Sensitive and acne-prone skin is probably the trickiest combination to have – you need something strong to clear breakouts fast, but run the risk of getting your skin damaged or inflamed when you use popular anti-acne ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide.
Thankfully, that doesn’t mean you have to choose between which problem you rather have! More products are catering to sensitive and acne-prone skin, thanks to these ingredients that are great for clearing acne without irritating your skin. These are the ones you should look out for when you are buying new beauty products, so make sure to save this page for future reference!
1. White clay
Commonly listed as: Kaolin clay
White clay is also known as Kaolin clay. It is a fine and soft powder that boasts strong absorbent properties, so you will commonly find this ingredient in masks.
It works as a very mild exfoliant that gently removes dead skin cells, so you get clear, glowing skin and smaller pores. Excess sebum and grime from deep within the pores are effectively drawn out by white clay as well, so that you don’t have to deal with acne caused by clogged pores.
All skin types can use products formulated with white clay – yes, even if you have sensitive, mature skin!
2. Witch hazel
Commonly listed as: Hamamelis Virginiana
Best known for shrinking pores and easing inflammation, witch hazel is already a key player in a variety of beauty products, particularly toners and astringents.
Witch hazel is extremely antioxidant-rich with tannins, which can help to absorb excess sebum, which is a common culprit of breakouts. The antimicrobial properties of tannins also reduce bacteria growth on the skin to fight even the worst bouts of acne, making this a popular ingredient choice if you need to clear your skin fast.
This natural extract is also formulated in certain products to temporarily calm the appearance of red, irritated, or blotchy skin, which is especially useful if the other ingredients in the product are harsher on skin.
3. Aloe vera
Commonly listed as: Aloe Barbadensis
Most of us may have already heard of how amazing aloe vera is – it’s almost like a cure-all for any skin problems you can think of. In fact, it has been shown to be used throughout history to treat a variety of conditions, such as burns, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores.
The stems of aloe vera store water, creating a clear, gel-like substance in the leaves that contains vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids. Besides being able to soothe sunburns, aloe vera can also be used to suppress inflammation, hydrate skin (another common cause of acne), lightly exfoliate, as well as prevent dark spots.
Commonly listed as: Curcuma Longa Root powder, Curcuma Longa Root extract
Turmeric doesn’t only make your curry taste great – it also helps sensitive, acne-prone skin look fantastic.
Curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, is antibacterial and a power antioxidant. In plain terms, that means that applying turmeric on your skin can decrease UV damage and clear up acne. It also helps wounds to heal faster, therefore products formulated with turmeric will work great if you just popped a zit and need it to heal fast.
Turmeric is also commonly used to boost skin’s radiance (without an orange tint, in case you are wondering), so go ahead and apply turmeric beauty products on your face to get that glow!
Commonly listed as: Centella asiatica, gotu kola, Indian Pennywort, tiger grass
Cica is used by tigers to heal their wounds, and has been used in Eastern medicine since ancient times for its medicinal properties.
Recently, many brands have been adding cica to their new products: this is because sensitive skin is on the rise, and this ingredient has been scientifically proven to calm irritated skin and aid in wound healing.
Anti-inflammatory properties aside, cica is also chock-full of amino acids, beta-carotene, fatty acids, and phytochemicals, including vitamins C, A, B1, and B2. In simpler terms, cica is capable of stimulating collagen production so that your skin can retain elasticity as well – score!
Commonly listed as: squalene
Squalene is found in large quantities in shark liver oil, and in smaller amounts in olive oil, wheat germ oil, rice bran oil, yeast, and in various other food. It is also found naturally in human sebum as one of the lipids that our bodies produce in order to protect our skin, which makes this perfect for people with sensitive skin.
However, squalene is not stable enough for use in products intended to be kept on the shelves for some time, like skincare products. Hence, scientists have made a derivative called squalene, which is a more stable form of the squalene molecule that is colourless and odourless.
Historically, squalane has been used in the medical field to treat wounds and skin problems. Over time, brands started using squalane in skincare can reduce wrinkles, eliminate scars, reverse UV damage, lighten freckles and erase skin pigmentation. It can even be used as a spot treatment as well!
Commonly listed as: Chamomilla Recutita, Matricaria Chamomilla, chamomile essential oil, chamomile tea
Having a cup of chamomile tea is great when you want to kick back and relax – in the same vein, chamomile skincare products are wonderful for soothing even the most agitated skin.
Chamomile has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory abilities that help to decongest clogged pores, making it one of the best herbal extracts that you can use to clear acne. Chamomile is also rich in flavonoids and antioxidants effective in protecting the skin against free radicals that cause aging.
Some other skin conditions that chamomile are known to address are rosacea, eczema, rashes and sometimes even insect bites.
Commonly listed as: Calendula Officinalis, calendula oil, calendula extract
This bright yellow flower has antioxidant benefits, making its extract ideal for healing redness and sunburn. As a skin conditioner, calendula also stimulates collagen production reduces the occurrence of dry skin, which is why you will find it in almost any kind of skincare product, ranging from cleansers to masks.
Alhough anyone can benefit from calendula’s healing and soothing properties, those with dry, inflamed, irritated, or very sensitive skin will find this ingredient particularly useful. Additionally, calendula’s anti-microbial properties make it a robust astringent that can calm, heal, and prevent breakouts in acne-prone skin.
Commonly listed as: Salicyclic acid, Citric acid
If you have ever been confused by AHA/BHAs and hence stayed away from using products formulated with either ingredient, it’s time to clear up the misconception.
Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is an oil loving acid that is preferred for oily, acne-prone skin and for treating blackheads and whiteheads. It is capable of getting through the oil that clogs pores and helps to normalize the lining of the pore that contributes to acne. On the other hand, AHAs are better for dry skin and more useful if you have pigmentation concerns.
Although some products label BHA as their key ingredient, you most likely won’t find the term ‘BHA’ in the ingredient list itself. What you can look out for are terms such as ‘salicylic acid’ and ‘citric acid’, which are types of BHAs.
Commonly listed as: ceramide AP, ceramide EOP, ceramide NG, ceramide NP, ceramide NS, phytosphingosine, and sphingosine
Ceramides are lipids produced naturally by our body, and are used to control skin irritation (think eczema, rashes, and dry skin), as well as fight against external pollution.
Although ceramides do not specifically target acne, it helps to retain moisture so that your skin does not produce more oil to compensate for dehydration. You should look out for this ingredient in your moisturisers if you need a hydrating solution that will not irritate your skin or cause breakouts.
11. Green tea extract
Commonly listed as: Camelia sinensis extract
Green tea is good for our health when consumed, and it is also great for our skin when we use it in our beauty products.
Research has proven that the polyphenols in green tea possess potent antioxidant and skin-soothing properties that sensitive skin can benefit from. Its antimicrobial and astringent properties, along with its ability to balance the skin’s oil production and minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, make this natural extract ideal for use in products that target acne breakouts.
Green tea also works to decrease the appearance and occurrence of blackheads while eliminating dead skin, dirt, and other pollutants on the surface, so keep a lookout for it in your exfoliators!
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