potential irritants. Trying out clean beauty brands might be a great choice for you. Wearing lighter makeup is also great for reducing the chances of acne as makeup can also clog up your pores and add to the buildup that results in acne.

Patch tests will be your best friend

Patch tests are a chore, but they are really important for sensitive-skinned individuals. Whenever you get a new product, test a little bit on the inner part of your arm first to gauge how your skin will react to the product. If the area is not red and irritated after a week of trying it, you can test it on the side of your neck. Should there be some irritation and redness, stop using the product as it is a sign that you are allergic to it.


These are the best tips that someone with sensitive, acne-prone skin can follow! If you are unsure and want some professional advice, see a dermatologist. They will be able to prescribe more targeted and effective products which can save you lots of time in testing out commercial products.

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