10 Best Acne Treatments for Sensitive Skin That Clear and Purify Without Worsening Breakouts

Brand courtesy / @Aveneusa
We may include products - handpicked by our editors - we find useful for our readers. When you buy through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission — view our product review process and sources of information.

Finding an acne treatment for sensitive skin can be quite challenging, as so many acne-fighting ingredients are known to irritate the skin. From exfoliating washes that promise to keep your pimples in check to spot treatments that claim to zap a zit overnight, there’s no shortage of acne treatments to choose from. However, unfortunately, many of these popular acne-fighting products come with a price.

If you’re like me, you may fall into the trap of thinking if your acne treatment is burning, it’s working, but this only inflames sensitive skin further. When you use products that are too harsh for your skin you can end up with more redness and irritation than you had to begin with, leading to a never-ending cycle of inflammation and breakouts, leaving you feeling frustrated and hopeless. But don’t worry, I’ve compiled a list of the best products for sensitive skin with acne that’ll clear, purify and treat your complexion without making it worse.

What’s the best acne treatment for sensitive skin?

When you have sensitive, acne-prone skin, it’s important to pay attention to a product’s ingredient list and avoid high concentrations of ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide that are known to be drying when overused. While these are potent acne-fighting ingredients, they can be too powerful for those with sensitive skin. Instead, focus on gentle products that still contain potent acne-fighters but in a balanced formula that also packs in soothing, calming agents, such as antioxidants, sulfur, and AHA’s such as glycolic and lactic acid

Another factor that goes into treating acne when you have sensitive skin is the frequency with which you use your acne treatment. Even if you’re using one of the best products for sensitive skin with acne, it’s essential to start out slow and steady to gauge how your skin reacts. Once your skin has acclimated and you see there is no irritation, you can increase how often you use it. Now that you know the theory, take a peep below and pick your favorite acne treatment for your sensitive skin:

La Roche-Posay Acne Treatment for Sensitive Skin

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment

It’s always a good idea to keep a spot treatment on hand, especially for the days when you wake up with a huge pimple out of nowhere! The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment is one of the best acne treatments for sensitive skin that can be used both as a spot treatment or all over and can be used up to three times a day. Since it’s formulated with 5.5% benzoyl peroxide, lipo-hydroxy acid, and glycerin, the product has the ability to penetrate deep within the pores to fight acne-causing bacteria while maintaining hydration within the skin to prevent moisture loss. It’s perfect whether your skin is dry or problematic.

Avène Cleanance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum

Avène Cleanance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum

With over 50 years in skincare, Avène’s entire line is dedicated to caring for sensitive skin with products formulated with its signature Thermal Spring Water that soothes and calms inflammation. The Avène Cleanance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum is one of the best acne treatments for sensitive skin, thanks to its simple formula containing milk thistle extract, silica, and thermal spring water. This spot treatment is gentle enough to be used twice daily as an all-over serum that helps control oil production and reduces breakouts, making it especially ideal for those with sensitive skin who suffer from chronic breakouts.

Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Acne Rescue Spot Corrector

Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Acne Rescue Spot Corrector

Unlike most acne spot treatments that rely on benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, the Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Acne Rescue Spot Corrector is packed with 10% sulfur to help reduce current breakouts, prevent future ones, and ease inflammation. Treatments containing sulfur are some of the best products for sensitive skin with acne, thanks to their ability to absorb excess oil and dry up blemishes without drying the rest of the skin out. In addition to sulfur, this one is also made with glycolic acid to slough off dead cells and niacinamide to strengthen the protective barrier. This is what we call a winner product.

Paulas Choice Exfoliant with Salicylic Acid

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

A cult favorite and winner of several skincare awards, the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant has long been hailed as one of the best acne treatments for sensitive skin. It can be used up to twice daily after cleansing as a leave-on exfoliant that gently sheds dead cells and oil buildup while brightening uneven skin tone and minimizing the appearance of pores. While most products with salicylic acid are too harsh for sensitive skin, this one strikes the perfect balance at a concentration of 2% combined with the soothing antioxidant power of green tea.

SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask

SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask

Clay masks often get a bad rap as being overly drying and causing irritation, but with the right formula for reactive skin, they can be some of the best products for sensitive skin with acne. The SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask fits the bill by combining kaolin and bentonite, two of the highest quality earth clays available, with aloe and chamomile to offset irritation to dry up pimples without drying out the skin. It’s also made with 2% mixed fruit extracts rich in AHAs to gently exfoliate buildup from acne.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Fusing a combination of niacinamide and zincThe Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is one of the best products for sensitive skin with acne that won’t break the bank. Unlike most acne products that use AHAs and BHAs, this acne treatment relies on anti-inflammatory antioxidants and vitamins to soothe irritation and inflammation, protect the skin from external stressors, and strengthen the skin barrier overall. This results in smoother skin with fewer breakouts. Yet, the benefits don’t stop there, either — the serum also helps fade hyperpigmentation, minimize pores’ appearance, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Murad Acne Control Cleanser

Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser

While most clarifying cleansers are meant for normal to oily skin types, the Acne Control Cleanser from Murad is one of the best acne treatments for sensitive skin since it can treat breakouts without irritating or drying. This clarifying cleanser is formulated with two types of salicylic acid to break up oil and buildup that contribute to acne. One is a free form of salicylic acid that starts treating breakouts immediately, while the other is an encapsulated form that’s more gentle and continues treating after rinsing.

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

If you’re looking for organic and vegan products, reach for Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum. It reduces breakouts and unclogs pores with willow bark extract and salicylic acid, purifying blemishes-prone skin by removing bacteria that causes acne in the first place. Your sensitive skin is safe with this blemish clearing serum as it boasts a whole host of antioxidants, including vitamin C, green tea, and coenzyme Q10, to add an extra layer of protection and keep irritations away.

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

There’s literally nothing in this moisturizer that can mess up your complexion but calms, balances, and hydrates it. Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer provides the perfect amount of moisture for sensitive, breakout-prone skin while battling acne with probiotics, squalane, and lactic acid. Most reviewers noticed fewer pimples and more hydration after incorporating this moisturizer into their beauty ritual, so we really believe it’s worth a shot (or more). Plus, it’s lightweight, non-comedogenic, and doesn’t feel greasy at all, leaving skin soft, supple, and plumped all day long.

Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Liquid

Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Clarifying Liquid

Any skin needs exfoliation, especially if prone to acne — to remove the buildup of dead cells and bacteria that can clog pores and cause more breakouts. That’s why Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength 10% Pha Exfoliating Clarifying Liquid is one of the best acne treatments for sensitive skin — it loads a delicate cocktail of chemical exfoliants to target acne and uneven skin texture. And I mean delicate because the product uses 10% gluconolactone which is one of the gentles exfoliators out there, also hydrating. And to be super effective, it also packs glycolic and salicylic acids, which you already know how good they are.

The takeaway

It’s easy to get discouraged and feel hopeless when you have sensitive skin that’s prone to acne — there’s no worse feeling than when your skin is dry and tight with breakouts thrown in the mix. But by swapping out some of your current acne treatments with an acne product for sensitive skin and a little patience, you’ll see improvement in no time.

Who wrote this?
Rebecca Byrne
Rebecca Byrne
Rebecca Byrne is a licensed master cosmetologist who has held her license since 2015. She has worked in several areas of the beauty and skincare industry, where she consulted one-on-one with clients and treated different skin conditions. Rebecca now writes beauty and cosmetology content to help others achieve their best selves and make them feel better in their own skin.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter to get access to exclusive content, offers, and products.
Was this article helpful?
Awesome! Would you like to share it?
That's too bad. Thank you for your feedback!
More topics for you
Why trust us?
Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
Women's Concepts Logo
Join Us