I’m SO on top of My Routine. Why Won’t My Acne Go Away?

Why Your Adult Acne Won't Go Away

We’re taught that fighting breakouts is the way to clear them. But that doesn’t work for all of us. Your routine could be why your adult acne won’t go away.

Could you be like me? My whole life I fought my breakouts. I attacked them, dried them out, scrubbed them with exfoliants, + skipped moisturizer since I was advised it won’t help my acne-prone skin. (That’s what I was treated for.)

But sensitive skin can’t handle this. Instead of helping, it weakens your skin’s defenses (that are already low key weak) + opens up the door for more breakouts.

It’s a vicious cycle. Breakout > attack > more breakouts because it was attacked.

If you don’t know you have sensitive skin, like I didn’t know, it all just continues.

Sensitive skin thrives + is able to defend against breakouts by being supported. You have its back + it has yours. It can clear dumbly fast when supported.

This Means a Switch To:

  • Prioritizing not drying out your skin
  • Minimizing exfoliation as much as possible (your top layer of skin is already weaker than others). And choosing the gentlest forms possible.
  • Retiring mud masks (I know ? )
  • Moisturizers are still annoying, but more likely because they’re too heavy + clog. There are workarounds.
  • Conditioners, like moisturizers, can clog your skin. Lighter hydration forms help.
  • You can use spot treatments, but not the traditional ones. It needs to gently treat + moisturize to KO.
  • Low % actives tend to be your friend. Usually the lower the better.

A Sensitive Skin Routine – When Moisturizers Are Your Enemy

Sensitive Skin Routine

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

I’ve played with a lot of routines since figuring out I had sensitive skin. I’ve done the Korean 10 Step, a minimalist routine, explored double cleansing, oil cleanser only, balms. Let’s just say I explored a lot. This is the 1st in a series of sensitive skin routine examples.

This Routine May Help

  • If you’re having trouble finding moisturizers that don’t break you out.
  • Acne that could use some calming + healing help.
  • Skin that’s become progressively angrier with trying new products.
  • Oily, combination, + dry skin.
  • * Note: This routine does have fragrance. If you know you react, skip.

A Sensitive Skin Routine

Cleanser: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($15)

A great sensitive skin routine

This is a fab facial cleanser for supporting your skin barrier by repairing it with ceramides.

Repairing your skin barrier can help protect your skin from getting angered by irritation + acne. It can also help balance the runaway effect of oily skin or dry skin when your skin barrier isn’t at its best.

I like this non-foaming version to help the ceramides stick around + because it’s a super gentle cleanser.

Instead of a Moisturizer: Layer an Essence + Serum or Facial Oil

skin care products for sensitive skin

Rose water is very hyped, but I’ve gotta say it’s for a reason! If you only try it for a few days, you’ll think it does nothing. If used for a few weeks or a month, you’ll see it!

Rose water is able to get oily skin or dry skin to balance its oil production. Rosa damascena has a unique ability to gently combat acne bacteria. Plus, rose water is said to improve skin turnover (healing, youthful skin).

I use this guy as a facial spray. It has a great spritzer for a gentle mist.

Image Credit: Alteya Organics

skin care for sensitive skin

Snail muscin is an old favorite I love to have around.

It’s great for keeping skin moisturized + it also helps speed up healing of fresh post-acne marks.

It applies like a thick serum, absorbs easily, + dries with a smooth finish.

Sensitive Skin Routine

I’m obsessed with a lovely facial oil! They do a great job of preventing moisture loss + keeping your skin hydrated.

This one smells incredibly soothing while also provides skin calming (I tested!). I love using it at night for the most luxurious feeling night regimen! Contrary to the myth, using a facial oil will not make your skin oilier. It can signal your skin to balance oil levels.

While I would happily use this for AM as well, some don’t love the glowy look that facial oils can give for day time.

SPF (AM Step 4): Village 11 Factory Daily Mild Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA++++ ($14)

oily sensitive skin care routine

A luxurious feeling SPF that applies smoothy + soaks in easily with a dry finish. Can be reapplied without change in skinfeel. This has a lovely scent that encourages me to remember to use it (I don’t react).

Hydrating squalane + calming ingredients including cica don’t hurt either.

Plus it’s one of the very few sunscreens that pass the brother test. (He won’t use 95% of them because he hates their feel.)

PM Spot Treatment (as needed): Tuel Clear It Blemish Control Gel ($42)

good skin care routine for sensitive skin

This is the gentlest, most effective acne treatment for sensitive skin I’ve found yet! It uses an unscented sulfur gel to gently reduce oils without drying out your skin. It both treats + calms. Full bae status.

I’ve used it for generic acne, hormonal acne, and acne hiding deep under the skin.

One of my most repurchased products! A bottle typically lasts me 3-6 months. A little goes a long way. But it will never dry out your skin.

Image Credit: Tuel

How to Tackle Fungal Acne with Sensitive Skin

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

fungal acne vs bacterial acne

About 2 years ago, I started dealing with an acne that would not respond to my trusty sensitive skin acne treatments. It could not have been more frustrating! And honestly confusing. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but breadcrumbs lead me to hear about fungal acne.

This brought me to Simple Skincare Science – the most amazingly comprehensive fungal acne blog + information source to date. For about a year + a half, I tested products from his list + finally found some that work for sensitive skin 7 months ago.

What is Fungal Acne?

Our skin naturally has a balance of bacteria and yeast that coexists on our skin harmoniously. It’s totally normal.

If that balance gets rocked, the yeast can take over more space + overpopulate. It can occur due to hot climates, humidity, not showering directly after working out, antibiotic use, or steroid use.

Fungal acne is a beast in that it thrives off of commonly used ingredients. To beat it, you need a combination of a fungicide (kills the fungus to try to rebalance) + products it can’t feed off of (prevents bounce back). But it will likely be an on and off issue, reoccurring at some time + needing to be put in its place again. From my experience, it gets easier once you find what works, but it’s possible to have a flare.

What Are the Signs?

  • Pimples that do not respond to acne treatments.
  • You may find a spike in them a day after working out, if you do not shower right away.
  • Itchiness (or reflexive scratching, in my case) near breakout sites.
  • Typically found, but not limited to, forehead, neck, shoulders, chest, or back.

A Sensitive Skin Fungal Acne Regime

Yes, a full one!

It’s worth noting there are different fungicides. And I tested a few. What worked + cleared my skin was this below list. I had also tried ketoconazole and chlorhexidine without luck.

Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc (ZnP) Argan Oil Bar Soap ($13)

best fungal acne cleanser

I tried a lot of treatments. Some were too strong, some had surfactants that were too aggressive, some almost helped, and others just didn’t seem to have an effect for me. Until I found this! It visibly works, visibly calms, and resolved things faster than I thought possible.

best products for fungal acne

It’s incredibly creamy + gentle, while lightly moisturizing. And the ingredient list is tiny! All you need to remember is to let it sit on your skin for 2-5mins to properly do its job. Then wash it off like normal. I recommend only using it on affected areas, which allows the bar to last for 1.5mos – from my tests. Be sure to store it somewhere it can dry out after use as will melt if kept in a splash zone.

fungal acne safe products

Kala Health MSM Skin Facial Gel ($12)

This one aims to gently dial down skin oil levels to give fungal acne a harder time. It doesn’t dry out the skin at all. And I even use it for hormonal acne. (It’s not a one trick pony!)

MSM is in the sulfur family, but without a scent. Sulfur helps with balancing oil production, is both antibacterial + antifungal, and is said to be anti-inflammatory.

I did a recent side-by-side test and it appears MSM + azelaic acid might be in the same ballpark of effectiveness.

I use this as an AM/PM moisturizer.

fungal acne safe skincare

Timeless Squalane 100% Pure, Olive Derived ($12)

One way of navigating this is apparently to make your skin believe its oil levels are sufficient by replacing with an oil type that fungal acne finds useless. (As it thrives on our natural oils.)

Used as a body oil or facial oil, this gives your skin some lovely moisture and keeps your skin hydrated. Meanwhile, fungal acne has a hard time as this isn’t something that it can feed upon.

I use this as another option for a moisturizer. Typically for PM.

(Side note: I also use it to gently remove stubborn eye make-up. Works like a dream!)

fungal acne treatment

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster ($36)

This is apparently an up-and-coming approach to fungal acne. Azelaic acid is something that is produced as a byproduct of Malassezia (aka fungal acne) +, though not fully understood, has been flagged as something that may help as it reduces what fungal acne thrives on.

I was curious + spent a few months testing this. I found really positive results, that it doesn’t dry out sensitive skin, and have since started using it as a spot treatment or extra push for stubborn areas.

Krave Oat So Simple Water Cream ($28)

This gel moisturizer does a great job at calming the usual redness that that fungal acne sites have. I found redness was reduced either overnight or within about 2 days.

This is best used as a layered product with a hydrating essence and/or serum under. Alone, it doesn’t have enough hydration for the face; I found it left my skin under-hydrated + looking (but not feeling) a little taught.

It’s perfectly fine to use on its own for the body, but given the jar size, I would suggest the MSM Gel instead for body fungal acne.

3 Great Hair Routine Options for Clearer Skin

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

my hair care routine

I will say it till you guys get bored of me! Your hair care routine is skin care. What’s used on our hair washes off along our face and back, which can cause breakouts without us realizing it.

Most shampoos have low key harsh cleansers + strip too much of our skin’s natural defenses. Conditioners are designed to smooth + moisturize our hair, but these same ingredients that do a great job making hair look + feel smooth can clog pores like nobody’s business!

hair routines for healthy hair
the best hair products

I count my hair care as an essential part of my skin routine. Why have an expensive skincare routine if your shower routine is undermining your hard work? You won’t believe the visible difference a change in hair care can make on your skin!

It takes a lot of searching to find hair products that play well with skin. So, I’ve rounded up some that have passed the 2-week skin test + are so worth knowing about!

Live Clean Hydrating Shampoo + Conditioner

This is an all-round fave of mine! This is your model jeans + t-shirt pick that never lets you down. Always leaves my hair feeling soft + bouncy while my scalp feels balanced (some can cause oiliness). This pair also includes camomile extract, oat protein, and green tea extract. And a nice fresh scent that either a girl or guy could use + I’ve received compliments for.

best hair routine

The conditioner is able to keep my easily tangled hair easy to comb through without extra products. I often turn to one of these when I’m testing a shampoo or conditioner whose mate doesn’t work with sensitive skin. They’re just that easy to work with. Bonus: it’s both Leaping Bunny cruelty-free + a biodegradable pair. So fancy! I like pretending I’m doing something good with everyday choices.

(This has hexyl cinnamal {cinnamon}, linalool {found in lavender}, citrus, rosemary, and fragrance. FYI as can be a trouble point for some.)

Not Your Mother’s Naturals Volume Boost Shampoo + Conditioner with Linseed, Chia Blend, + French Plum Seed Oil

best hair products for women

Another great, easy pair + the most affordable to date, given its big size! The scent is so calming + fresh it’s one of my faves. This pair also leaves my hair silky soft while allowing volume. (Can you guess what I love?)

Linseed, another name for flaxseed, has omega-3, B vitamins, + antioxidants; it may also help with better hair growth.

Compared to this one, the Live Clean pair feels very slightly lighter. So if you’re looking for a little extra moisture, this is probably your duo.

(This has fragrance, which can be difficult for some.)

Rahua Voluminous Shampoo + Conditioner

The luxe pick when you want to elevate your hair routine to scalp pampering. Or prefer a clean beauty alternative. This set works best with more use. . . Hear me out. At 1st wash it caused my hair to catch + tangle easily into, honestly, a horrible flat mess. It required a lot of extra post-shower product to keep my hair from knotting in the beginning. However, after a week’s use, a switch flipped + my hair became a ton easier to work with on its own. Full u-turn from hot mess to lovely, manageable locks.

After that 1 week mark, my hair had lovely voluminous bounce with good loft at the roots. If you’re up for the process, the results are good! Plus the ingredients practically say scalp skincare with green tea, aloe, quinoa, and omega-rich oil. Hey scalp, you happy being pampered a bit?

(For those of us who have trouble with essential oils – this might not be for you!)

3 Great Cleansers for Sensitive Skin (+ How to Pick Yours)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

Facial Cleansers Are a Big Deal for Sensitive Skin

The wrong one will send my skin into chaos. The right one will allow my skin to mellow out into clear skin. Sensitive skin is truly like that.

It’s OK if a cleanser doesn’t solve everything for you. I don’t expect it to. There are very likely other things at play you’ve yet to find. What you need first is a stable base from which you can solve the rest.

Cue Cleansers with Small Ingredient Lists

Fifteen - A Sensitive Skin Acne Blog: good facial cleansers for sensitive acne prone skin.
Facial cleansers with small ingredient lists tend to be fab for sensitive skin. Especially when learning your skin’s likes + dislikes!

Alright, if you’re just beginning to learn about your skin, a short ingredient list naturally makes it much easier to figure out your skin’s likes + dislikes.

I spent the last 3.5 months testing cleansers until I found a few that would help serve as a starting point for learning your skin. Some bombed big time, these guys passed.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
(with 3 essential ceramides + hyaluronic acid)

Fifteen - A Sensitive Skin Acne Blog: best face wash for sensitive skin acne.
CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is a holy grail product for sensitive skin.

Best For:

  • Sensitive Skin Beginners
  • Acne Skin / Skin Currently in Chaos
  • Dry Skin / Oily Skin / Combo Skin

This is a foundational cleanser that aims to fix a root cause of sensitive skin acne. Its goal is to strengthen our skin barrier, which tends to be compromised or more easily weakened with sensitive skin. Gotta say, I’m a big fan of root cause fixes when I can find them.

The CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser was a drugstore find, which is great for ease of repurchase and also that it’s $13.50.

I tried this cleanser on the heels of some rough weeks of failed cleansers. (Oof some were expensive fails!) I was really struggling to get my skin back under control, even with backup from my most trusted products.

Within about 4 days of trying this cleanser, my skin began to calm + showed signs of stabilizing. By the end of my two-week trial, I was breakout free again and put away the concealer. This has now become my recovery cleanser anytime I hit a rough patch in product trials. (That’s actually a really big deal!)

If you’re just starting out, I would suggest this one. If you’re experiencing chaos, its skin barrier help should give you stability. There’s also no added fragrance + no essential oils that naturally contain fragrance. So, if you have no clue what you react to yet, here you go.

If you suffer from dry skin or oily skin, the ceramides attempt to repair your lipid barrier and should help your skin balance out. In English, dry skin will become better hydrated and oily skin will lessen oil production. Skin barrier repairs are that awesome!

Honest Beauty Magic Gel-to-Milk Cleanser

Fifteen - A Sensitive Skin Acne Blog: a sensitive skin cleanser for natural skincare or cruelty-free preference.
PSA: This Honest Magic Gel-to-Milk Facial Cleanser reflects about 4 weeks of use.

Best For :

  • Oily Skin / Combo Skin
  • Acne Skin / Healing
  • Cruelty-Free Conscious
  • Natural Ingredient Preference

If you have oily or combo skin, have acne, prefer something with a more natural or cruelty-free lean, this could be your pick. I wouldn’t bet dry skin would find this one useful, even though it has hydrating ingredients.

Honest Beauty Magic Gel-to-Milk Cleanser ($15) has ingredients like rose water + kaolin clay that tell me it’s aimed at gently reducing oil production. I personally love rosa damascena (the rose used in this) for its acne help, its help with skin turnover (helps with healing + aging), and its hydrating qualities.

This cleanser is Peta Certified. Cruelty-free sites like Ethical Elephant place Honest in the gray category, and Cruelty-Free Kitty flat out does not list Honest. In my opinion, it sounds like Honest has a lean in the direction of cruelty-free, but might not check all the boxes in regards to its ingredient suppliers. Still, it would serve as a better alternative to those brands without any thought to cruelty-free. With sensitive skin, I do what I can when I can, but know I don’t have as many options to choose from.

FYI – Though not common, it is possible to have a reaction to rose or citric acid, which is worth being aware of, in case you notice it for you.

Sometimes this cleanser’s milky quality can cause cloudy vision for a second or two as you’re washing/cleaning it off. I found this infrequent, brief, with no adverse effects and no stinging. So, I do not find this a detractor. I actually continued to use this after the test period. The brand describes a floral scent, I didn’t really pick it up and found it neutral smelling. (That’s normal for rose water. It doesn’t have a strong scent.)

Avalon Organics Intense Defense Cleansing Gel

Fifteen - A Sensitive Skin Acne Blog: a sensitive skin face wash for glowy skin.
A long time favorite, but shouldn’t be used every day with sensitive skin.

Best For:

  • Oily Skin / Dry Skin / Combo Skin
  • Acne Healing / Anti-Aging
  • Cruelty-Free Conscious
  • Natural / Organic Ingredient Preference

This one’s an old favorite, with the caveat that it’s best used on alternate days rather than as an everyday cleanser. I wouldn’t normally recommend a cleanser you can’t use every day. But this one gives such fabulous, glowy results on the 1st wash that it’s worth it. (Plus it’s so freaking cheap, who cares!)

Avalon Organics Intense Defense Cleansing Gel ($6) is also more natural leaning, even including some organic ingredients, for those who prefer that. It’s also both Leaping Bunny cruelty-free and vegan.

If you feel your skin is dull looking, are in your 20’s/30’s or above and need some anti-aging skin food, looking to post-acne heal or even out your skin tone, this might be a great companion for your gentle everyday cleanser.

You could pair this with the CeraVe cleanser mentioned above, if you wanted to. The Honest cleanser would add additional citric acid to your regimen and could possibly push your skin into a reaction if your skin is unused to or dislikes a lot of it.

FYI – Some people can have an allergy to citrus, aloe, or lavender. Each are not common allergies, but I believe it’s worth being aware of in case you discover that any of them trip you up. Remember, we’re all different in the sensitive skin world. For this reason, it makes the list.

If your skin is unused to Vitamin C, introduce this slowly, say 1-2x a week with gap days in between. If you’re in sun at all, be sure to apply SPF as Vitamin C ups skin sensitivity to sun (burns more easily). Don’t cause damage while improving skin!

Don’t Forget

Your skin needs some oil for your skin barrier to function properly. If you’re going for an oil-less squeaky clean, you’re holding yourself back from clear skin.

Is It Hormonal Acne or Your Toothpaste?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through & make a purchase.

All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

What if your hormonal chin acne isn't hormonal, but irritation? This cheap, quick test could help rule it out in days. Maybe even solve it. (Buh-bye!)
Photo by Alina Kovalchuk on Unsplash

At the 2 week mark of my Test-Avoid experiment, my face was basically clear of new breakouts except for a few near my mouth. Before, I would write these off as classic hormonal chin acne.

But some “hormonal acne” would appear:

  • At the center of my Cupid’s bow
  • Somewhere between lips + nose
  • Near the corner of my lips
(Can I just have a cute beauty mark instead?)

These areas, especially at the center of my Cupid’s bow, seemed a little too outside the normal hormonal acne chin zone.

I decided to take these outliers as a clue.

On a hunch, I checked my toothpaste’s ingredient list + found (*cue swears*) one of my test-avoid ingredients. A light online dig (bada bing, bada boom) unearthed articles noting toothpaste was indeed a culprit for some people.

Ran back to the store + bought the only toothpaste I could get my hands on that fit my test’s parameters:

Those stubborn pimples around the true “hormonal” chin area?  Disappeared. In days.

What I was experiencing wasn’t hormonal acne, it was just the SLS in my toothpaste.

Can I experience hormonal acne?  For sure, like any human girl.  But all the time?  Not me once I switched toothpaste.

But seriously who would think of toothpaste re: breakouts?

I just wish I had bumped into that FYI years ago. About a $5 toothpaste investment prevented at least $50 in zit targeting creams + moisturizers. Moisturizers mainly to combat the overdrying + peeling that acne products usually caused on my skin.

What’s that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?