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This Is The Best Skincare Routine for Sensitive, Acne-Prone Skin

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Acne: Everyone knows it, almost everyone hates it. But when you add sensitive skin to the mix, it’s an entirely different condition—probably the most difficult to treat. It’s a struggle between the desire to clear existing breakouts and the need to avoid irritating an already delicate skin barrier. This is not easy to win, as harsh acne treatments often lead to stinging, burning and redness in sensitive skin. But the secret lies in a streamlined routine built on clean, effective ingredients—the kind that fights breakouts without fighting your skin. This routine is your path to clearer, calmer skin, and we’ve got the perfect one for you.

How to treat sensitive, acne-prone skin

When it comes to sensitive skin that’s also prone to acne, you need:

  • Sebum Control: Mineral-derived sulfur is key. This acne medication helps reduce excess oil on your skin and helps remove impurities from your pores to prevent new breakouts from forming.
  • Exfoliation (with caution): Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), is ideal for its dual action. It dissolves the bonds between dead skin cells (reducing clogged pores) while possessing anti-inflammatory properties that soothe sensitive skin.
  • Preventing Future Breakouts: Azelaic acid is an anti-keratinizing agent, meaning it prevents excess skin cell buildup that leads to clogged pores. It also improves the look of uneven skin and fades those dark marks left behind by old breakouts.
  • Barrier Support: Sensitive skin needs all the help it can get. Look out for ingredients like squalane, a natural lipid closely mimicking your own skin’s oil, which replenishes moisture without feeling heavy. Or bisabolol, the active component in chamomile, which has calming and anti-inflammatory benefits. These ingredients improve the strength of your skin barrier and keeps it healthy and balanced while you’re on an acne regimen.

The key to managing sensitive, acne-prone skin is finding a balance. You need active ingredients to combat blemishes, but not so many (or at such potent concentrations) that they compromise your skin barrier. That’s the beauty of a streamlined system like the Proactiv solution. This three-step routine delivers proven acne-fighting ingredients alongside those that soothe and protect, giving your skin the best chance at long-term clarity.

Ready to see exactly how this routine works?

Step 1: Acne Cleanser

Mineral Acne Cleanser

This isn’t your average acne cleanser—it’s the first step towards resetting your skin. It clears away excess oil and grime without stripping away vital moisture, sets the stage for other acne-fighting ingredients to work their magic, and soothes the inflammation that often makes acne-prone skin feel so uncomfortable.

How does it do that?

Well, Proactiv’s Mineral Acne Cleanser cleverly combines the proven acne-fighting power of sulfur with the soothing touch of nature. Unlike typical sulfur-based cleansers, Proactiv uses a mineral-derived form. This means it’s potent enough to go deep into pores, dissolving the oil and debris that lead to clogged pores, but is less likely to cause the dryness and irritation often associated with traditional sulfur. Besides sulfur, this cleanser also packs chamomile, which contains a potent compound called bisabolol with anti-inflammatory properties. Considering acne itself is an inflammatory condition, chamomile works in tandem with sulfur to actively calm any redness or discomfort. The lack of parabens, phthalates, and all the other “no-no” ingredients on Proactiv’s list further reinforces the emphasis on gentleness.

Mineral Acne Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

Step 2: Pore Cleaner

Azelaic Pore Perfector

Proactiv Azelaic Pore Perfector is a multi-faceted solution designed specifically for sensitive, acne-prone skin. Its star ingredient, azelaic acid, actively works to fade those stubborn dark marks that seem to linger long after the blemish itself has disappeared.

But here’s where this product truly shines for sensitive skin: it doesn’t wage war solely on acne. It understands that sensitive skin needs extra support. Squalane hydrates, nourishes, and moisturizes your skin, while bisabolol and allantoin calm inflammation.

Proactiv didn’t stop there. They know dehydration is a major trigger for sensitivity, so they added hyaluronic acid and glycerin — moisture magnets that bind water to your skin. And of course, it maintains that dermatologist-developed stamp of approval and avoids all the harsh irritants on Proactiv’s extensive “no-no” list.

The results? With consistent use, the Azelaic Pore Perfector goes beyond just fighting active breakouts. It works to help even skin tone, minimize the appearance of acne scars, and creates a visibly more balanced complexion.

Azelaic Pore Perfector

Step 3: Acne Moisturizer

Acne Clearing Hydrator

Most acne-fighting moisturizers leave your sensitive skin feeling tight and parched. Not this one! The Proactiv Acne Clearing Hydrator combines the pore-clearing power of salicylic acid with a hefty dose of hydration and skin-loving ingredients. Instead of the harshness often found in acne products, this hydrator uses skin-mimicking squalane and plumping hyaluronic acid for deep moisture. Bakuchiol, a gentle retinol alternative, smooths skin and evens tone without irritation, while vitamin E offers antioxidant protection. 

And like the rest of the Proactiv line, it’s dermatologist-developed and free of those irritating ingredients that can make acne and sensitive skin worse.

Acne Clearing Hydrator

How to use Proactiv acne routine

Consistency is key with the Proactiv system, so make it part of your morning and night routine. Start with the Mineral Acne Cleanser. This preps your skin for maximum effectiveness of the following products by removing surface oil, debris, and calming any existing inflammation.

Once your skin is dry, apply a thin layer of the Azelaic Pore Perfector, which helps to fade dark spots from past breakouts.

Finally, seal everything in with the Acne Clearing Hydrator. This lightweight formula delivers a crucial dose of hydration along with continued pore-clearing and skin-smoothing salicylic acid. Maintaining hydration is essential for a stronger skin barrier, reducing the chance of acne breakouts.

This three-step routine creates a cumulative effect. Each product primes the skin for the next and addresses the various factors contributing to acne, resulting in a more effective approach than simple spot treatments.

The verdict

That’s it! It might seem simple, but this routine offers a comprehensive approach to acne. Each step builds upon the last to effectively clear blemishes and promote an overall healthier, more balanced complexion. You can get the whole routine from the Proactiv website for $95.20.

Read next: 11 Best Acne Treatments for Sensitive Skin

Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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