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.

Sensitive Skin Acne: Learning From Fails

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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.

Sometimes products don’t work for us + that’s ok. Don’t tough it out + feel like you have to use it up, it’s ok to let go.

While the cost of trying a product + it not helping is annoying, it’s not a total waste. You can learn from those moments, too!⁠

Running Clockwise:⁠

Jack Black True Volume Thickening Shampoo (Left) + Conditioner (Right)

This one makes me so sad because it made my hair feel flipping amazing; soft, light, voluminous. Fab. But – it was causing hair fallout. Tea Tree tends to be too much for my skin the higher the % is, so I often avoid. Took a risk on this + it didn’t pay off. It was fairly high up on the ingredient list. After some digging, there appears to be a tea tree allergy that causes hair loss. *sigh*

Ghost Democracy Boomerang Firming Eye Concentrate
(with 1.9% Niacinamide + 1% Bakuchiol)⁠

This one did no harm, but also had no impact after a month. It neither helped with dark circles from tiredness nor helped with my smile wrinkles by my eyes. Either Bakuchiol isn’t the next retinol or this needs to be a higher % – or it takes over a month to help. Meanwhile, the Naturopathica Argan & Peptide Wrinkle Repair Cream showed visible wrinkle results within a month.⁠

LXMI Nilotica Lip Melt

After reading about beeswax as a culprit for perpetual chapped lips despite chapstick use, I was curious to try a lip balm without it to see if I was affected by beeswax. This has Candelilla wax as a sub. Except my lips rapidly went from normal to about to split + I had to stop the test. Within a few days, my lips went back to normal on their own. Frankly, I’m not sure what caused that. For now, I’m treating candelilla with caution, but I can’t say for sure if that was it.⁠

Peach + Lily Matcha Pudding Antioxidant Cream

I so wanted this one to work that I gave it extra chances. Even did a half face test to be certain it was causing a breakout + not something else. ⁠ But still, no luck. This reminded me niacinamide products can leave my skin with a veery subtle low hum feeling. This is confusing as it’s always said to be unproblematic. I’m since learning niacinamide can be an issue for some of us, causing breakouts. Personally, it appears low %’s pass, but high % are tough. Lesson learned.

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

Fungal Acne Review: Krave Oat So Simple Water Cream

Krave Oat So Simple Water Cream

Why It’s Useful

Fungal Acne’s annoying since you need to use products that won’t help feed it. That’s hard to come by.⁠ Krave Oat So Simple Water Cream ($28) is intentionally fungal acne safe. (Woop! )⁠

Quick Take

IMO, this moisturizer was designed to be layered with other products. For the face, I suggest layering it atop other hydrating products like an essence and/or serum.

When used alone, it left my skin underhydrated + looking taught. But this didn’t show until about the 2-week mark of testing. If you need something calming to unproblematically layer on top of other products, I could see this working. It did a great job at calming redness.

The cost, according to a cosmetic chemist’s review, is due to the repeated reformulation this product had to go through.

Senstitive Skin Acne Review

⁠This calmed the redness that goes with fungal acne either overnight or within about 2 days. And didn’t cause a flare (fab). I was able to use this alongside my usual fungal acne treatment + it worked well. Minus the calming oat, it reminds me a lot of the Hada Labo Skin Plumping Gel Cream which is $23 for 1oz less product + is also fungal safe.⁠ Of the two, my pick is Krave Oat So Simple Water Cream for the noticeable calming for sure.⁠

For regular sensitive skin acne, this didn’t bother existing acne or cause a breakout. In fact, I used it as a control to test if another moisturizer was causing a reaction. That’s how neutral it is. For some reason, moisturizers are difficult for me so finding a moisturizer that doesn’t cause a breakout is a plus.⁠

However, with extended use, I noticed faint pull or stretch lines began to appear on my face. (I’m sure only I could see them.) I’m guessing that’s a sign of dryness for my skin. I hear dryness sometimes described as flaking skin, but that only happens for me if I use an overly harsh product intended to dry.⁠ And tight feeling skin only happens if I strip off all my facial oils (a big nope for me).⁠

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots

Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots

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.

Why It’s Useful

Acne spot treatments are useful when we need a little extra help. Yet the traditional ones are a bit too strong for sensitive skin + often cause overdrying, sometimes to the point of peeling. In my experience, this continues the acne cycle instead of fixing the one spot. Finding gentler ones has been the fix I found; it just takes some searching. Acne patches can be one help.

Quick Take

I’ve used Missha’s Speedy Solution in the past with success, so hoped Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots might be the same.

For my skin, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to use them with good enough results; had to switch to anti-scar treatment at least once; and suggest caution, if you try.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

On me, the pimple tends to almost liquify instead of becoming a typical whitehead. The skin on top can become fragile + sometimes ripped off when the patch was removed, which sent my routine into anti-scar mode.

The package warnings hide some useful instructions: 1. You need to rinse the patch to help remove it 2. Don’t place it on damaged or broken skin.

Gave it extra chances after learning that, to be sure it wasn’t my user error. But I still am not able to use this well. The glue used, in my opinion, could be dialed down a bit in strength. And, I’m going to guess, that for some reason it’s just a patch that’s not suited for my skin or is too strong.

The ingredients only note it being a hydrocolloid patch, no other ingredients that I can find. So it’s a bit of a mystery to me why this might not have worked for my sensitive skin. Truly hoped Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots would be a good fit. That’s sensitive skin for you, though.


For spot treatments that have passed the skin test + I do use without trouble, you can find them here.

How to Deal with Maskne (aka Mask Acne)

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.

In today’s new normal, maskne is a breakout type that came out of nowhere. I collected a bunch of maskne advice given by derms + estheticians in articles and tested it out over the last month. This updated post reflects what’s helped me make makne no big deal.

Sensitive skin can’t handle what tougher (more resilient) skin can. Advice out there often forgets that, which is why I’ve written this post. But I’m sure non-sensitive skin could benefit too!

If you found some other ways, let me know!

Acne caused by face masks

How Would Maskne Show Itself?

  • Little white bumps – found on chinstrap line, bridge of the nose, along cheeks. (Rub zones)
  • Acne somewhere along mask zone.
Acne from wearing face mask

How to Prevent + Deal with Maskne

1. Wash Your Mask Frequently. If You Can’t, Spray It with Alcohol Before Reusing.

This one change reduced my maskne by a lot. Your mask can leave oils, makeup residue, or bacteria on the material. Rewearing will rub that across your skin. A lot of articles are saying to wash your mask daily. I’ve gotten away with every other use, but after each day’s use does help more!

2. Gently Exfoliate 1ce a Week

I’ve found a very gentle exfoliator has helped a lot to calm maskne. To be honest, I only do it when I start seeing the maskne form + it has calmed them right back down. I haven’t done it, but a weekly exfoliation would probably be a good preventative. (I just don’t like exfoliating more than I have to. haha)

My go-to is the Naturopathica Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel ($58). It has a super gentle exfoliation through lactic acid + Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Fruit Ferment. Pumpkin is said to be a very mild retinoic acid sub while also providing antioxidants. My skin loves it! It sounds expensive, but a jar lasts me 4-6mos with targeted use across breakout zones; meaning it costs me $10-15 a month.

3. Wash Your Face After Wearing a Mask

Naturally, after washing your hands.

I’ve tested washing after mask use + it does feel nice, to be honest. Especially if I was out in the heat. But on days I put on + off the mask a couple of times, I’ll make a judgment call for the sake of not washing my face too often.

Face breaking out from mask

The mask rubbing against your skin can remove oils + cause your skin to produce more to replace the loss. With warm weather, it may trap sweat. Washing off sweat + excess oil is a plus.

The gentler the cleanser better since this is increasing washing frequency. My favorite is the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for its ceramides that help repair our skin barrier from mask rub + washing.

If your cleanser has actives, be mindful of that. You could demote it to alternating day use or less, if you really want to keep using it. Let your skin tell you what it can handle. Definitely demote it if it has any exfoliating qualities. Keep that exfoliating frequency low.

4. Moisturize Before + After Using a Mask

Are COVID masks causing pimples? Maskne exists, but it's not a big deal.

The friction of the mask against our skin can cause irritation. Moisturizing can help add a little protection.

Ones with anti-inflammatory or calming ingredients are a good pick. Additionally, moisturizers that strengthen or repair our skin barrier are a plus. Skin barrier strengthening is already something great for sensitive skin. You should have that anyway!

Some ingredients you’ll want to lean to are: ceramides + squalane. I would suggest meadowfoam seed oil, safflower seed oil, sunflower seed oil may also help. I like using One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum ($39) for its skin barrier assisting oils + very calming scent. I’ve had it calm my skin, too.

5. Switch to a Softer Reusable Mask

I switched to all reusable masks with a slip in filter + found the softer material does help! They’re so easy to clean + are so much greener than the throwaways. Plus, I kinda like the excuse of matching my mask with my outfit.

This was the most useful mask fabric advice I found:

“The best cloth option for your skin is a mask made from silk or silk-lined materials…[But, this] fabric is porous, so smaller droplets may be able to get through. [Dr.] Mamelak suggests looking for silk masks that include multiple layers with filters in between.

…If you can’t snag a silk mask, try to find one with layers of breathable material such as cotton, which would be less irritating than heavier, more airtight fabrics that can increase facial sweating”

Wearing a mask can irritate your face or make it break out. Here’s what to do about ‘maskne.’ with contributions from dermatologist Dr. Dana Marshall and physicians assistant LeighAnne McGill from Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill, The Washington Post.
Skin breakouts from wearing masks

6. Use Pimple Patches Under Your Mask to Protect a Breakout

Bumped into this advice! It doesn’t hurt to protect a pimple from mask rub while treating it during the day.

Maskne treatment is the same as typical acne, while emphasizing moisturizing (which is true for sensitive skin anyway).

7. FYI – Consider Pausing Retinol Where Your Mask Sits

If you’re using retinol, the sensitizing aspect of it might amplify mask rub irritation. Consider pausing retinol, if that’s true for you.

8. FYI – Makeup + Mask May Clog Pores

The advice out there is to either skip make-up under your mask, since no one will see, or be sure to cleanse after.

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!)

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: Honest Beauty Magic Gel-to-Milk Cleanser

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.

Honest Beauty has a great cleanser with a short ingredient list.
Bottle reflects about 3 weeks use.

Why It’s Useful

This Honest Beauty Magic Gel-to-Milk Cleanser was one of the few that passed the sensitive skin acne test after months of tries. You can read about the others here.

A small ingredient list can help you to start simply + build-up towards complex formulations – if your skin shows it can handle that. The longer an ingredient list, the harder to tell what disagreed with your skin, when it happens.

Quick Take

Best For :

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

Honest Beauty Magic Gel-to-Milk Cleanser ($15) is a great cleanser in my book. The texture is pleasant + leaves the skin feeling hydrated. I found this cleanser kept my skin’s oils at a happy balance, which a lot of cleansers have trouble doing.

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, 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 don’t feel it has a scent + found it neutral smelling. (That’s normal for rose water. The real stuff smells more earthy than floral.)

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

Review of Honest Beauty products:  a great sensitive skin cleanser

Short ingredient lists make it easier to deduce what your skin is cool or not cool with. Big clear skin wins are gained with that!

I often gravitate to rosewater as it has been incredibly gentle for my skin, encourages youthful skin by boosting cell turnover, improves skin texture, said to gently treat acne, and helps balance pH + oil levels. It’s a swiss army knife.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if kaolin would be over-the-top for a daily facial wash. I have completely retired mud masks for my sensitive skin. Thankfully, it seems like there’s only a small amount + my skin didn’t feel dried out from this wash.


  • To take off mascara, you need to leave it on for a moment before washing off. It’s a little awkward to let it sit for a sec with eyes closed, but it works. Maybe it’s just something I’m unused to. You could opt for a gentle dedicated eye make-up remover instead or use a gentle facial oil you already have such as squalane.

We’re Diverse in Our Skin’s Reactions, So Some FYI’s:

Some people can have skin reactions to rose water or citric acid.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: Avalon Organics Intense Defense Cleansing Gel with Vitamin C

Why It’s Useful

An old favorite that I’ve loved so much, I’ve given to friends! It’s a great facial cleanser to have in your back pocket. I don’t typically like to recommend a cleanser you can’t use daily, but this one’s so cheap + has such great results that it doesn’t concern me.

Vitamin C is a building block of new skin. It’s an antioxidant that protects skin against damage, it helps even skin tone, and also promotes collagen production.

Quick Take

Avalon Organics Intense Defense Cleansing Gel with Vitamin C ($6). If you’re looking for something that gives bland-looking skin a lovely glow, this delivers on the 1st wash. I mean, a $6 gel cleanser that does that? Yumm!

Leaping Bunny ✔️
Vegan ✔️
Some Organic Ingredients

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

With the Vitamin C in this, I found it works best when used on alternate days. It can be a little too much for my skin if used daily for a while. (I tried!)

Sensitive skin has a lower threshold for tolerating some ingredients that others, with more resilient skin, are able to handle higher doses of. Vitamin C is one of those. Sensitive skin needs to toe in slowly + be allowed to get accustomed to it. Once it does, it’s such a helpful ingredient.

I do not foresee an adjustment period with this facewash as I find that’s more of an issue with Vitamin C serums or moisturizers. However, it’s good to know of. If your skin says stop by becoming red, back off from Vitamin C for a few days. You can also wash it off with cool water, if you need + let your skin rest.

Some of us with the most sensitive skin might not be able to tolerate it. Listen to your skin + follow its lead.


  • If your skin is unused to Vitamin C, especially with us sensitive skin types, 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!

We’re Diverse in Our Skin’s Reactions, So Some FYI’s:

Some people can have an allergy to citrus, aloe, or lavender. Each is not a common allergy, but worth knowing about.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: Kala Health MSM Skin + Facial Gel

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.

MSM benefits include being a great hormonal acne moisturizer and fungal acne moisturizer.

Why It’s Useful

MSM is in the sulfur family, but without a scent (amazing!). Sulfur itself has been used for acne since the days of Cleopatra and was also a fixture in Roman baths, where it was said to provide skin softness among other things. Sulfur can be a great help for stubborn hormonal acne. And, in the case of this product, is approved for that jerk fungal acne per Simple Skincare Science.

Sulfur helps with balancing oil production, is both antibacterial + antifungal, and is said to be anti-inflammatory. In short, it’s helpful with managing acne and oil levels.

Quick Take

Kala Health MSM Skin and Facial Gel ($15) is an under the radar babe of a product, in my book, and is used as a gel moisturizer.

I’ve been using this guy off and on for over a year + often forget just how useful it is. It’s not sexy looking, but I’ve been super happy with the results. It’s been a great help when I’m battling hormonal acne or noticed a general breakout. It doesn’t dry out the skin at all; it only balances oiliness, which is surprisingly effective for acne help.

While using, my skin has felt soft + does appear moisturized, though not highly moisturized. That could just be because you feel it dialing down oil levels, so no firm impression on how well moisturized it is.

Transferring it to a beautiful bottle is an easy aesthetic fix, if you want to compliment the great results with an equally pretty container.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

Acne-prone sensitive skin responds best to products that treat it gently. You can’t go full force at a breakout the way you would with more resilient skin types. Instead, you need something that provides skin benefits – typically moisturizing and soothing – while gently treating a breakout.

Sulfur (and MSM) is one of those great ingredients for sensitive skin acne. From this gel moisturizer to a spot treatment, sulfur has really impressed me.

It’s able to gently lower oil levels without drying out + aggravating sensitive skin like other traditional treatments such as benzoyl peroxide does or high salicylic acid can.

I’ve found this product helps keep skin soft + moisturized, too, which is a great help. That’s what I always aim for with sensitive skin acne treatments – without that moisturizing quality the treatment usually fails.


  • This can be used as an AM or PM gel moisturizer.
  • The texture of this product doesn’t mix well with oils applied directly after. There’s a texture clash + they’re not able to blend.
  • So far, I’ve found it’s best used as a final step. If you explore + find you can layer something else on top, I’d love to hear!

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: Jāsön Sea Fresh Strengthening Paste

File Under: fluoride-free toothpaste for sensitive skin

Why It’s Useful

Spoke about it before, but toothpaste is actually a part of my acne prevention. 5 years ago, I never thought that toothpaste mattered to skin. I’ve since learned otherwise.

If it has sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS/SLES) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), it will cause varying levels of breakouts near my lips or a vague line from lip edge down. When I swap the toothpaste, the breakout disappears on its own.

More recently I noticed fluoride causes a mild case of acne, too – in toothpaste or mouthwash. I didn’t notice it until I removed SLS/SLES/ALS, which removed almost all area acne. So, I started exploring fluoride-free toothpaste options. (Why deal with occasional, but consistent toothpaste caused spots when you can nix all?)

Quick Take

Jāsön Sea Fresh Strengthening Paste is SLS/ALS + fluoride-free, so I was hoping it would work. Each of those ingredients have been trouble points for my skin – removing the ingredient showed improvement on its own.

Unfortunately, this one caused sores to develop in my mouth within the 1st few days of using. And my mouth felt achy (or sensitized?). With time, both did go away. However, during the time I used this, I had a very low-grade breakout on my chin that stopped when I stopped using this.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

I don’t like removing fluoride, but I’ve noticed the breakout issue both with toothpastes + a mouthwash that had fluoride. I don’t want to compromise good tooth health for good skin. Still searching for a way to support both.

To me, initial sores + ache mark something worth skipping, though both technically went away while using. That says to me there was something that disagreed with my skin, though my skin appears to have adapted to it after about week. Is it really worth wading through an uncomfortable adjustment? I don’t think you should have to. Then there was the very low-grade breakout during; I’m aiming for no breakout during + a happy mouth.

So what could have caused the discomfort + sores? Probably one of the natural extracts or oils – there are a bunch. Remember: natural does not mean risk-free. (Think of poison ivy, bad mushrooms, food allergies – I mean, eggplant hates me). Which natural ingredient caused the reaction is unclear. There were a bunch of new ones for me. Time will tell which it was.

Sensitive Skin Acne Review: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

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.

A great facial cleanser for sensitive skin acne sufferers

Why It’s Useful

Facial cleansers really set the tone for sensitive skin acne. The wrong one causes chaos that’s tough to reign in, if at all. The right one gives a neutral cleansing base to allow your skin to thrive.

Key here is supporting your skin, not overdoing it by stripping off too much oil or using a daily exfoliating cleanser.

Quick Take

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser was a drugstore find, which I love for ease of replacing it + also for the $13.50 price point! It’s not luxe-looking, but the texture’s just fine + results are really what you want here.

If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend this one. If you’re experiencing chaos, its skin barrier help should give you stability. (It’s one of the most effective ones I’ve found, yet!) 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!

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

Not long into trying this one I noticed my skin went from pale to rosy cheeks. And my skin calmed + stabilized within 4 days, after a few pretty rough weeks of testing other cleansers.

During those rough weeks, none of my trusty products were able to restabilize me back into clear skin. Though they helped, they were not enough until I switched to this cleanser. From there, my skin rapidly cleared. Goes to show how much a wrong facial cleanser can undermine your skin’s integrity and also the rest of your routine.

This has now become my recovery cleanser anytime I hit a rough patch in product trials. (That’s actually a really big deal!) It also really opened my eyes to ceramides + just how much good fixing your lipid barrier can do – both from an acne perspective + also from general hydration and glow.

Fungal Acne Review: Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc Argan Bar Soap

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.

The best fungal acne treatment for sensitive skin!

Why It’s Useful

Alright, bacne/chestne time! Fungal acne edition.

Switching to a non-SLS/SLES/ALS shampoo + body soap did wonders for bacne. Saw the volume reduce by a lot. As did a conditioner without coconut oil, shea, and silicones.

But I still had a lingering flare that started almost 2 years ago that just would not respond to any treatment. It just persisted. Until I found the blog Simple Skincare Science where he broke down fungal acne + how to treat it. (Go check out his blog! It’s fab.) Turns out, a key sign of fungal acne is non-response to acne treatments.

Ew. Fungal. I know! But it’s just an imbalance of what’s naturally present on our skin.

They look like tiny, uniformly sized breakouts + might be itchy.

(Update: just found this great resource, too!)

Quick Take

Enter this guy: Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc Argan Bar Soap ($13). This guy WORKS. It calms my skin, moisturizes it, and visibly keeps fungal acne at bay. (Side note: it’s also formulated to help with psoriasis + eczema, but I’m not able to test for that.)

I tried a whole bunch of fungal acne products, some of which were too strong for my skin. And this is the only one that visibly helped while not causing irritation + more breakouts. It took me over a year to find something that worked!

Sensitive Skin Acne Review

Pyrithione Zinc is antifungal + tries to help by getting your skin biome back to a more balanced state. Most times, it’s paired with SLS, which doesn’t help sensitive skin + kept aggravating it into more breakouts.

My sensitive skin overreacts when I use strong acne products, so a gentle + moisturizing treatment like this is key.

It also has oats to give it a gentle, physical exfoliation. My general rule is to really limit physical exfoliation, especially for your delicate facial skin. Body skin is tougher than facial skin (yes, that’s a thing) and can handle it better. Though I wouldn’t go overboard.


Here's how to get rid of fungal acne, while being kind to sensitive skin!
  • (You should see signs it’s helping in the first 2 weeks. If it doesn’t, you might need a different approach or it might not be fungal.)
  • While showering, be sure to apply + allow it to sit on your skin for 2-5mins. Let it marinate. The Pyrithione Zinc needs that to do its job.
  • Store it away from direct shower water as would likely melt.
  • Though it’s $13 for a bar, it lasts about 1.5mos, if you only use it for affected areas. You can also buy a set of 3 bars for $33 (which brings the bar price down to about $10 each).

Acne + The Toll It Takes on Your Self-Esteem

Acne causing low self-esteem is only beginning to be talked about.

With blogs, selfies are so commonplace, they’re practically required. So, I feel the pressure.

I have to admit, though, I’m really struggling to teach myself to take selfies and be OK with what I see.

Even though my skin is now clear, years of acne left me with years of looking in the mirror + feeling let down. Photos were something I often dodged if I could. Makeup was a mask I was afraid of taking off – even at home.

And my acne wasn’t the worst level someone could have. I had it easier than others, but was suffering in self-esteem all the same.

It’s a Mistake to Overlook the Mental Impact Acne Has on Us

Whatever level of acne feels like a struggle, is also where it can become an internal weight. Maybe because of a feeling of failure, though you’re trying so hard?

Somehow that crimped self-esteem can bleed over into your general self-confidence. If you feel you’re hiding, your body language can reflect that.

I will be the first to say, whether you are struggling with mild acne or severe acne the mental impact can be the same. Your experience is valid. And I’m sending you a hug.

Seeing It, Acknowledging It, + Pushing Past It

This blog is a big test in confidence. And a definite kick in the butt to try to face my fears and overcome them. It’s an old wall I’m building up the courage to break past. Feels a lot like ripping a bandage, letting your guard down, and being OK with imperfect results as you learn.

I hope watching me try to push through lingering acne mental scars (if we can call it that?) will let someone else feel seen.

If I look stiff in photos, I’m mentally telling myself not to run.

So here goes. Hi!

What Does Sensitive Skin Acne Look Like?

Now, this I’m writing from personal experience and about 5 years of tinkering with my skin, after discovering the source of my acne.

What Should You Look For?

In my experience, it can look just like regular pimples. It can be cystic (under the skin), little red dots, regular medium-sized pimples, and whiteheads.

What is sensitive skin acne like?  Explaining what I've seen from my acne experience.

Some indicators can be:

  • Pimples along the hairline.
  • Breakout in front of your ear.
  • Acne along the back part of your jawline (towards the ear, especially on the underside of your jaw).
  • Bacne along the center of your shoulders + down the spine.
  • Breakouts around the mouth – especially if above your lip or a vague line from lip edge to chin. 

All of these are drip lines – shampoo, conditioner, + toothpaste. These localized markers can help provide a clue. Most other things you use are applied equally across the face (like a face wash or moisturizer), making it hard to tell sensitive skin acne apart from other types of acne.

These aren’t the only places sensitive skin acne can show up, it’s just a good hint.

What Shows It’s Not Just Regular Acne?

I believe there’s two ways. And it depends if it’s product caused or acne acne.

If it’s product caused:

A big telltale sign is how rapidly your skin clears + remains clear when you remove a product with a troublesome ingredient.

With that, I find the timeline is often 3-4 days.  That is, from an angry breakout to clearly subsiding towards clear skin by just removing the suspect product.

If it’s acne:

This can be subtle. If a traditional acne product treats a breakout, but the area becomes dried out and a pimple reoccurs in the area, that can be a clue.

That endless cycle of treating + quickly reoccurring can be a sign that the treatment was too harsh for your skin + you need to turn to gentler approaches to see lasting results.

What I’ve seen is less aggressive treatments are able to treat without aggravating sensitive skin. So instead of a return breakout, it simply goes away and that’s that.

Acne care for sensitive skin definitely needs a different, gentler approach.

Skincare Routine Pro Tip: Don’t Switch It Up Often

Little Reminder: You don’t need to switch up your skincare routine each day.

All the routine suggestions out there can make it feel like daily changes are good + everyone’s doing it.

Making custom skincare routine can take a minute, but be sure not to become a product junkie.

It’s better to see the many routines as alternative suggestions. It’s perfectly fine to repeat a skincare routine day after day!

In fact, constantly changing the products in your regime can cause more problems than it’s worth. Frequent changes can cause your skin to become overwhelmed + thrown off balance. And that can invite irritation + acne.

So long as the repeated routine is gentle, it can be a great benefit to repeat and give your skin a chance to soak it in again.

Many ingredients need time to see results set in. Your skin needs a chance to receive the nutrients, go to work, + then debut the results.

Another downfall of frequently switching is gravitating towards products that only provide surface-level, temporary results, but never truly lasting results.

I want you feeling like a snack. Not indulging in quick-fix “snack” products that don’t get to the root of the problem.

Repeat Zit? Try a Drawing Salve.

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.

About 2 years ago, I had a bunch of repeat zit sites that were really frustrating me. I would treat them, they would become a white head + go away, but also eventually return again! In the exact same spot.

To me, that hinted at bacteria that managed to get deep within my skin. It seemed like I was treating the surface stuff, but something was lingering. Why else would it repeat like this?

Then I stumbled across this article about drawing salves that blew my mind.

That Sweet Eureka Moment

Repeat zits in the same place suck, but you can get rid of them!

Drawing salves were popular in the 1800’s. They provided a way of getting your skin to regurgitate bacteria or even a splinter out of the depths of our skin. And, as the article noted, great for cystic acne.

If they’re useful for cystic acne, defined as bacteria deep within skin, then couldn’t they be used for acne reappearing in the same spot? What if a past pimple burst and left bacteria trapped deep under the skin and I was only treating the stuff on the surface? Thus, repeat pimple? Because I’m definitely bad about not popping a pimple. (I’m still working on that…!)

And, With A Heap of Patience, They Stopped

This took patience, but it actually did end the repeat cycle.

Smile’s PRID Drawing Salve* was the one that did it for me. At under $10, it’s a really cheap fix. But it requires time. (That will pay back in spades later!)

I applied PRID nightly to the repeat spots for about a month to a month and a half. It caused the repeat acne sites to create a pimple multiple times, but then, eventually, it subsided into smaller repeat pimples + then nothing. And then they didn’t return.

I used this both on active repeat zits and also locations that were inactive, but I knew for a fact were repeat zit sites.

As PRID brought the pimples to a head, sometimes I would also apply a pimple patch like Missha’s Speedy Solution Anti Trouble Patch to double team. I didn’t double team all the pimples as they appeared, just the ones that looked like they needed extra help and were sticking around too long. But you could probably use the Missha Trouble Patch more aggressively than I did. (Meaning: have PRID get the pimple to appear, then smack a patch on it, rinse, repeat.)

PRID is sticky, medicinal resin smelling, and not an appealing skincare product. But it works! For that, I’m deeply grateful. It’s saved me a lot of effort from there out.

With the cyclical, repeat zits squashed, I gained more clear skin stability + saved a lot of time and money I would have spent on acne treatments. Win all around, in my book!

* (Paid Link)

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.

With Sensitive Skin Acne, Gentle Gets You Places

As the name almost hints at, “sensitive” skin types tend to do better with less aggressive approaches. It isn’t as resilient as normal skin and can’t handle the same onslaught someone with normal skin is able to get away with.

Growing up as a middle schooler + teen in the ’90s, “deep clean” was foundational acne knowledge. A classic regimen included beautifully foaming cleanser for that nice, deep pore clean followed by an astringent toner or astringent exfoliating pad to really chase the gunk out. You could apply a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment for overnight problem-solving. A physical exfoliant, like a big grit apricot scrub or (later) a super fine grit scrubbing cleanser, were other regular use helpful tools. And there were a bunch of people who swore by them.

What I didn’t know until recently, is this was more than my skin is able to tolerate. And that this set me in the sensitive skin category.

Drop-kicking Your Skin Isn’t Necessary

Fifteen - A Sensitive Skin Acne Blog: the best acne care for sensitive skin isn't harsh
Photo by DIAO DARIUS on Unsplash

The gentle-looking bubbles of a high-foaming cleanser are actually a sign of a strong detergent. When a detergent is too strong for a skin type, it will take off more oil than necessary, leaving skin defenseless. For sensitive skin, it can cause pimples, create dryness, or create oily skin as overcompensation for what was lost.

Astringent toners + pads, as well as high-drying spot treatments, I’ve now come to find, are generally overkill for sensitive skin. It’s just not necessary to go that far with high % benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. That dried-out or stretched tight feeling after using them are identifiers of “too much”.

Exfoliation really needs to be kept to a minimum – not an everyday usage thing. Maybe once a week at most. And done with the least aggressive version possible, like an enzyme exfoliation, for example. Too much exfoliation tends to aggravate sensitive skin + cause more issues than help.

Happy Skin is Supported Skin

Whenever you’re picking a product, try going for gentler options. Sweet talk gets you farther with our skin.

It needs support, not aggression. Gentle cleansing. Gentle, infrequent exfoliation. Supporting moisture. Lipid barrier healing.

You don’t want oil-less skin. You want happy, balanced skin. Your skin needs some oil to help keep you looking cute + moisturized, and your skin better defended. What that “balanced” oil level feels like will become clear with a little experience.

What to Do If You Breakout 2-2.5 Weeks Into Trying a New Product

I’m in the middle of testing cleansers for you. And a poorly-going test made me write a quick Instagram Story about exactly this. On thinking about it, it’s actually a rule I have to regularly remind myself as I often internalize pimples as my skin just doing its thing.

It’s a bad habit, but one I believed for a long, long time.

What I’ve come to find with sensitive skin is that’s often not true. It’s not you.

What it is instead, is a product – and more than likely an ingredient – that simply doesn’t work with our sensitive skin type.

As a General Rule

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Don’t run around trying lots of products all at once. That’s mayhem for your skin. And you’ll also have no idea which product was the culprit.

Keep your routine relatively simple, especially when you’re first trying to figure out what ingredients do and do not work for you. Minimalism takes the guesswork out.

Also, consider finding products with relatively smaller ingredient lists. It’s not always easy to find, but these shorter lists help a lot when trying to deduce which ingredient your skin didn’t like. In the beginning, a 4-inch long list is a giant question mark when trying to figure out which ingredient your skin wasn’t liking.

Take a Minute

When you begin using a new product, keep a mild mental note of when you started trying it + generally how your skin looked at the start.

This doesn’t have to be scientific, just approximate. Such as: “I started it last Wednesday, the 5th-ish” or “I had some breakouts on my chin and forehead when I began”, whatever it is. A light mental note you’ll end up tossing in a couple of weeks.

Fast Forward After a Period of Just Fine

Your skin can try hard to be resilient for a while and then suddenly not be able to cope. The 2-2.5 week mark can be that line.

Photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash

If you started seeing a low-grade breakout or just an increased breakout, try pausing the product you suspect caused it.

Crap. Which? That new product you started using 2 Wednesdays ago? Maybe that.

Yeah, it worked well the last week and a half or so. But that might have been a coping period.

Hit pause on that one + see what happens over the next week. You might find your skin clears in as little as 4 days and stays clear.

In my experience, what you’re looking for is signs of skin quality stability + also a relatively rapid return to normal when you pause a product.

You’ll start to notice when your skin is largely improving on its own and staying clear. That’s been my marker for “whoops found an ingredient”.

If You See a Relatively Rapid Improvement

Save the ingredient list of that product you paused.

It will help you figure out which ingredient tripped you up. You can do this several ways.

You can compare this ingredient list to the ingredient list of another product you suspect broke you out. See any overlaps? Within the overlaps, there might be your hidden ingredient. It will take some deducing.

If you haven’t already filtered them out, try using the Beginners Ingredient Removal List as a starting guide. If any of them were in the product, you can think of them as your tentative suspect ingredients.

A brief search of a suspect ingredient name and “breakout” or “causing acne” can help show if the ingredient is at all known for causing acne. Even if it “rarely” causes it. We’re the “rarely”, and that might (not definitely) be your suspect ingredient.

As you filter out the ingredients you suspect may have broken you out, you should be seeing an improvement and fewer stumbles.

It’s a process of elimination. Keep them on your suspect ingredient list until you think you’ve built a case for it being a definite trouble point for your skin. Trust me, those will make themselves clear.

Is It Possible to Use an Ingredient in Smaller Doses?

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Sometimes, yes!

But half the struggle with sensitive skin is knowing which ingredients can be your trouble points.

From there, it’s coming to learn to what degree are they a trouble point.

It will take time to figure out which you can handle at a smaller dose and which you simply can’t handle full stop. But it will be clear. It’s an “each time you use that ingredient there’s chaos vs sometimes when you use that ingredient there’s chaos” kind of thing.

It might seem confusing right now, but it really does become easier. You’re learning to listen to your skin right now. As you learn the signs, they will guide you.


It’s 100% OK to avoid an ingredient with a cult following, if you find breakouts for you.

Just because there’s a volume of people swearing how great something was for them, does not mean it will work well for sensitive skin or you individually. And that’s completely alright.

Listen to your skin and trust what it’s telling you.

I know you bought the product and it’s a financial pain not to use it. Don’t let yourself feel guilty.

You can often repurpose it, assuming it’s not an allergy issue. Ever had a luxe leg treatment with a former face cream? Or serum? Ohh baby that’s some spa treatment right there!

Even if you truly can’t use it. Keep that ingredient list. It’s helped you get one step closer to finding what doesn’t work. That’s a huge part of conquering sensitive skin.

Remember: You’re awesome. Don’t feel guilty. It’s OK.

For Sensitive Skin, Acne Begins in Ingredient Lists

Let’s talk ingredients.  Mastering sensitive skin acne means learning key ingredients.  Sounds like a lot?  I’m here to help make it easy. 

Think about when you go to the grocery store.  Flipping the box over + reading food ingredients has become commonplace.  There are things we look to have in our foods + others we look to try to avoid. 

Until I started down this road, I never looked at skincare + hair care ingredients because I couldn’t read them.  The lists were long + too technical sounding to decode.  Grab a bottle, read the description, + hope it works was my motto back then.

Bumbling Is So Cancelled

The problem with trying products until you find one that works is that you don’t really know what about that product worked for you + why the others didn’t.

sensitive skin acne treatment starts in ingredient lists

Worse, if you broke out after using a product, you were left clueless about why it happened + may even misidentify the breakout as caused by something else entirely.  (Like I did!)

The biggest leg up I gave myself was starting with a handful of what I called “suspect ingredients” to test avoid.  

If I saw an improvement in my skin, I kept the suspects on my avoid list.  And slowly expanded my knowledge from there. By weeding out ingredients my skin didn’t like, I was able to start IDing the ones it did like.

Basically, it was about giving myself a clear direction.  And putting the power in my hands.

If you can flip the bottle over + read the ingredients, you’ll have less missteps over time.

FYI – Sensitive Skin is Kind of a Catch-All

While we can have ingredients in common that our skin dislikes, we don’t perfectly overlap in a tidy avoid list.

I believe, if you are aware of what ingredients could possibly trip you up, you are armed with knowledge. If you see a reaction, you’ll more easily hone in on your suspect ingredient. It’s about working with your skin instead of fighting with it.

Where Do I Even Start?

My strong suggestion is to begin by removing the following ingredients from your daily regimen.  It’s a short list to learn.  

Don’t worry about the rest of the bottle’s ingredients. Just begin here.

Beginners Ingredient Removal List:

  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
  • SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) 
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)
  • Silicones, often discoverable with endings “–icone”.  Example: Dimethicone
  • Mineral Oil  
  • Shea Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Consider also avoiding:  fragrance

For a genuine answer, be sure to review all products you use. Remember to check what you use in the shower (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap), at the bathroom sink (including toothpaste). They’re overlooked + can have a big impact.

Some Pointers:

  • Temporarily stop using anything that has Beginners Ingredient Removal List items in them.
  • Use a very minimalist routine to limit a) the number of products in play and b) test products you have to buy.

Results to Look For:

  • If you see your skin improving within 4 days – 2 weeks, you’re on the right path + were being affected by ingredient(s).  
  • If your acne only partially clears, you’re likely on the right path, but have a missing puzzle piece that could be holding things back.
  • If you don’t see any change, at least you ruled out sensitive skin for you!  That is also a win.

K. Cool. Why These?

There are plenty of people with normal skin that are able to use these ingredients without issue + even swear by some of them. 

But, unfortunately, these ingredients can cause a lot of confusion + woes for those who aren’t aware these can be troublesome “for some people”.  (We’re the some people!)  

Since they’re in most things we use, spanning our entire hygiene + also skincare routine, you might be like me + have no idea they were impacting you.


sensitive skin acne products
  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
  • SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) 
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)

Growing up, more bubbles meant a better clean. And “squeaky clean” meant you were really getting yourself nice + clean. Squeaky clean is just fine for a window or a dish (and super satisfying!). But our skin has a natural defense called the acid mantle, an acidic oil barrier sitting atop our skin.

In simple terms, its job is to block bad bacteria + irritants from messing with our skin. When we strip off all our natural oils, leaving a “tight” / “dry” / “squeaky clean” / “flat” / “rubber-like” feeling, we’ve actually over-cleansed, compromising our acid mantle, + are making it easier for baddies to get in.

Another sign of over-cleansed skin is excess oil. Skin notices it’s been stripped of its protective oil + later overcompensates for the loss.

Fun Fact: Another part of the acid mantle’s job is keeping your skin moisturized + preventing water loss! It… drum roll… helps lock in moisture!


  • Silicones, often discoverable with endings “–icone”.  Example: Dimethicone
  • Mineral Oil 

These are ingredients added to “trap in” moisture.  It also instantly gives the skin a smooth + soft appearance, giving the impression of well-moisturized skin.

Unfortunately for us, it appears these can do too good of a job + end up clogging pores.

Worth saying there’s a lot of debate around these two re: do they clog pores or don’t they. All I can say is, I’ve had clearer skin when I’ve removed them. It could, however, be an issue of how much of it your skin is exposed to.


acne care for sensitive skin means using the right products
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  • Shea Butter
  • Coconut Oil

There are many people who rely on + swear by these two ingredients. And they do work well for them! It’s just our bad luck that they overwhelm our skin type + clog our pores. When keeping an eye out for them, be sure to check your hair products.

It’s relatively easy to find articles noting, yes, Coconut Oil can clog pores. But… There’s a literal ton of advice out there that Shea is great for acne + can even help cure it. In my experience, removing it helped my skin clear. And it looks like there are others like me. I’ve gone back + tested Shea several times to see if I had a previous misread, but quickly broke out.

I suspect the Shea issue is under the radar + may simply be a sensitive skin issue. It appears it may fall into the “rarely troublesome” category, which is where I’ve frequently found my sensitive skin has been hiding. And I want you to be at least aware of such ingredients + not feel lost or alone like I did. “Rarely” still means some people find it affects them.


  • Salicylic Acid
  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Salicylic Acid + Benzoyl Peroxide are heavily recommended as acne treatments.  Often seen at “maximum strength” for fast-acting, body checking solutions. I’m sure there are people who can use them without issue. Seriously, hats off to very resilient skin types. Wish I had it!

Annoyingly with sensitive skin, they will appear to treat acne, but they will also dry out our skin so much that they end up causing irritation + acne. (Ever applied a spot treatment, had your skin peel, apply moisturizer to help the peeling, pimple subsides-ish, + get a fresh breakout? Yeah, me, too.)

Is it possible to use them at lower concentrations? Possibly… That takes some testing to see what your skin can + can’t handle.


It’s worth noting that fragrance appears to be a big divergence for sensitive skin. 

I know people who have to diligently avoid all fragrance; I know someone who doesn’t avoid fragrance but does have to avoid rose; and then there’s me who can handle fragrance, but can’t handle the rest of this list.

If you’d like to test remove fragrance to see if that was your stumbling block, do! It certainly doesn’t hurt to try. If you believe you have reactions to fragrance, I recommend reading Beyond Soap.

A Little Holiday Gift: An Actually Upbeat X-Mas Playlist

Hi there! Been a little sidetracked by the holidays, to say the least. In the meantime, wanted to share a truly upbeat holiday playlist from me to you.

The holidays can be a tough time for some of us. It can be a stark reminder of who isn’t with us. Many holiday songs have lyrics or tone that can add to that struggle. So, I’ve searched high & low for ones that are playfully cozy.

I’ve chucked the typical ones so we can take a pause to make new memories. And dug up some fun ones that have fallen by the wayside & deserve their time to shine – both old & new! Expect some sprinkles of funk, 60’s cool cat, jazz, pop, & a little Legend (the new Mariah, I’m calling it!!).

Curl up & take a listen below! Or find & follow it on Spotify as “Cozy Christmas Bops” playlist from Fifteen Skincare to take it wherever you wish to bring cheer.

Have a bunch in the works & excited to share more posts soon!

Till then, be warm & be well.

Peace & joy,


Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash

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?

Sensitive Skin Starting Talk – My Acne Breakthrough

A good sensitive skin routine begins in the shower.

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.

About 4 years ago, I had one of my worst acne breakouts. It was out of control & not letting me rein it in despite all my best efforts. Worst – it was July, the height of the summer, a time when everyone’s wearing the least amount of clothes coverage. Skin exposure is at its lowest tidal ebb. And my skin was at its worst. Yay.

Usually, summer was the one time I was a bit less pimply, and I could get a slight pressure release from my struggles. This breakout just made no sense.

Nothing was in play that “you just have to be more diligent” or “you have to take better care of yourself” could claim any ownership from what I was experiencing.

  1. I was not stressed at all – nothing stressful in my work or personal life.
  2. My sleep levels weren’t suffering. In fact, they were great!
  3. I wasn’t “eating badly”.
  4. It wasn’t even that time of the month.


Then I Thought – What If Something I’m Using Daily Is Causing This?

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Call me ignorant, but until then, I had so many voices telling me I just wasn’t trying hard enough to prevent or control my breakouts. This was the first time I had a moment when I was absolutely sure it wasn’t something I was doing wrong.

So, half determined & half feeling I was going down a bizarre path with a dead-end, I pulled together an annoyingly wide list of ingredients. They included: a) what everyday people online believed was affecting their skin b) anything noted as known or possible acne causers according to articles out there. Call it one part acne sufferers poll, one part research.  

Taking this list, I spent almost 2 hours at my local drug store – my closest ASAP toiletries source when I was living in NYC. I was there so long they asked me 2 or 3 times if I needed help. I’m sure I looked like a weirdo kneeling on the floor in the middle of the night, squinting at a bunch of bottles while I scoured the ingredient lists of shampoos, conditioners, & body wash. But, finally, I found a few that fit.

The Test-Avoid List:

I wanted as pure an experiment as I could get for the clearest answer possible. So, this meant being strict about sticking only to these. No post-shower hair adds – even if my hair needs it.

Within 4 days, my skin calmed & almost cleared. Within a week, my skin was clear enough to go nearly make-up free. That is, from full coverage make-up to only touching-up the healing areas or post-acne dark spot zones. I kid you not.

Boom. Answers.

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* (Paid Link)

My skin was reacting to a product.

Most importantly, I was starting to see a pattern: my skin was aligning with ingredients commonly described as “for sensitive skin”.

What I came to figure out was SLS/SLES, a foaming detergent found in most shampoos & body washes, was too much for my skin type. And silicones, frequently found in conditioners to give that lovely silky smoothness, were also too clogging for my skin. Basically, my skin was getting a 1-2 punch. 

Even after all my dermatologist appointments and 15 years of acne, I had no idea that products were my core problem. I thought I just had normal, acne-prone skin.

Jump to Part 2