If your skin erupts in redness, stinging, burning, or itching, or if you have what is vaguely termed as sensitive skin, using too many skin-care products is a no-no. The most common skin conditions termed sensitive rosacea and eczema. Genetics play a role in your risk for sensitive skin, too. People with fair skin are often more likely to have skin that becomes irritated easily. In people with sensitive skin, skin cells can’t hold on to moisture as well as they should. When losing more moisture, skin can easily dry out and be more reactive to products. The immune system may also play a role in the inflammation behind some conditions, including rosacea where in extreme cases trigger can come from many things in the environment. Rosacea flare-up can happen also because of heat, sun exposure, spicy foods, and skin-care products.
No matter where you land on the sensitive skin scale, here are some common mistakes you may be making if you have sensitive skin — along with expert fixes:
Use gentle skin-care products
When cleansing your skin, aim for gentle. Using an exfoliating cleanser is going to be too much for sensitive skin as it will contain things like alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, and physical exfoliators, like a facial scrub made with granules. When it comes to getting rid of wrinkles or acne, we sometimes feel like scrubbing is the best solution, but over-exfoliation disrupts the skin barrier to make sensitive skin worse. Washing with a soap-based cleanser will also disrupt the skin barrier and irritate sensitive skin.
Instead stick with a fragrance-free non-soap cleanser (pH-neutral, non-soap, hypoallergenic, gentle, or sensitive skin). Using a washcloth alone will provide a light touch of exfoliating friction to slough off dead cells.
You don’t have to avoid Retinoid
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives, and a gold-standard skin-care ingredient. When applied to the skin, retinoids increase the turnover of skin cells and stimulate collagen producation, revealing brighter skin underneath and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. The downside is the accompanying side effects like redness and peeling which can happen initially due to the increased turnover when skin hasn’t become accustomed to treatment. If you think having sensitive skin disqualifies you from a retinoid. It is not so. The solution is to use retinaldehyde, which is a precursor to a retinoid. Because skin enzymes need to first convert it into retinoic acid (a type of retinoid), it is not as strong and thus a more gentle wrinkle smoother. Use a small pea-sized amount of it, work up gradually, and moisturize after, you can still use a vitamin A product on skin.
Organic may not be the solution
If you are in favor of organic options, which many people think is best for sensitive skin, it’s not entirely true. These have ingredients that you can have allergic or irritant reactions to, just as you can for any other ingredient. What’s more, clean or natural are marketing terms that are not regulated, so they don’t guarantee anything about the ingredients inside.
One big offender in these products are essential oils. People often run into problems with tea tree or lavender oil. Instead stick with tried-and-true brands for sensitive skin. These brands focus on creating nonirritating products that are often fragrance- and dye-free and hypoallergenic.
It is generally recommended to use an SPF 30 sunscreen every day, rain or shine, as this will help protect you from sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging. Ideally, for sensitive skin, your sunscreen must include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Compared with chemical sunscreens, these mineral ingredients tend to be less irritating and less reactive for sensitive skin types.
Too Many Skin-Care Products
It can be tough when you see the latest and greatest product on social media or even an at-home DIY , and try it only to see it exacerbated skin redness. There are two issues here. One, the greater number of products you use, the greater number of ingredients there are, and the bigger the chance that something will cause a reaction in a sensitive complexion.
And two, many people use creams that they think are moisturizers but really have actives in it like retinols or alpha hydroxy acids. Look for words like retinol, retinaldehyde, or glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acids. They can be hidden in everything these days. It’s possible you are using two creams packed with anti-aging ingredients, and the double layer can cause irritation.
Make sure you are using a plain, basic lightweight moisturizer that has no active ingredients that are designed to treat acne or that have an anti-aging purpose. If you do use products that contain these actives, you can apply a basic moisturizer on top. If needed, you can also smooth on a moisturizer before these products if you have extra sensitive skin.