How is your Acne Treatment Regimen affecting your Skin Barrier?

Remember that you should consistently care for your skin barrier when treating your acne. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of our skin, comprised of dead skin cells and fats that essentially waterproofs, retains moisture, and protects the rest of our skin and body.

So how are skin barrier function, acne formation, and acne treatment related? There is increasing evidence that impaired skin barrier is part of acne formation.

Acne regimens, ranging from topical creams to oral medications, can be drying to the skin. As a result, these medications can cause issues with the skin barrier including increased water loss from inside the skin out into the environment. They can also thin out the skin barrier and cause it to be more fragile. And if the skin becomes too irritated from the drying and irritating effects of the acne treatment regimens, you might be tempted to discontinue the medications recommended by your doctor or provider.

Noncompliance of acne treatment regimens can of course result in worsening of acne. Additionally, when our skin becomes too dry, our oil glands can respond with increased oil production which is one of the causative factors in acne lesion formation.

Again, it’s important to recognize the role of the skin barrier when we are discussing acne. Moisturization is a must, and using a moisturizer will not worsen your acne. On the contrary, as I’ve noted above, moisturization will strengthen and support your skin barrier, which allows better compliance with acne treatment regimens. Well-moisturized skin is less likely to be irritated.

When choosing a moisturizer, find one that works well with your skin and is non-comedogenic (non-acne forming). Avene Clean-Ac ( is a great option as is Neutrogena Unscented Oil-Free Daily Sensitive Skin Facial Moisturizer (

Remember that acne treatment regimens also make our skin more sensitive to the sun, so choose a sunscreen with broad spectrum, UVA and UVB, protection and an SPF of 30 or higher. I recommend physical sunblocks such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as they are often less irritating to sensitive skin. Elta MD ( is one of my favorite lines.

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