Skin Care

Skin care for acne-prone skin

Click here for shortcut to : How to choose cleansers moisturizers cosmetics sunscreens

Our #1 Tip on caring for acne-prone skin is ‘be gentle’. Here’s why:

Driven by the myth that acne is caused by dirt – or determined to quickly unclog the pores and get rid of excess oil – some use harsh cleansers, scrub the skin and wash too often. Others have even been told to “just wash your face more…” to get rid of acne spots.  However, the result of these actions is dry, red, irritated skin and sometimes a worsening of acne (pimples). What’s the reason?

Skin barrier diagram

The skin is a protective barrier

The outer layer of our skin forms a natural barrier that keeps out bacteria and dirt and retains moisture. This protective band of skin is made up of fatty substances called lipids which keep the skin moisturized, and skin cells.

  • Lipids can be easily removed by soaps or strong cleansers, scrubbing and over-washing.

Stripping the outer layer of skin of lipids weakens this protective barrier. The skin’s immune system is triggered in response to this ‘attack’, causing redness and irritation.

Girl smiling outside in front of a wire fence

Practice good skincare by treating your skin gently, using mild cleansers and washing twice a day only.

This will help to maintain the skin’s barrier and improve the appearance and health of your skin.

Woman with hair in towel, leaning over the sink, splashing water onto her face


Cleansers remove excess oil, dirt, sweat and dead skin cells from the skin.

Using gentle cleansers, warm water and rinsing the skin after cleansing is all that is required to clean the skin properly – and will minimize skin irritation. Cleanse the face twice a day only.

Look for products that are:

  • Soap-free. Traditional alkaline bar soaps alter the natural pH level of the skin. This can lead to moisture loss, dryness and encourage the growth of bacteria. pH balanced cleansers are a good choice.
  • Alcohol-free to lessen drying effects.
  • Oil-free to limit clogging of pores
  • Free of abrasive materials such as large, rough exfoliant chips.

And may contain:

  • Salicylic acid, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide in the ingredients as these will help to unclog pores by removing excess oil and dead skin cells.
Group of teens smiling outside


It may be tempting to try to dry out your skin but this is not a good idea. Moisturizers are needed for ALL but the most oily skin types.

Moisturizers will:

  1. Help to keep the skin’s protective, outer barrier intact and minimize irritation (redness).
  2. Counter the drying effects caused by many acne treatments, including over-the-counter products and prescribed medications.

When choosing a moisturizer, look for products that are:

  • Oil-free, free of mineral oil and petrolatum.
  • Non-comedogenic, containing ingredients that do not clog the pores.
  • Fragrance-free. Fragrance is a common skin irritant.

And may contain:

  • Ceramides. These are manufactured lipids that work by replacing natural lipids, fatty substances that moisturize the skin.
  • Sunscreen if for day use when sun protection is needed.

*Note: If you are using an acne treatment, apply this first and follow with a moisturizer.

Two girls smiling and taking a selfie


Dealing with a breakout? You can still look good while you have acne.

Covering up spots and redness with concealer, foundation and other cosmetics is one of the important ways to cope with acne breakouts – and will make you feel better too. (Guys, this goes for you too.)

There is a common myth that these products will make acne worse. This is not true!

Non-comedogenic (will not clog the pores), oil-free cosmetics – there are many types available – will not worsen your acne.

5 Tips on cosmetics to hide acne spots

  1. Green hides red. A green-tinted base concealer will help to hide redness.
  2. Apply cosmetics lightly.
  3. Consider mineral-based cosmetics that contain powdered versions of silica, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as these are non-irritating to the skin. There are no preservatives, fragrance, parabens, oils or dyes in mineral-based cosmetics.
  4. Choose products with sunscreen if for day use when sun protection is needed.
  5. Gently remove all makeup at night.

*Some medical treatments for acne may make the condition worse before it gets better, so use makeup to hide spots and help you get through this difficult stage and stay on treatment to get the best results possible.

Group of friends smiling outside under a green tree


There is a belief that sunscreens clog the pores, feel heavy on the skin and make acne worse.

But many of today’s sunscreens are non-comedogenic (do not clog the pores and make acne worse) and are formulated to feel light.

It’s important to keep your skin healthy and lessen your risk of sunburn, sun-damaged skin and skin cancer by wearing an SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum sunscreen when needed.

Choose sunscreens that are:

  • Oil-free, free of mineral oil and petrolatum. 
  • Non-comedogenic, containing ingredients that do not block the pores.
  • An added benefit of wearing sunscreen: Sunscreens will help protect the skin against adverse reactions caused by some acne medications. For example, retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. You can also get a sunburn more quickly than usual.

Take the Acne Quiz

Test your acne knowledge. You may be surprised at some of the answers…

Take the quiz