How do I combat acne without drying my skin out?

When we have oily, acne-prone skin, we always reach for astringent cleansers that vanish oil, but did you know that not all oils on our skin are bad? Even if you have acne, you don’t need to get rid of the oil on your skin; you just need to manage it. Have you tried using two cleansers or “double-cleansing?” Double cleansing is when you use an oil-based cleanser, and afterward, a more intense cleanser. 

Can I use an oil-based cleanser if I have acne?

For double cleansing, the first cleanser used should be an oil-based cleanser that breaks down dirt, makeup, oil, and residue from the day. The second cleanser should impart ingredients into the skin that support the skin’s barrier and mildly exfoliate. It should also provide antioxidants. 

For many people who are acne-prone, using an oil-based cleanser can feel counterintuitive. Namely, when you cleanse, you want a crisp and clean feel. But, many oil-based cleansers don’t offer this feeling to those of us with oily, acne-prone skin. However, did you know that using an oil-based cleanser first can actually help you achieve a deeper and more thorough cleanse?

So, how do we accomplish this without breaking out? The hesitation to use an oil-based cleanser for acne-prone skin is a valid one. For example, cleansers for acne-prone skin with coconut oil might be fine for some people. But, it depends on your skin’s genetic makeup. If your skin doesn’t create the enzymes that break down specific fatty acids found in coconut oil, it can make your acne worse.

But, just because we have acne doesn’t mean that we should miss out on an amazing technique that helps to remove dirt, oil, sunscreen, and makeup. Well, instead of using an oil cleanser, you can use a micellar water to break down makeup, and then, a cushion cleanser to actually nourish the skin. 

A non-stripping routine for acne starts with micellar water. 

If you’re acne-prone, you can look for micellar water instead of a cleansing balm. There are even oil-free micelle waters that function similarly to an oil. 

How is micellar water different from something like a traditional oil? What is micellar water?

Your skin produces oil whereas micelle water is actually made of micelles. Micelles are basically little spheres or molecules with polarized parts. Some have a ave negative charge and some have a positive charge. These polarized molecules attract and bind to oil, removing makeup, and debris while also hydrating the skin. Moreover,  the great thing about micellar water is that most of them don’t leave an oily or greasy feeling on the skin, and most of them have ingredients that are actually wonderful for acne. 

How do I use micellar water?

With micellar water, you don’t have to rub it all over your face like a cleanser although you can. You can soak a reusable cotton pad and rub it on the eyelids, eyes, and cheeks. Hold and press the pad to your face and gently swipe the dirt, makeup, and debris. Reusable pads or microfiber towels are better because washcloths can be rough on the skin and acne. Instead, use a cotton pad to soak, set, and gently swipe, especially if you have open blemishes.  

if you’re trying to get off eye makeup or cosmetics, soak the reusable cotton pad and sit it on the eyes. You can use a micellar cleanser to remove debris, residue, and makeup, so your cleanser can actually penetrate the skin and do the work it needs to do. Creating a clean slate is one of the main components of a thorough skincare routine.

Dr. Sam’s Flawless Cleansing Water - $18 

This is fragrance-free, and it works so well. It breaks down makeup, dirt, and oil. What interesting about 

Dermalogica Precleanse Oil -$13.50 

What do I use after micellar water?

After your micellar water, you could use something medicated or prescribed by your derm. However, these types of cleansers can strip the skin’s oils. While it’s true that oil can perpetuate more acne-causing bacteria, we still need to use ingredients that support the skin and mitigate oil rather than destroy it. Ultimately supporting the skin will do much more for acne than stripping it. 

A non-stripping and foaming cleanser for acne?


Zitsticka Cushion Cleanse - $35 (discount code! CASSANDRAC)


This is specifically formulated for acne-prone skin, and it has different acids that help exfoliate the skin. This formula includes willow bark and enzymes. These ingredients help to break down the glue or ”lipids” that hold dead skin cells together. Dead skin cells as well as dirt, bacteria, and oil can clog the pores, but luckily, these ingredients break them down well. The ZitSticka cushion cleanse is anti-inflammatory and hydrating. So, once the pores are unclogged, it’s able to calm them down.

Furthermore, this cushion cleanser has sea moss, an antimicrobial ingredient that kills acne-contributing microbes. Sea moss is also sulfur-rich. Sulfur is a unique ingredient that is medically proven to fight acne. 

As for the texture, this feels very cushiony on the skin. If you have acne-prone skin, you probably like foamy cleansers, even though they make the skin feel tight. 

Moreover, this is formulated without SLS (sodium laurel sulfate). A lot of people are worried about this being drying or irritating. This is not always the case, but if you have sensitive skin, double cleanse, or cleanse twice a day, SLS can be stripping. And once again, just because you have acne, you don’t have to use stripping ingredients. A lot of people think of acne as something that needs to be annihilated, but you don’t want to annihilate the skin. You want to support the skin’s barrier, allow your skin to do what it does naturally, and give it ingredients that are acne-fighting. You can fight acne-causing bacteria without destroying your skin’s entire microbiome.

For example, this cushion cleanser foams up and fights acne without stripping the skin. In fact, it has glycerin, an ingredient that supports and hydrates the skin, without giving it a greasy feel. Cassandra loves this cleanser for her oily, acne-prone skin. It’s also great for period breakouts and occasional breakouts.  However, if you have more severe acne, see a derm because you might need something more. 

Can I use more than one cleanser? 

You could even use the ZitSticka cushion cleanser before a more intense cleanser like PanOxyl. If you have oily skin, nourishing cleansers are a great way to prep the skin before stronger, treatment-driven cleansers. For example, PanOxyl can strip the skin, but you can use micellar water and a nourishing cleanser to prep, coat, and nourish the skin and mitigate acne at the same time. More simply, using the other two can prevent that tight and dry feeling after using a strong, active-focused cleanser like PanOxyl.

What are actives?

Actives are ingredients like BHAS, AHAS, and benzoyl peroxide. BHAs and AHAs exfoliate whilst benzoyl peroxide introduces oxygen into the skin and kills bacteria. Sulfur and retinol are also actives. However, Cassandra wouldn’t recommend retinoids in a cleanser. Retinoids need time to work and are better used in a serum or moisturizer. So, after you finish cleansing, you can put on a serum.

Basically, when it comes to a skincare routine for acne, you need to have your cleansing portion on lock so your actives and treatments can go into the skin properly and get to work.