Treating acne on sensitive skin can feel like a Sisyphean task—the products you apply to fight acne that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and salicylic acid can be potentially irritating for your skin. Dealing with sensitive skin is already complicated enough without having to add on anything else. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re sacrificing hydrated, calm skin for freedom from acne when you use acne-treating products like tretinoin that dry out your skin.
The key to treating acne successfully on sensitive skin is simply to learn what works and what doesn’t. You already possess a working knowledge of skincare and probably have guidelines you follow to maintain healthy skin, so just add the following information to it. Know which acne fighters can inflame your skin, and learn about other ingredients that treat acne but are gentler on your sensitive skin.
Try a Different Approach
Sulphur is great for treating a number of acne types, and even conditions like pityrosporum folliculitis, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis, but it’s not the first thing a lot of people reach for when they need to treat acne. Its use for this purpose supposedly dates back to the time of Cleopatra, because of its qualities as a drying, antifungal, and antibacterial agent. It’s available in many forms, such as spot treatments, cleansers, and creams.
No Harsh Exfoliants
Scrubbing away at your skin with a harsh scrub or brush and using strong chemical exfoliants may seem like the best way to rid your skin of acne, but those actions are actually counterintuitive. Exfoliating already irritated skin will lead to even more inflammation, prolonging the healing process. Not to mention that harsh scrubs can leave microscopic cuts on the surface of the skin, which can let in infection-causing bacteria. Using acid peels and treatments can damage your acid mantle.
Slow and Steady
We all have probably made that joke about plastering on a bunch of new products at once instead of patch testing as is recommended. It’s good for a good chuckle, but in reality, it could make caring for sensitive skin even more complicated. Sensitive skin needs more time to acclimate to certain ingredients, and the process can’t be rushed. Space out the application of a new glycolic acid serum instead of applying it every day because you think it will give you faster results. Not only will your results be the opposite, but you might do damage that takes a long time to repair.
Take It Easy
With the overwhelming amount of shiny new products being churned out by the giant skincare machine daily, sometimes you may find yourself wishing that you had more than one face, just so you could try as many products as you can in a short period of time. Of course, you could still do that, but that would be expensive, wasteful, and space consuming. I have a Pinterest board full of skincare products I pinned years ago but never got to try. No matter how strong the urge gets to layer on every single item from your latest Kalista Beauty haul, resist. You could wind up overdoing too much of one step and overwhelming your skin.
Stick to Directions
Just as more of something can have the opposite desired effect, using a highly effective product for longer than directed may have unexpected results. If that weekly peel says to leave it on for 10 minutes, do not tack on an extra five because you think it would work better. Less is more. Do not keep wash-off products on overnight.
On a haircare-related note regarding this point, leaving your deep conditioner in your hair overnight is not a great idea unless the specific product has been formulated for that purpose. Doing so can cause hygral fatigue from the continuous absorption of moisture by the hair strands, even when the cuticle has swelled to capacity.
Consult an Expert
If all else fails or you’re unsure of what steps to take on your own, reach out to a professional for help. If you can’t afford a dermatologist, there are subscription-based services like Curology whose in-house skin specialists can diagnose your issues and prescribe effective techniques and products to use.