Updated: Jan 8
Do you have sensitive skin? You know you have sensitive skin when you react to shampoos, detergents and fragrances, or even environmental factors such as dust and the climate. When your skin comes in contact with a product that doesn’t agree with you, you experience redness, dryness, rashes, swelling and possibly acne-like breakouts. Extremes of weather such as heat, cold and wind may also cause similar reactions. In addition, you get sunburn more easily.
The idea of using skincare when you have sensitive skin can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have had bad experiences of trying a new product on recommendation and ended up with a reaction. Although you may be sometimes tempted to give up on skincare altogether, please don’t! Sensitive skin needs the support that a good skincare regime can provide. Rest assured that there is skin care suitable for you.
This article sheds light on what to look out for in a good skin care routine for sensitive skin.
Step 2. What makes a good skin care routine for sensitive skin?
If other than sensitive skin, you have problem-free skin, it should contain at the very least:
Needless to say, it is imperative that you select the items carefully, because the products would be used at a regular frequency, along with any ingredients that could react with the skin. We will get into more detail further down on how to choose your set, with emphasis placed on protecting delicate skin.
Step 3 How do you find good products?
Generally, products that have little or no fragrance are preferred for sensitive skin, to reduce the likelihood of irritation. Ensure products are alcohol-free, non-drying, and avoid products that contain retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids and antibacterial agents. These three ingredients are effective treatments for people who need help for acne, pigmentation and anti-ageing, but may be too strong for those with sensitive skin, especially if not supervised by a medical doctor. Now let us take a look at what a good skin care routine looks like for sensitive skin.
Step 4. Details on Cleanser
Any skincare routine should begin with some form of cleanser. Build up of impurities (sunscreen, pollution, make-up) or any other impurities that end up on your face naturally such as dead skin cells, create a barrier that prevents you from getting the best out of your other skincare products. Not cleansing or ineffectively cleansing your skin causes the impurities to clog pores as well. This generally affects the health of the skin, potentially resulting in dullness, irritation and acne breakouts.
What makes a good cleanser for sensitive skin? If you are buying it over the counter, select one that has the word ‘hypoallergenic’ on its label, and that is also alcohol-free and fragrance-free. Since sensitive skin is often dry, avoid cleansers that give a rich lather, as these are often too drying for sensitive skin. A cleanser which has a milky or oil base is often a good choice.
What I would likely recommend my patients with sensitive skin is this hypoallergenic Make-up Remover followed by this Soap-Free cleanser. If you have sensitive but oily skin, this Gentle Foam is what you would likely get at my clinical practice.
Step 5. Details on Toner
Toners were originally created to balance pH on the skin following the cleanser. However that is not relevant anymore as pH-balanced cleansers are now readily available.
Why get a toner then? The key use of a toner is to ensure that any residue left behind after cleansing has been removed. After cleansing, a residue is often still left behind of foundation, dead skin and grease. For sensitive skin, the toner should, once again, be alcohol-free, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. Some toners may contain moisturising ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or natural ingredients that are soothing such as aloe vera.
Without the supervision of a medical doctor, steer clear of acid ingredients in toners. These may be included in some toners to promote exfoliation for radiance. However for people with sensitive skin, they can lead to skin barrier disruption. Common acids to avoid include salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acid. In my practice I recommend patients with sensitive skin this Gentle Toner.
Moisten a facial cotton pad with a toner, without soaking it. Use a gentle wiping motion over the whole face and neck.
Step 6. Details on Moisturiser
Moisturizing should be a sensitive skin’s best friend. Moisturizers have been shown to increase the water content in the stratum corneum, the skin’s outermost layer, which relieves dryness. Keeping your skin well-hydrated will help reduce your risk of irritation. As such, moisturising is an essential for a skin care routine for sensitive skin.
For ingredients, as before, be cautious of those that contain alcohol and fragrances. Although preservatives are commonly identified as harmful for sensitive skin, there is as yet insufficient evidence to say you need to avoid them. In fact, preservatives prevent the growth of mould and bacteria in your products, which protect you, especially those with sensitive skin, and are as of now, approved for use by authorities such as the FDA. If you feel more comfortable avoiding them, feel free to do so.
Try to include a moisturiser which heals, boosts hydration and builds skin barrier like this one which I recommend to my patients with sensitive skin. In your moisturiser, try to include ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid and sweet almond oil.
Step 7. Details on Sunscreen
Using sunscreen every single day is a must, regardless of the weather, and even if you are indoors. Harmful UV rays go through the windows of cars and houses which can lead to burning, early ageing and even skin cancer. People with sensitive skin are more easily affected by UV light, so they need daily sunscreen more than ever.
Certain formulas that contain chemical filters, fragrances, preservatives, or essential oils and other extracts can aggravate a delicate complexion, says Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York. As with the previous skincare items, this can present as redness, dryness, flaking, or general sensitivity, which could be a simple irritation to the product or a true allergic reaction to a specific ingredient.
To avoid getting a sensitive reaction from your sunscreen, look for ones with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide such as this popular Limelight sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum and has SPF 30 or higher such as Skin Glow Plus.
As a side note, it should go without saying that people with sensitive skin should avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Even with sunscreen on, use a cap or hat when outdoors.
You may wish to consult a doctor if your sensitive skin impedes your daily functioning, or to confirm that you do not have skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema. There are treatments available, and the topical creams prescribed can be inserted into your daily skin routine.
If you wish to receive treatment for acne, pigmentation and wrinkles, and are concerned because you have sensitive skin, a medical doctor will be able to help you too.
On the other hand, if all you need is a safe skin care routine, now you know what to look out for. Happy shopping!