Having acne is hard enough, but pair it with sensitive skin, and it becomes a whole lot harder. Acne treatments often involve exposing your skin to potent ingredients that penetrate deep and often peel away the top layers of your skin. Which makes it challenging for people with sensitive skin, who struggle with even the slightest exposure to strong skincare products. The best acne treatment for sensitive skin is an approach that does not overly irritate dry and sensitised skin and deals with the root cause effectively. It also requires picking the right treatments and applying it in the right way.

This is easier said than done because sensitive skin can be extremely reactive to any new or existing acne treatments. It can also slow down the process and require back and forth with the kind of products and procedures that can be used safely. This is why we spoke to our in-house skin expert Dr. Divya, who gave us some key tips and recommendations for dealing with sensitive skin inflicted with acne. These tips can help guide you in the right direction to approach treatment. However, it completely depends on your individual, unique condition as to what will work, and strictly under the guidance of your dermatologist.


1. Identify acne-prone sensitive skin properly

Identify acne-prone sensitive skin properly

The first step to dealing with sensitive skin acne is identifying your skin sensitivity correctly. If your skin often flares up in red and blotchy patches when applying over-the-counter products, you probably have sensitive skin. These flare-ups can also sting and burn; indicating that your skin is highly reactive to cosmetic products. These flare-ups can also be seen if you wax your face or when you colour your hair with artificial or natural hair dyes. As far as acne is concerned, it is often an oily skin issue and you do not have to deal with sensitivity. But, if you have dry skin and still get adult acne, it will make your skin tender to the touch. What makes it worse is that the treatments recommended for acne further increase skin sensitivity. Topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other OTC treatments increase skin sensitivity as well.


2. Do not over-dry acne prone sensitive skin

Do not over-dry acne prone sensitive skin

Sensitive skin definitely struggles with acne. All the products used to deal with the breakouts also increase skin sensitivity, so it is very important to choose an anti-acne regimen very carefully. It might be tempting to dry out your breakouts, but you actually benefit by using good quality moisturiser. Even when inflicted with acne, do not let your skin become too dry. There are some products that are specifically designed for acne containing zinc and myristic acid which moisturise and prevent acne at the same time. It is important to preserve the natural mantle of the skin in order to avoid triggering sensitivity. Usage of spring water to soothe irritation is one helpful measure. Also, using a moisturising and foamy cleanser over a face wash will help acne-prone sensitive skin maintain hydration.


3. Look for effective, yet gentle, treatment options

Look for effective, yet gentle, treatment options

The best acne treatments for sensitive skin still include topical retinoids, as they are the most effective way of managing the condition. However, do avoid excessively irritating ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or tea tree oil. Topical retinoids should be paired with gentle cleansers, nourishing moisturisers, non-comedogenic sunscreen,and thermal spring water to reduce any sensitivity or burning sensation. The topical retinoids are also customized for sensitive skin, adapalene is favored over tretinoin. The 'sandwich method' should be used while applying these treatments - start off with a moisturiser and layer on the treatment for a short contract period, post which it should be washed off and followed with a moisturiser again.


4. Always start slow

Always start slow

Once you know which treatment option best suits your needs, start to introduce them to your routine slowly. You have to watch how your skin reacts, being careful with the amount and frequency with which you apply them. Make sure to patch test it on your arm before applying on your face. This is because OTC and prescribed treatments can still cause dryness and irritation and if you rush it, your condition may get worse. This is especially recommended in people with sensitive skin. Start applying the treatments at night or 1-2 times a week. Once you are sure of your skin being able to tolerate it, you can build up to using it more often. Do not bombard your skin with too many creams and gels either. Stick to one product that has shown the least amount of sensitivity and keep continuing your treatment with that.


5. Avoid overwhelming your skin

Avoid overwhelming your skin

There are some absolute don'ts when it comes to dealing with acne on sensitive skin:

  1. Steer clear from abrasive soaps, scrubs and exfoliating products.
  2. Do not use too many products containing tea tree oil, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid them. Instead, use gentler alternatives like mandelic acid or bakuchiol for chemical exfoliation.
  3. Do not apply your acne medication in the under-eye area, and keep moisturising it (and the area around your mouth) multiple times a day.
  4. Use a gel-based or aqua-fluid formulation for sunscreen which suits people with sensitive skin.
  5. Avoid aggressive procedures like chemical peels; if it has to be used, go for a lower strength of peeling agents.
  6. Be careful about touching your face too often, even with wash clothes or facial tools as they can cause sensitivity.
  7. Avoid the temptation of washing your face too often in order to maintain its hydration levels and prevent triggering sensitivity.

6. Seek a dermatologist when needed

6. Seek a dermatologist when needed

Even though the information presented above sheds a lot of light on how to deal with acne-prone sensitive skin, it is best to get a consultation for your unique case. Sometimes you might need medication or other prescription-strength topical treatments that only a professional can recommend. Also, if there are any underlying causes for your acne which need a proper diagnosis to help treat, it is best to see an expert instead of dealing with it on your own. A dermatologist can also recommend newer and alternative treatment options that may not be public knowledge yet. So, make sure you are getting a dermatologist’s opinion as a starter, and build your routine and treatment options around that.


FAQs about best acne treatment for sensitive skin

FAQs about best acne treatment for sensitive skin

1) Can you use makeup to cover up acne on sensitive skin?

A. Yes, you can use makeup to cover up acne on sensitive skin. However, you have to remember to use hypoallergenic and skin-safe makeup created specifically for sensitive skin in order to avoid further irritating it. Also, patch test every new makeup product on your neck before you apply it to your face.

2) How do fragrance-free products help acne-prone sensitive skin?

A. Out of all the baddies, artificial fragrances and dyes are the biggest culprits for triggering your skin sensitivity. Long-term exposure of your skin to these additives can also sensitise your skin to the point where even a single dollop can make you break out. Make sure to only use fragrance and dye-free products to deal with acne-prone sensitive skin.

3) What clears acne on sensitive skin fast?

A. Since you are not blessed with naturally sturdy skin, you will have to take it slow to treat acne on sensitive skin. Make sure to only follow expert-recommended treatment options and do not rush the process, as that can make your acne problem even worse.