Skin Care Tips for Acne Patients

Acne affects more than 85% of people from the ages of 12 to 24 years. Topical treatments are the main therapy for most types of acne, but many medications require long-term treatment using medications that often have side-effects which irritate the skin. This in turn, negatively affects patient adherence. This is especially true in teenagers group who may be more impatient, and expecting to see results quickly. While topical medication will remain the mainstay treatment for most cases of the common acne, better results can be expected when combined with adjunctive therapy using cleansers and moisturizers as part of their daily skincare routine. Simple skincare regimens like moisturizing and cleansing improve treatment adherence and overall comfort for acne patients.


  • The goal of cleansing is to remove surface dirt, sweat, oil, exfoliated cells, and microorganisms without irritating the skin's protective barrier.
  • Regular use of mild cleansers help clean and hydrate the surface of the skin. This increases the absorption of acne medication, and makes irritation less likely.
  • Regular cleansing decreases anti-microbial activity reducing the risk of infection.

What cleansers to use:

  • Choose cleansers that are: Non-comedogenic (non-acnegenic), non-irritating, and non-allergenic.
  • Traditional soaps can alter the pH level of the skin, which can alter the rate at which water is lost (via trans-epidermal water loss) leading to dryness. The increase in pH level also promotes bacterial growth, making acne worse.
  • Mild synthetic surfactants minimize the risk of irritation.
  • Non-ionic surface-acting agents like silicone and polysorbate are less likely to alter the skin's pH level, and cause irritation.
  • Silicone surfactants such as dimethicone (Spectro®) can remove debris without stripping the skin of important oils.
  • Cetaphil's DermaControl Wash is available in a variety of vehicles and is formulated for acne-prone skin. It has undergone studies and shown to help remove excess oil from the skin.


  • Moisturizers minimize the risk of irritation.
  • Moisturizers which have humectants and emollients help prevent and reduce water evaporation and help maintain barrier integrity.
  • Broad spectrum sun protection is also important for acne patients, particularly for those on retinoid and topical therapy. Some moisturizers have an SPF factor built into the product.
  • Ceramides replace naturally occurring lipids at the surface of the skin.
  • Cetaphil's DermaControl contains ceramides and oil-absorbing zinc complexes. It is non-comedogenic, non-irritating, non-greasy, and is so far, the only product that has been featured in a clinical study for moisturizers as adjunctive therapy for acne patients.

Acne Treatment and Adherence:

  • Treatment adherence is notoriously poor at 50% for acne patients.
  • Irritation resulting from topical medication and bacterial resistance are significant barriers to patient adherence.
  • Selective use of moisturizers may improve patient adherence.
  • New delivery mechanisms such as pumps and foams may be more convenient, improving patient adherence.
  • Alleviating dryness with retinoid therapy can help treatment. Moisturizers have been found to improve tolerance of the treatment.

From a dermatologists' perspective, providing patient specific skincare advice can help make the treatment course more tolerable, improving patient compliance. Appropriate use of mild cleansers and non-comedogenic moisturizers that help restore the skin's barrier can reduce the side-effects of acne medication, and enhance treatment and patient satisfaction.

If you are interested in a medical article has been written on the subject of complementary skin care for acne by Dr. Shannon Humphrey: