Acne Treatment Options for Sensitive Skin Types

Sensitive Skin Types

If you have very sensitive skin, some acne treatment options might be too harsh on your skin and cause more damage than good. Acne can occur at any age and may be challenging to control with your standard lineup of cleansers, toners, and medicated moisturizers. If you have very sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to work with a dermatologist who can work with you to create a customized skin care plan specifically for your skin type. Here are a few products that work well for acne-prone sensitive skin.

Acne-Clearing Face Washes for Sensitive Skin

A face wash is always your first defense when it comes to preventing acne. Here are three that are appropriate for sensitive skin:

Clinique Liquid Facial Soap, $16.50,, is a makeup remover as well as one of the most effective acne cleansers for sensitive skin. There are three different variations: extra-mild, mild, and oily skin type.

Those with sensitive skin should avoid it and instead use mild;  the one for oily skin contains menthol, which is a true enemy of sensitive skin, and the extra-mild version is quite oily and hard to remove with water. The mild cleanser is ideal for sensitive, acne-prone skin because it does not dry it out and does not contain a strong fragrance. Always follow it with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer.

Phisoderm Deep Cleaning Cream Cleanser, $4.69,, is suitable for most skin types, even sensitive skin. While it doesn’t contain salicylic acid or other typical ingredients, it cleans the pores deeply without stripping the necessary oils from your skin. It doubles as a makeup remover, which means that you don’t have to use an additional cleanser. Using a makeup remover and following it with another face cleanser is a sure way to irritate your skin.

Glytone Mild Gel Wash, $22,, is another option for sensitive, acne-prone skin. This cleanser isn’t ideal for super-dry or -sensitive skin as it could be drying. However, it is ideal for those with severe acne problems and remaining acne marks that mar your complexion. It contains glycolic acid to remove pore-clogging dirt and oil and sloughs off dead skin cells. Glycolic acid is what cleanses the pores and fades red marks from acne. Avoid using this more than once a day as it could cause irritation if used that often.

Salicylic Acid Spot Treatments

Salicylic acid is among the mildest forms of acne treatment options available over the counter. You’ll find it in many acne cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and blemish-fighting serums. Salicylic acid works by sloughing away dead skin cells and can be very effective for drying out blemishes and pores filled with acne-causing bacteria.

If you have sensitive skin, use a salicylic acid product as a spot treatment only on your problem areas so you don’t end up drying out your skin too much. Try something such as the Sudden Change Scar ZoneA Acne Treatment and Scar Cream with Green Tea, $7.90, It’s designed for sensitive skin and can prevent scarring when the blemish disappears.

Witch Hazel as a Toner

Witch hazel is often found in acne products because it has antibacterial properties. It is obtained from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel shrub. In beauty products, it is commonly found in toners. Avoid witch hazel products that have a lot of alcohol in them since alcohol dries out the skin. Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel, $9.49, is alcohol-free, and contains lavender and aloe vera to soothe sensitive skin. A more luxurious product is Elizabeth Arden Hydra Splash Alcohol Free Toner. It’s gentle enough for all skin types. Besides witch hazel to combat acne, it has algae extract and chamomile to soothe the skin.

Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Sensitive Skin

To avoid further irritation from anti-acne products, it’s important to adequately hydrate your skin. Acne fighting ingredients cause sun sensitivity, so protect your skin by applying a daily face lotion with SPF 30 to keep harmful UVA and UVB rays away from your skin.

Give your complexion an extra boost nightly by applying a deeply hydrating night cream before you turn in for the night. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion penetrates the skin, helping problematic skin stay soft and supple. Acne-prone skin easily becomes dry and irritated, which can lead to scarring if left untreated. Applying a thick layer of moisture protects skin cells, keeping sensitive skin safe from the harmful effects of acne face wash.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

Intense pulsed light therapy is one of the safest types of acne laser treatments available. It’s not actually a laser treatment because light is just passed over the skin to destroy the bacteria embedded in the pores. Blue light therapy works by killing bacteria under the skin’s surface and can reduce the risk of more breakouts. If you have sensitive skin and are looking for a more aggressive treatment than over-the-counter products, intense pulsed light therapy may be your best bet for stopping those acne breakouts.

What to Avoid for Sensitive Skin with Acne

Sensitive skin can overreact to many acne products and harsh scrubs, so you will need to limit or eliminate use of these products unless they have been recommended by your dermatologist. Here are some other products and habits to avoid:

  • Alcohol-based products. They can dry out your skin.
  • Picking or squeezing your pimples. This can make the problem much worse.
  • Excessive sweating. Sensitive skin can become very red after an intense workout, and extra sweat can block your pores. If you do exercise regularly, make sure you use an acne face wash for sensitive skin right after your workout.