Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Caring For Your Sensitive, Acne Prone Skin September 26, 2011

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 6:15 am
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Someone who has both sensitive skin and suffers from acne faces a dilemma when it comes to finding effective anti-acne treatments since most anti-acne products can be quite harsh on the skin.  So what options does someone have who needs a soothing, yet effective acne treatments?

Two of the most effective ingredients for treating acne are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide both of which can be quite drying on the skin.  Depending on how severe your acne is, for instance if you just have a few breakouts at a time or just clogged pores, using one of these ingredients but not the other would work for you.  Now anti-acne ingredients can be sensitizing and make your skin sting or turn red, but for most people these side effects are temporary.  Once your skin gets used to the products those side effects go away.  Keep in mind that if the redness, stinging, and uncomfortable dryness continues for a prolonged period, months for example, than you definitely have to modify your routine.

I am a strong believer in using salicylic acid cleansers for acne prone skin since salicylic acid unclogs pores, helping to prevent breakouts, reduces inflammation, and keeping your skin smooth.  One way to use a salicylic acid cleanser is to have it on hand to use a few times a week instead of every day.  Or if your skin can handle it try using the salicylic acid cleanser in the evening and a gentle cleanser in the morning.  Additionally, another way to try salicylic acid is with a lotion like Paula’s Choice Exfoliating 1% BHA Lotion.  Depending on how your skin reacts you could use the lotion a few times a week.

As for benzoyl peroxide there a few ways to use it.  First off try using the lowest possible dosage you can find like Neutrogena’s On the Spot Lotion which is 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.  If even that is too irritating try building up your use of benzoyl peroxide by applying your benzoyl peroxide product of choice for 15 minutes in the evening after cleansing.  Then wipe off the product.  Do this for a few nights, and then build up to using benzoyl peroxide for two hours before wiping it off for three nights.  If you find you can tolerate the benzoyl peroxide after the third night then try using it overnight.

Make sure you have a soothing moisturizer on hand in order to help calm any irritation.  Since you are acne prone don’t go for a super heavy product instead look for products that are labeled “oil free”, “won’t clog pores”, and “non-comedegenic”.  Hyaluronic acid moisturizers are a good choice people with oily skin since they tend to be light.

If salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are too irritating for your sensitive skin look for ingredients like tea tree oil and sulfur to treat your breakouts with hopefully less irritation.  Ingredients to look for that sooth and reduce inflammation include aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber, green tea, feverfew, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, and zinc.  Look for these ingredients in cleansers and moisturizers.  Since you always need to use sunscreen your sensitive skin may benefit from a mineral sunscreen, a sunscreen whose main ingredients are titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, as opposed to a chemical sunscreen.

If your acne is persistent and your skin can tolerate it consider using an OTC retinol.  OTC retinol causes less irritation than prescription Retin-As.  There are also gentle prescription Retin-A formulations like Refissa that some people with sensitive skin may be able to tolerate without much irritation or with minimal irritation when you first use them.

Lastly, avoid using steam on your face or a hot washcloth.  Even put ice on your face is not a good idea since rapid temperature changes will just cause you more inflammation which is something people prone to blemishes never want.

There are products out there meant for sensitive skin, aging skin with acne, and sensitive skin with acne.  They are worth considering trying.  If you can get your hands on samples before purchasing an entire product that is the way to go.

Most of all – don’t give up!  It might take some time to find the right balance of products and ingredients to treat your sensitive, acne prone skin, but you will succeed in the end.

Sources and Further Reading:


Dos and Don’ts for Acne Sufferers September 8, 2011

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 5:41 am
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One of my favorite sections of Glamour magazine is the “Dos and Dont’s” section where the magazine editors show you the right and wrong ways to wear trendy fashions as illustrated by real women.  (Glamour even wrote a whole book about dos and don’ts)  I’ve used this idea of dos and don’ts in my blog before (I wrote a post called Dos and Don’ts of Winter Skincare), but since I love the format so much I decided to use it again in another context.

Caring for your skin when you have acne can be very perplexing.  First off, there are so many different anti-acne products for sale (at stores, online, and through infomercials) that it can be extremely puzzling to understand what to buy and how to use it.  Secondly, everywhere you turn someone seems to be giving advice about how to prevent and heal acne, and a lot of that advice can be contradictory.  All of the advice can add up to even more confusion.  And lastly, figuring out what combination of anti-acne products work best for you in order to cure your acne can be a long and arduous task.  Now having said all that there are some very basic things that all acne sufferers should do or not do in order to keep their acne under control.  So lets jump in!

Do wear sunscreen!  Everyone needs wear sunscreen daily.  There are plenty of sunscreens that won’t clog your pores or feel heavy and greasy on your face.  Two of my favorites are:  GloTherapeutics Oil Free Spf 40+ and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid.

Do wear makeup if you want!  Look for makeup that is labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedegenic” which means it won’t clog pores.  Mineral makeup can be particularly good for acne prone skin.

Do use moisturizer!  It simply isn’t true that if your skin is acne prone you can’t use moisturizer.  When you use strong anti-acne products your skin dries out and cries out for moisture.  As with makeup be sure to look for “oil free” moisturizers or products that say they are meant for oily skin.  Some of my favorite moisturizers for normal to oily skin are:  GloTherapeutics Oil Free Moisturizer, PCA Skin Clearskin moisturizer, and Skinceuticals Daily Moisture.

Do seek professional help!  There is no need to battle your breakouts alone particularly if you have tried different home care products and you are still plagued by acne.  Visit a dermatologist for a consultation and go for a facial in order to get advice from a qualified esthetician.  Seeking professional help will make sure that your breakouts go away and stay away.  A doctor or esthetician can also perform facial peels which will help your acne heal.  Peels are wonderful for acne prone skin (for all skin types actually).

Do wash your pillowcase weekly and clean your phones with anti-bacterial wipes regularly!  Acne causing bacteria can linger on your phone (which you press up to your face daily) and pillowcase and just cause more breakouts in the end.  Be sure to keep both of these clean on a weekly basis in order to prevent new breakouts.

Do figure out your acne triggers!  Each of our skin reacts differently to a large number of acne causing factors.  Figuring out if stress or diet is causing your acne is something that only you can determine.  Look at Chapter 3: Targeting Your Acne Triggers from the book Healing Adult Acne by Richard G. Fried, MD, PhD for help in determining your specific acne triggers.

Do educate yourself!  Two of the best resources out there on acne are online and free.  Check out: and AcneNet

Don’t follow someone else’s anti-acne regime!  Each of us is unique and so is our skin.  Don’t be swayed by celebrity endorsements, TV informercials, magazine ads, and TV ads in order to try a new anti-acne product.

Don’t give up!  I’ve suffered from acne for over 20 years.  I know just how frustrating and depressing it can be look in the mirror when you have acne.  The good news is that there are so many great products and resources out there for people with acne.  Keep your spirits up – you will find a solution for your acne!

Further reading:  Coping with Acne:  Your Care Plan WebMD


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