Skin is your body's first line of defense against dirt, bacteria and other irritants.  You might not feel so positive about your complexion though if you suffer from acne and also have sensitive skin. 

Take heart.  On the surface, suffering from acne with sensitive skin might seem like a cruel fate, but there are effective methods for treating the former without aggravating the latter.  

Getting rid of acne without aggravating that sensitive skin just might seem like an impossible task but a closer look at these conditions will help you understand the things you’ll need to develop a skin care routine for successful treatment.

What causes sensitive skin?

Dealing with Acne and Sensitive Skin

In a way, sensitive skin is a result of your skin actually doing its job too well. Physical and mental stress triggers the release of hormones to the sebum glands, causing them to boost oil production. At the same time, the hormones alert mast cells to produce a substance called histamine.

Histamine is part of your body's inflammatory response to irritants. It makes the capillaries more permeable, allowing easier movement of white blood cells that fight the "invasion." In effect, your immune system goes into hyper drive, resulting in heightened sensitivity.

The vicious circle of acne and sensitive skin

Since excess production of oil and clogged pores are the primary ingredients for acne breakouts, it's not surprising that sensitive skin can lead to more frequent outbreaks. Ironically, though both conditions are related, they respond to different treatments. The strength of active ingredients in acne care products, such as benzoyl peroxide, often serves to further inflame sensitive skin.

You also need to be sure that you are treating the right condition. The symptoms of sensitive skin, acne and rosacea are all similar. Rosacea, however, involves blood vessels while acne and the effects of sensitive skin arise from conditions affecting your pores. With rosacea, weakened capillaries create small red dots on the surface of the skin that could eventually become scar tissue.

Keys to effective treatment

There are simple yet effective steps you can take to treat acne with sensitive skin. 

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Avoid harsh products that will strip moisture from your skin, which creates more production of excessive oil. Gritty scrubs and exfoliates don’t necessarily provide the deep pore cleansing needed but can also spread bacteria, increasing the number of breakouts.
     
  • Clean your face with washcloths made of soft fabrics like flannel and terrycloth. Be sure to use a fresh cloth each time you wash to avoid reapplying bacteria from the soiled one.
     
  • Moisturizers may seem like a counterproductive solution, but they serve as a barrier against irritants while balancing the skin's hydration level. Focus on skin moisturizers designed for sensitive skin that don’t contain fragrances or dyes.
     
  • Use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). Repeated unprotected exposure to sunlight causes a buildup of melanin on the skin’s surface, which can be very problematic, creating sunspots and even causing skin cancer long after breakouts are gone.
     
  • Get advice from a dermatologist or skin care professional. They have seen and treated a wide variety of skin types and complexions and have a wealth of knowledge to share about skin care needs.

Remember that your complexion is as unique as the rest of you. Incorporating these skincare tips into your skin care routine will help you zero in on the perfect combination that works for you.