When you have acne-prone skin, clearing up blemishes and preventing future breakouts are likely some of your main goals when it comes to your skin care routine. But for anyone who won the skin care lottery with sensitive skin in addition to breakouts (welcome to the club!), finding a treatment can be confusing at best, and leave your skin looking even more inflamed than when you started, at worst. So how exactly do you go about finding the best acne treatments for sensitive skin? It can involve a little bit of trial and error to see which ingredients your skin can tolerate (and just how much it can tolerate). But it can also be as simple as looking for treatments that combine soothing ingredients with actives meant to zap zits in their tracks.
By now, you may have already discovered that common ingredients in acne treatments, like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, can irritate your skin, leaving you with redness and dryness in addition to breakouts. But there are other, less obvious ingredients that could be aggravating your skin, too, including alcohol, exfoliating beads, and synthetic fragrances.
While that latter three have no real benefit to being in your skin care products, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide aren't necessarily the enemy. If you've been applying leave-on treatments with either of these ingredients daily, instead, start by using them two to three times a week, and gradually working your way up to a once daily as your skin gets used to them. Also, look for a treatment with a smaller concentration of these ingredients — you don't need to go all-in with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide at first, but can start with a lower concentration between 2.5 and 5.5 percent.
Paired with a gentle moisturizer like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, or anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea, aloe, and witch hazel, you can decrease the likelihood of irritation. Also, pay attention to how you apply your treatment. If you only notice breakouts occasionally, or you tend to have more cystic acne, use a spot treatment that's highly concentrated to eliminate bacteria, instead of slathering it all over your face.