How Moisturizers, Cleansers, and Sunscreens Can Complement Acne Treatment

girl with acne cream
girl with acne cream
What are the best topical dermocosmetics for each skin type, and how can dermocosmetics be combined with the standard acne treatment most effectively?

Daily use of moisturizers, cleansers, and sunscreens can reduce inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions and may be helpful for acne treatment if combined with specific medications, researchers reported in Dermatologic Therapy.

The investigators conducted a literature review with the goal of highlighting the importance of choosing the right topical dermocosmetics for different skin types and the most effective method of combining dermocosmetics with the standard acne treatment.

“The basic therapeutic strategy for acne care is the control of sebum secretion, abnormal keratinization of follicular epithelium, and bacterial infection,” stated the study authors. “Therefore, anti-inflammatory drugs, bactericidal medications, and agents aimed at controlling keratinization are mainly used for acne care. Modern therapy of acne is based not only on the use of specific drugs, but also on ‘complementary’ products, such as moisturizers, cleansers, and sunscreens.”

Patients with oily skin should use a highly rinsable product with no residual moisturizer. These products include those based on sodium lauryl sulfate, according to the researchers. They recommend that patients with dry skin or skin damaged by the sun or smoke use a noncomedogenic moisturizing liquid cleanser.

Daily facial cleansing is important for acne care and should be done twice a day, and use of aggressive and strong surfactants should be avoided because of their strongly alkaline pH, according to the investigators. Available cleansing options include cleansing milk, cold cream, cleansing oils, cleansing balms, micellar water cleansers, nonfoaming cleansers, and foaming cleansers.

Sun exposure affects progression of acne, because it can promote bacterial proliferation and reduce immune response, leading to inflammation. “Therefore, it is essential to explain the importance of sun protection to the patient,” noted the study authors. “In this regard, light and nonocclusive products, in the form of sprays, gels, or liquids, should be preferred.”

Makeup may provide quick results for covering acne, but it should be removed at night, and cosmetics such as colored creams and concealers should be oil-free and noncomedogenic, advised the researchers. Sonic cleansing supports are increasingly used for daily care such as removing makeup or sunscreens, and cleansing with the sonic brush may be beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions.

Treatment for patients with acne should include education about proper daily skin hygiene, including protection from environmental damage, according to the study authors.

“Cleansers should stay on the skin as briefly as possible to minimize damage to the stratum corneum proteins,” the researchers recommended. “However, this brief contact does not allow the various components of the cleansers to penetrate and remain in the skin. A solution may be to carry out a double cleansing, first with an oil-based cleanser, then with a water-based or surfactant-based cleanser. It is used to easily remove makeup, impurities, and oily residues, allowing the detergent to penetrate deeper, for a better level of cleansing.”


Conforti C, Giuffrida R, Fadda S, et al. Topical dermocosmetics and acne vulgaris. Published online October 20, 2020. Dermatol Ther. doi: 10.1111/dth.14436