Spots and Sensitive Skin

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How to tackle spots when you have sensitive skin

While some spot-prone folk seem to have faces carved from buffalo hide that can endure endless spot-busting chemicals, you may find it harder to find effective skincare for sensitive, blemished skin. If your skin’s anything like mine, those bright blue “teen skin” potions leave you sore, red & peeling in your T-zone. Luckily, you can benefit from my 20 years of trial, error & eventual liberation from spotty skin – just try one tactic at a time, so you can observe whether or not it’s making a difference for you.

Avoid products that dry your skin.

It feels counter-intuitive; if your skin gets oily, surely you want to remove as much oil as possible? But “oily” does not equal “can withstand anything”, & products that remove all the oil & leave your skin dry will often promote further oiliness. It’s your skin’s natural reaction – “oh, I’m dry. I’d better produce some oil to protect myself”. Laureth sulfate helps products get foamy, but many people find it irritates & dries their skin. Try buying an SLS-free alternative next time something runs out, & see if it makes a difference. Acids – glycolic, salicylic, plus fruit acids or enzymes – can also dry skin out, as does alcohol, perfume & good old soap.


Another less than obvious move, & you will need to pick your moisturiser carefully, but this follows the same rationale. Keep your skin moisturised & it won’t feel the need to pump out oil. Choose something light – it doesn’t have to be oil-free but avoid anything that feels greasy. Perfume is best kept to a minimum too. Rinse your face with cool water after you’ve washed to close the pores before you moisturise.

Don’t squeeze! Please don’t squeeze them.

I know; I know. It’s so satisfying. You get into those urgent moods where you must get that blocked pore clear. Or, your pimple has formed a nice little snow-cap on top & you can’t face appearing in public with it visible, let alone risking an embarrassing eruption.

In the latter case, all you need is a hot damp cloth (comfortably hot, not scalding, & ring out the excess water) held against the offending area until the cloth cools down. Although it’s best to avoid hot water on your face wherever possible (because it can break capillaries) the damage you’ll do by squeezing – especially with uncovered fingernails, however clean you think they are – is far far worse; I have a number of scars because of it. Just try to limit the hot cloth application to the spot itself, & repeat a couple of times if necessary. The snow-cap should melt away.

As for those blocked pores – every time I’ve squeezed a blocked pore that wasn’t already a spot, it turned into a spot the next day. Just saying…

Avoid dairy

As a (spotty) teenager, I loved cheese so much I rarely went a day without some. As an adult, I eat it less, & notice that whenever I go through a phase of eating – any dairy products, in fact, but especially cheese & yoghurt – my skin will grow raw & sore around my nose & spots will appear along my jaw. Giving up any food type is a pain, but it’s worth trying this if all else fails.

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