Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin
Beauty | Skincare

Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Finding skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin can be hard. This skin type is so difficult to deal with, especially because you want to treat your skin gently while targeting hard-to-fight acne. I’ve been dealing with sensitive, acne-prone skin since as long as I remember, and I’ve tried approximately a million and one skincare products to help treat my specific skin type.

After a lot of rashes, irritation, and acne breakouts, I’ve narrowed down the best skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin that won’t cause your poor face to freak out. My routine is a healthy mix of super gentle skincare products, with one or two acne-fighting solutions mixed in. Below, you’ll find my complete breakdown of the best skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin that’s been working well for me over the last few years. 

Best Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Step 1 – Cleanse your skin 

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s important to wash your face to avoid acne-causing bacteria from building up, clogging your pores, and making you break out. I suggest you use really gentle cleansers for acne-prone skin for this step. One of my all-time favorites is the Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser. This formula is incredibly gentle on my skin but still manages to get rid of all the dirt, oil, and makeup off my face at the end of the day. And my skin never feels dry or irritated after I use this pick. 

Some folks would recommend that you only wash your face with a face wash at night, and just splash water on your face in the morning. However, I find that my face feels itchy and uncomfortable if I don’t wash it in the morning. 

Available at Amazon ($9)

Step 2 – Apply your toner

I used to think that toner was a gimmicky skincare product, until I tried the godsends from Paula’s Choice and Face Reality.

Paula’s Choice Calm Nourishing Milky Toner

Paula’s Choice Calm Nourishing Milky Toner

This toner is thick and feels so lovely and juicy on sensitive skin. I love it so much. It adds so much hydration to my skin but doesn’t irritate my face or cause me to break out in any way. It has more of an essence texture than a watery-toner texture. I like to drop a bunch in my clean hand and rub it on my skin with my hands, rather than applying it to a cotton ball and rubbing it on my skin. 

Available at Paula’s Choice ($26)

Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Face Reality Moisture Balance Toner

This is another toner that I often reach for if I still want moisture on my skin, but I don’t need as much moisture as the Paula’s Choice Calm Nourishing Milky Toner offers. The texture of this formula is completely different from the Paula’s Choice option—it’s very watery and really lightweight. I like that it’s fragrance-free, contains soothing witch hazel and glycerin, and is formulated by a brand that specifically treats acne-prone skin. 

Available at Face Reality ($32)

Step 3 – Apply your acne-fighting serum

So this is the step that’s key to treating and preventing acne. Your skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin is nothing without this step! Over the last year, I have discovered the magic that is mandelic acid, and I believe it has completely transformed my skin. Mandelic acid, derived from almonds, is an extremely gentle acid that unclogs pores and keeps them clear. By doing so, mandelic acid serum prevents your pores from getting clogged with sebum, therefore preventing any acne from developing.  

Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum

Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum

This was the first serum I used when I discovered mandelic acid serum. Sofie Pavitt is a celebrity esthetician who specializes in acne, and she put me on to mandelic acid after she gave me a fabulous facial. I’ve gone through bottles of this stuff over the last year or so. It is so effective in preventing breakouts, and I like that it contains hyaluronic acid and panthenol to help hydrate and soothe skin while the 8% mandelic acid clears pores. Yes, it’s pricey, but to me, a clear, acne-free face is truly priceless.

Available at Sofie Pavitt Face ($54)

Face Reality 8% L-Mandelic Serum

Face Reality 8% L-Mandelic Serum

This is the other mandelic serum I have been using frequently. Even though the Face Reality 8% L-Mandelic Serum has the same percentage of mandelic acid than the Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum, I find the Face Reality option to be a bit stronger. But it’s not so strong that my face can’t handle it. I mostly break out on my chin area, so I actually just apply this formula to my chin only, rather than my entire face. The most annoying thing about this pick is that you can only get it from a Face Reality Acne Expert in your area. 

Only Available from a Face Reality Acne Expert

Step 4 – Apply a hydrating serum 

After I apply my mandelic serum (usually in the PM), I will apply a hydrating serum on top. I like to apply a hydrating serum morning and night. 

Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Cocokind Ceramide Barrier Serum

I’ve been obsessed with this serum for at least a year. I’ve gone through about 5,785 bottles of this stuff. Thank God they recently added jumbo size to this serum because I kept running out. My skin doesn’t seem to do super well with hyaluronic acid-based hydrating serums (have you been wondering is hyaluronic acid good for acne?). Opting for serums that are ceramide-based. This is a lightweight serum that soaks into my skin instantly and plumps and thoroughly hydrates, too. It’s not so hydrating that it would add oiliness to oily skin. I feel like it’s suitable for all skin types. It’s so amazing for sensitive skin and I think it works well to soothe skin, too. I’m a really big fan of this pick. 

Available at Cocokind ($22)

Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid + Collagen Activating Serum

I just started using this serum nightly and I’m really impressed with the results. The texture is different from the Cocokind option—it’s less watery and more lotiony. My skin feels instantly hydrated and moisturized after I use this serum, and a few times I’ve forgotten to apply my moisturizer on top of this because my face already feels so hydrated. 

I like that the ingredients in this pick work to build up your skin barrier, which is ideal for folks with sensitive skin. The only annoying thing about this option is that it’s a whopping $69, which is pretty pricey. 

Available at Skinfix ($69)

Step 5 – Apply your moisturizer

Skinfix Triple Lipid Peptide Cream

Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream

For those with sensitive, acne-prone skin, I recommend this delicious cream from Skinfix. I’ve been so impressed with this formula for years. I recommend this cream to anyone and everyone who will let me blab about it. It’s very luxurious-feeling, pretty thick, and doesn’t cause me to break out. It’s loaded with ceramides, lipids, and peptides to add major hydration while boosting your skin barrier, too. 

This is such a great moisturizer for anyone who has easily-irritated skin, but wants something more hydrating than a bland face lotion. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to those with really oily skin, as I think this will be too hydrating. This pick is $54 but worth every penny in my opinion. 

Available at Skinfix ($54)

Step 6 – Apply your SPF in the morning 

Face Reality Ultimate Protection SPF 28

Face Reality Ultimate Protection SPF 28

It’s really hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t break me out. This pick from Face Reality has not caused any breakouts. The downside of this option is that the SPF level is pretty low. You’re really going to need to reapply often if you are out in the sun a lot. But I like the formula, I think the price is fair, and this doesn’t cause any irritation on my skin, either. 

Available at Face Reality ($34)

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50

I’ve been loving this pick from Colorescience. I like to mix the shades “Fair” and “Medium” together to get my shade match. I love that this has SPF 50 protection and that it also has a tint to it, which helps hide blemishes or redness on my skin. It’s pretty watery but blends in nicely. I love using this in the summer because it’s a lightweight tint. 

Available at Colorescience ($54)

Alastin Skincare SilkSHIELD All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 with TriHex Technology

Alastin Skincare SilkSHIELD All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 with TriHex Technology

Adding this pick from Alastin Skincare for the folks who have sensitive, acne-prone skin but prefer a matte finish with their SPF. Typically I prefer a glowy finish. But on really hot days, I love to use this formula to prevent shininess on my skin. This is expensive, yes. But the formula is super interesting and if you have some extra cash to spend on the most important skincare product in your routine (sunscreen, duh), then I would shell it out for this one. 

Available at Alastin Skincare ($70)

Step 7 – Apply eye cream at night 

Cocokind Revitalizing Eye Cream | Skincare For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Cocokind Revitalizing Eye Cream

I never really used eye cream religiously until I tried this pick from Cocokind. It’s thick, creamy, and super moisturizing, but never irritates my sensitive eye area, either. I like to apply this to my eye area at night. Also, I don’t really use the metal tip on my skin very much. I prefer to squeeze this onto my finger and then apply to my eyes. 

Available at Cocokind ($19)

How To Care For Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Avoid oils

I have tried about a million and one face oils in my skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin regimen, and almost all of them clog pores. Squalane oil is the only one that I think doesn’t break me out, but I’m not 100% sure. I try to avoid oils in my skincare routine and opt for ceramides instead. Also, avoid oil-free skincare products when you can!

Avoid harsh active ingredients

Skincare for sensitive, acne-prone skin is kinda annoying to figure out because you want to target the acne but not upset your sensitive skin. Harsh acids might treat the acne but freak out your face. Opt for more gentle acids, like mandelic or lactic acid, to exfoliate dead skin cells on sensitive skin. It’s also a good idea to refer to your board-certified dermatologist if you can’t decide which spot treatment or active ingredient to use on your acne. 

Find an acne-fighting ingredient that works for you

In my years of testing products on my face and body, I’ve noticed that salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid) typically doesn’t do much for my hormonal acne. However, it works wonderfully on my back acne, and I use it often during the summer and winter when I get bacne most. Benzoyl peroxide might be too harsh for those with sensitive, acne-prone skin. My best advice is to try mandelic acid and see how your skin reacts.  

I’ve been hearing a lot about collagen lately—does collagen help with acne? We investigate!

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